Could Auto Club Speedway end Kyle Busch's frustration?

Auto Club Speedway could be the cure to Kyle Busch’s frustration.

Could Auto Club Speedway end Kyle Busch's frustration?
Kyle Busch, Joe Gibbs Racing, Toyota Camry M&M's Caramel
Kyle Busch, Joe Gibbs Racing, Toyota Camry Skittles Sweet Heat
Kyle Busch, Joe Gibbs Racing, Toyota Camry Skittles Sweet Heat
Kyle Busch, Joe Gibbs Racing, Toyota Camry Skittles Sweet Heat and Kevin Harvick, Stewart-Haas Racing, Ford Fusion Jimmy John's
Race winner Kyle Busch, Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota celebrates
Race winner Kyle Busch, Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota celebrates
Kyle Busch, Joe Gibbs Racing, Toyota Camry Skittles Sweet Heat
Kyle Busch, Joe Gibbs Racing, Toyota Camry Skittles Sweet Heat
Kyle Busch, Joe Gibbs Racing, Toyota Camry Skittles Sweet Heat

While Kevin Harvick has won the last three Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series races, Busch has finished runner-up in the last two, prompting him to declare at Phoenix, “It’s starting to get frustrating.”

But this weekend’s conclusion to NASCAR’s early-season West Coast trip may provide Busch an excellent chance to earn his – and Toyota’s – first win of the season.

Asked about the strength of Harvick’s No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing team, Busch said: “They’re certainly good. They have kind of picked up right where they left off and we beat them at Homestead. They’ve been right there each and every week, so far.

“You’ve gone to three of arguably his best race tracks these past three weeks. They got the job done where they needed to. Ask me again in August, but not next week.”

Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif., has been one of Busch’s most successful tracks. He owns three victories at the 2-mile oval, including consecutive wins in the 2013 and 2014 seasons.

In fact, Busch is near the top of several statistical categories at the track, behind only seven-time series champion Jimmie Johnson.

Busch’s average finish of 10.1 is second to Johnson’s 6.9. Busch’s 611 laps led ranks second to Johnson’s 880. Busch’s 3,382 laps spent running in the top-15 at Fontana is also second only to Johnson’s 3,826. Busch’s 935 quality passes tops Johnson’s 874.

“It’s really a hard race track to get ahold of, now, especially when it’s hot and the sun is out. There are two completely different types of racing when you run the top versus the bottom groove,” Busch explained.

“You can run from the top to the bottom but, when you run the bottom, you really feel like you’re puttering around the race track. You feel like you aren’t making up any time on the bottom. But when you are running the top groove, you feel like you’re getting the job done.

“The guys who run the bottom have a little bit more patience and handle it better than the guys who are on the gas on top.”

Phoenix a case of what could have been

Even though Harvick earned his third straight win last weekend at Phoenix, Busch actually led the most laps in the race. His No. 18 Toyota fell off the jack during the final green-flag pit stop which slowed his momentum.

Busch has led the second-most laps (147) so far this season (behind Harvick’s 433). The next closest driver is Ryan Blaney (119).

Busch’s frustration was more apparent after the race because at Phoenix – unlike Las Vegas – Busch felt he had what it took to win the race.

“I think if roles were reversed there on that final pit stop, I don’t think he would have got to us. I think our cars were evenly matched and I thought we were right there with him,” Busch said of Harvick at Phoenix.

“His car definitely turned the center a little bit better all throughout the day and I know when he was racing with (Denny Hamlin), he was getting his stuff burned up pretty bad and he was getting held up.”

 

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