Kyle Busch wins 12th Nationwide race
FONTANA, Calif. -- Kyle Busch thanked his crew members after his record-extending 12th Nationwide Series victory of the year.
Kevin Harvick might be ready to fire all of his.
Busch took advantage of two bumbling stops by Harvick's crew and rallied from a pit-road miscue of his own Saturday to win for the fourth time in his last five starts at Auto Club Speedway.
"These guys did an awesome job for me," Busch said. "Pit road probably won this race."
The polesitter for the third time this season, Busch had the best car on restarts, pulling away from the field when he was up front, racing around them when he wasn't. He just didn't have anything for Harvick on the long runs in the 300-mile race and was passed by his fellow Sprint Cup driver three times.
Harvick's slow-motion pit crew was all the advantage Busch needed.
Twice in the last half of the race Harvick entered the pits with the lead, only to exit in sixth after his crew fumbled away tire changes. Harvick led a race-high 86 laps, but he spent most of the day yelling at his crew on the radio.
"Our cars are tremendously better than what they had been -- we've taken that next step," said Harvick, who finished third. "Obviously, we've got to take that next step on pit road because they're just doing a terrible job. That's not what our operation is all about. If they can't stand the pressure, they better find something else to do."
Busch wasn't perfect in the pits, though of no fault to his crew; he was hit with a speeding penalty driving onto pit road midway through the race and dropped to 15th.
It didn't matter. He quickly worked his way to the front and pulled away in a final five-lap dash after a wreck took out Danica Patrick.
"Maybe I should do that more often," Busch said.
Brad Keselowski was second, extending his season lead to tough-to-catch 384 points.
This one was determined, in large part, in the pits, starting with the second caution midway through the race.
Busch, who was running second, had a good stop, but was dropped to the back of the first-lap group for driving too fast into pit road. Joey Logano, third at the time, came out 10th due to a problem changing a tire.
Harvick had a tire-changing problem as well after a crewman got gas in his eyes, dropping him from first to sixth.
"Come on guys, can we win a damn race?" Harvick said through his radio after the sluggish stop.
By the next pit stop, about 25 laps later, Harvick took a swipe at his crew as he entered.
"I'm terrified to come down pit road," he said on the radio.
No gas in the eye and no worries this time; a quick stop and Harvick was fourth for the restart and was up to third not long after that.
Busch, meanwhile, was passing cars as if they were street signs, claiming eight spots in 12 laps. He quickly moved to second after the third caution and passed Keselowski for the lead with 38 laps left. The lead lasted just one lap, though; it was the end of another long run and Harvick whipped past Busch to retake the lead.
Then came another yellow and another problem.
Still in the lead, Harvick took the pack into the pits after a collision with 24 laps left. By the time his crew stumbled through another stop, he was back to sixth again.
"That's six spots we've lost," he radioed in. "Why not?"
The sarcasm was gone once the race was over.
"The guys flat out aren't doing a good job on pit road," said Harvick, third in the Sprint Cup Chase.
Busch didn't have to worry about the crew members. They had a clean final stop, sending him out in the lead when the green flew again. Busch survived two more restarts and had a comfortable 1.034-second margin as he crossed the checkers to win for the third time this season after being hit with a speeding penalty.
"The 33 (Harvick) was stout and we knew we were going to have to do something special to be able to beat him," said Busch's crew chief Jason Ratcliff. "It was just putting together the right adjustments when we needed it."
Patrick seemed to have it together in her eighth Nationwide race.
The IndyCar icon qualified 14th and was on pace for a top-15 finish, only to get taken out in a hard wreck with two other cars with 10 laps. She wasn't hurt, but was clearly frustrated, throwing her arms in the air after driving her car to the garage.
"The frustrating part is that I feel like we had a really good car on those last two restarts," she said after finishing a probably-should-have-been-better 30th. "I got into the car that spun on the lap before, but I didn't mean to. Next time, I got pretty close, but I came off and gave him room. Looking at the replay, it looks like it could have been avoidable."
Exactly what Harvick was thinking.
Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press
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