Written by Adrian Beecher
Fontana, CA – Kyle Busch a dollar short and a position too late on Saturday afternoon at Auto Club Speedway as he went for his 200th career win taking part in the Production Alliance Group 300.
Early on it was complete domination from Busch, as he claimed the 1st and second staged easily. He led 60 of the 80 laps in the first two stages, with the lone other leader being the pole sitter Tyler Reddick.
Then in the third and final stage with Busch again leading the way dominating, disaster struck. On lap 112, Austin Cindric in the No. 22 got loose and went for a spin coming out of turn four. This brought out the caution and would send their leader down pit road for fuel and fresh tires.
Busch’s pit stop resulted in total disaster. First, the jackman didn’t lift the car high enough and the crew couldn’t get the right side tires off. Then once they got the tires off, one of the tires got away from the crew and NASCAR handed out a pit violation, forcing Busch to start at the rear if the field on the restart, back in 16th place.
“We had a problem on pit road. They didn’t get the jack high enough and they couldn’t get the tire off. We lost track position there and we had an uncontrolled tire on the same stop and had to go to the back and rebounded. That’s all there is to it.” explained a frustrated Kyle Busch.
Busch was able to rebound, climbing up to 5th in the first 10 laps after the restart. Then another caution came out, looking like it would be just the break that Busch needed on lap 125.
This led the leaders to take it down pit road for a final set of fresh tires and maybe a last splash of gas.
Busch came out 3rd on the battle off pit road but ended up having to line up 6th overall on the restart. On the restart, Busch struggled to get past Justin Allgaier in the No. 7 machine as he looked to pass on the outside. Meanwhile, Cole Custer in the No. 00 took to the low side cruised past them both.
It took Custer only two laps to retake the lead, while a second and a half back, Kyle Busch and his teammate Christopher Bell battled for 2nd place. Busch was able to take over 2nd, but with only 15 laps left to go, Busch was doing all he could to chase down Custer.
Despite whatever Busch tried, he was unable to make up much ground at all as Custer held on for the win, leaving Busch to settle for 2nd place over two seconds behind.
“I just wasn’t fast enough. At the end there, he (Custer) was really good and really fast and had a good car. They got better throughout the day and got closer to our rear bumper there on that second-to-last run before we had our pit road problems and dropped us back in the pack. Obviously, we were able to rebound, but when you have a fast guy out front and a fast guy in second, they run the same times and they stay the same distance apart. We just weren’t quick enough there at the end to chase them down.” said Busch, “Hate it for all the iK9 Supra guys and everybody that supports us and supports our program. We’ll see what happens tomorrow.”
So Bush will have to wait another day at the least for win number 200. He will lineup 4th on Sunday in the 2019 Auto Club 400 looking for redemption from a disappointing Saturday.