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Kyle Busch Beats the Bumps to Take Victory Lane
Auto Club Speedway is an old track with bumps and grooves, but do not let the oval fool you. Sunday afternoon's race at Auto Club Speedway proved that NASCAR's new aero package brings a dynamic racing style that has not previously been seen. On this edition of Fast Talk I had "Hollywood" Jeff Hammond as my co-host and we chatted with Kurt Busch and rising star Kyle Larson.
Hollywood and I agree the peak of the action came with five laps to go when Jimmie Johnson was presumably on his way to his first victory of the year. Boom! Out of no-where Johnson's tire blows to smithereens and Jeff Gordon strides into the top position. Gordon did not stay on top long. After Marcus Ambrose, Brad Keselowski, and Clint Bowyer all suffered left side tire failure, the caution was finally dropped giving drivers the opportunity to gear up for the last dash to the finish. Kyle Busch was the only driver with four fresh tires as the green flag dropped and his windshield was filled by Tony Stewart's No. 14 and Kurt Busch's No. 41. As they raced to the finish, Kyle Busch tip-toed his way around the Stewart-Haas Racing teammates to grab the lead. Surprisingly after taking over the number one position, Kyle Busch had another Kyle to worry about, rookie Kyle Larson. Larson followed Kyle Busch's lead. He went back to his dirt track days and slid in underneath Tony Stewart and Kurt Busch to steal the second place position. This opened the door for Kyle Busch and Kyle Larson to race side-by-side to the checkered flag. Ultimately, Kyle Busch in his No. 18 Toyota stole the show by winning his first race this season.
What a great race the final five laps were. The last two years, Auto Club Speedway has produced sensational finishes. Drivers look forward to running five different lines and the fans love the seeing dramatic finishes. Jeff Hammond explained to me how the new aero package implemented by NASCAR has changed the racing landscape. Not only are cars accelerating to higher speeds they are also putting more pressure and down force on the back end of the car. This was evident in the race on Sunday when numerous drivers blew left rear tires. People want to complain about Goodyear's tires not lasting as long as they used to; however, the tires are the same. The only difference is the amount of air pressure teams are putting in the tires. When there is less pressure in the tire it starts to act like spring. When the drivers on Sunday hit those bumps on the speedway the tire starts to wear more quickly, resulting in blown tires.
Hammond and I had the privilege to talk to rising star Kyle Larson about his gutsy move to earn his career best Sprint Cup finish of second place at Auto Club Speedway. Larson insinuated that he was not scared to take the next step. He has been racing against drivers similar to the caliber Tony Stewart and Kyle Busch his whole life. He was just glad when the opportunity knocked he was able to bust onto the scene and show NASCAR nation what he's got. Jeff Hammond and I both agree that Larson has something special brewing in the future, not only in the Nationwide Series, but in the Sprint Cup Series as well. We believe rookies Kyle Larson and Austin Dillon can sneak into the Chase if they continue to run in the top ten.
The drivers that made the biggest impression on me on Sunday was were those of the Stewart-Haas Racing team. Stewart and Kurt Busch had top five finishes and Danica Patrick had a great re-start in the final laps sealing up the 14th position. These are the drivers on my watch list as we prepare to go to Martinsville, Virginia.