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Busch Dominates Early in Fontana, Finishes 2nd

March 26th, 2012 by

Team Interstate wrap-up for March 24-25, 2012

Kyle Busch battles Tony Stewart in Fontana.

Kyle Busch led 80 laps Sunday in his Interstate Batteries Toyota but was passed by eventual race winner Tony Stewart on lap 85. Copyright 2012 Autostock Images

Kyle Busch dominated the Auto Club 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race Sunday at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif., leading twice for a race-high 80 laps. Despite the strong effort, Busch couldn’t hold off the hard charges of eventual race-winner Tony Stewart and brought home a solid second-place finish in the No. 18 Interstate Batteries Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing in the rain-shortened event.

“We had a great race car with our Interstate Batteries Camry right from the beginning of the race,” said Busch, who has 10 top-10 finishes in 15 career Sprint Cup starts at Fontana. “I got the lead from Denny (Hamlin) after the first lap, led a lot of laps. I just wish we led 30 more, and we’d be in a different position right now. The Interstate Batteries Camry was fast.

“I can’t say enough about those guys, Dave (Rogers, crew chief) and everybody, for putting together a really good car this weekend. Wish we would have been able to race the whole thing on one hand, but on the other hand I’m kind of glad we’re not because we kind of have a little bit of damage that slowed us down there about 20 laps before the end. All in all, it was a really good day. Glad we were able to run that way and up front like we’re supposed to and to our potential, that we had a day where we didn’t have something else out of our control get in our way.”

NASCAR driver Kyle Busch and crew chief Dave Rogers

Kyle Busch and crew chief Dave Rogers discuss adjustments to the Interstate Batteries Toyota Camry during a practice session. Copyright 2012 Autostock Images

After qualifying second in the 43-car field, Busch showed his strength from the start, grabbing the lead from pole sitter and teammate Denny Hamlin on lap 2. Busch then set the pace for much of the remaining laps. Crew Chief Dave Rogers still made small tweaks on each pit stop to help the handling of Busch’s Interstate Batteries Toyota, using air pressure and wedge adjustments to help correct a slight tight-handling condition in the center of the track’s corners.

During a race that saw no cautions until the race-ending rain, the Interstate Batteries over-the-wall crew helped lengthen Busch’s lead as it outpaced the competition on pit road during the team’s three pit stops. Despite leading the most laps, Busch’s car started faster after each pit stop than Stewart. But over the course of each segment between pit stops, Stewart proved to have the superior car, especially in traffic.

Stewart’s strong car on long runs finally caught up to Busch, as Stewart slipped under Busch’s Interstate Batteries Toyota on lap 85. To make matters worse, just one lap later, Busch made light contact with the outside SAFER Barrier exiting turn 2, which caused slight damage to the right side of Busch’s Toyota. Fortunately for Busch, when rain drops began to fall on lap 124 and the caution waved on lap 125, the rain was too heavy for the race to resume. The Interstate Batteries team didn’t need to make lengthy repairs under caution.

“We were racing hard with some lap cars and got bottled up, and Stewart got by me for the lead,” said Busch, who recorded his first top-five finish of the season and his sixth at Fontana. “I was trying too hard to catch back up to him and see if I couldn’t run him back up and figure out what kind of racecar we had. I slipped and got in the fence. We just were super-tight since then.

“We have to rebalance our car and try to figure out how to do that with the aerodynamics the way they are. We tore up a couple things on the back half of the car that are important to make it turn. So with that happening, I’ll take the second and move on to Martinsville with a good points day.”

Busch’s JGR teammates – Hamlin, driver of the No. 11 Toyota Camry, and Joey Logano, driver of the No. 20 Toyota Camry – finished 11th and 24th, respectively. With race five of 36 complete, Hamlin continues to lead the Team Interstate trio in the championship points standings. He is ranked seventh, while Logano is ranked 13th and Busch is ranked 14th.


Logano Wins Nationwide Race

Joey Logano won the Nationwide Series race at Fontana.

Joey Logano won the Royal Purple 300 on Saturday. Copyright 2012 Autostock Images

Although Joe Gibbs Racing remains winless at Auto Club Speedway in the Cup series, it’s the dominant force in the Nationwide series. Logano won Saturday’s Royal Purple 300 race in Fontana Saturday, securing JGR’s eighth consecutive Nationwide win at the track. Team Interstate’s Brian Scott finished fourth.

Millsaps Finishes 4th in Toronto

Team Interstate/JGRMX rider Davi Millsaps just missed the podium in Saturday’s Monster Energy AMA Supercross event in Toronto. Millsaps easily qualified for the main event, winning his first heat race of the season. Millsaps began the main event in third position and stayed inside the top-five the entire 20 laps, taking the checkers in fourth place.

Teammate James Stewart did not race Saturday as he continues to recover from injuries he sustained last week in  Indianapolis.

“Unfortunately injury is a part of sports,” said Team Owner Coy Gibbs.  “The safety of our riders is our highest priority and we want James to have time to recover and not risk further injury by coming back too soon.”

With round 12 of 17 complete, Stewart and Millsaps remain third and fourth in series points respectively.

Next week:  The Sprint Cup series goes to the circuit’s shortest track for the  Goody’s Fast Relief 500 on Sunday at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway. Round 13 of Supercross will be held Saturday in Houston, and NHRA Drag Racing hits the strip in Las Vegas.


By James Pecht (177 Posts)

James Pecht writes about franchising, battery technology, tips, racing and company culture for Interstate Batteries.

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