Larson Breaks Through

Kyle Larson

Larson's first win came in his 38th NASCAR Nationwide start. (Photo: Getty Images)

Race Results

FONTANA, Calif. - The winningest driver in series history hunted him. The driver who ranks No. 3 in series wins stalked him.

Five previous times Kyle Larson finished second in a Nationwide Series race. Now, he sought to score his first career series win with two of the all-time best Nationwide drivers chasing him the final 15 laps.

There were plenty of times for Larson to make a mistake. Plenty of times to give away the win, but he didn’t holding off runner-up Kevin Harvick and third-place finisher Kyle Busch to win Saturday’s TreatMyClot.com 300 at Auto Club Speedway.        

The 21-year-old Larson celebrated by doing by arriving first to Victory Lane, located between the track and outer pit wall, and doing doughnuts there with his car.

The joy was as much as celebration as relief. Busch and Larson traded the lead with Larson eventually holding on. Then it was Harvick’s turn after he moved to second. Harvick repeatedly dove to the bottom in Turns 3 and 4 while Larson ran near the wall. They often came close together as Harvick moved up the track and Larson down it, but Harvick couldn’t complete the move the pass.

Harvick wasn’t surprised that Larson withstood the pressure.

“Since the first race that he’s come in here, he’s been competitive,’’ Harvick said before looking to sixth-place finisher Chase Elliott on his left. “They just go out and drive and act like they’ve been here for 20 years.’’

First career win and coming in his home state were special for Larson, but it’s not what he’ll remember most about this victory.

“Probably what means the most to me is to beat Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick who were right on my rear bumper,’’ said Larson after his 38th career Nationwide start. “Didn’t really think I could hold them off, especially how good Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick is really good at this track. Proud of myself for staying calm and not getting into the wall.’’

Larson admits he had extra motivation those final laps. During a late caution, he saw his face on one of the video boards around the track. He glanced at it and saw it mentioned all the times he’s finished second in the Nationwide Series.

“I’m not getting another one of those,’’ Larson said.

When he scored the victory, he celebrated by doing doughnuts in the infield grass as he held his steering wheel out the window. He’s did the celebration after winning the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East title in 2012 at Rockingham and a Truck race there last year.

“NASCAR did have a talk with me about not doing it, but I just won my first Nationwide race and I’ll do whatever I want, and if I win the Cup race, I’ll probably do the same thing,’’ Larson said.

It could come soon.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. tweeted after the race: “No doubt Larson wins on the cup side this year. He’s (darn) good and surrounded by solid improving team.’’

Jeff Gordon tweeted: “1st of many @NASCAR wins I’m sure.’’

Now Larson is 64 Nationwide wins behind Busch.

Busch stated 39th in the 40-car field after he failed to make an attempt in qualifying. Busch never got the chance because his car did not pass inspection before the first round of qualifying ended. The team had an issue with the rear axle housing.

That proved merely an inconvenience to Busch who was 25th by the first lap and needed only eight laps to reach the top 10.

Joey Logano, who led a race-high 96 laps finished fourth with pole-sitter Elliott Sadler fifth.

Trevor Bayne finished ninth, while Regan Smith was 10th. They’re tied with the most amount of points but Smith remains the series leader based on the tiebreaker. 

 

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