Joe Gibbs Racing’s Kyle Busch clinched his 200th victory across NASCAR’s three national series’, claiming a second consecutive Cup Series win with a dominant drive at Fontana.
Busch comfortably won the first two stages but complicated his route to race victory when he picked up a pitlane speeding penalty at the start of the third and final stage.
Dropping to the back of the field, Busch quickly climbed back through the pack. Having driven back to fifth place and eight seconds adrift of race leader Brad Keselowski, Busch rolled the dice by staying out on track when his rivals ahead pitted.
After inheriting the lead, Busch’s bold strategy was rewarded when Darrell Wallace Jr suffered a front-left tyre failure to prompt a final caution. Busch was able to pit and retain the track position he had gained.
While he slid to fourth at the restart, he was able to recover to retake the lead from the duelling Penske duo of Keselowski and Joey Logano and control the race to the finish.
Busch’s second consecutive Cup win is his 200th across the three NASCAR national categories – Cup, Xfinity and Trucks – and ties Richard Petty’s total for wins, albeit with all of Petty’s victories delivered in the top tier Cup class.
Logano finished second and Keselowski ended up third. Logano finished second to Busch in stage one, while Keselowski was runner-up to the #18 JGR car in the second stage.
Stewart-Haas Racing’s Kevin Harvick bounced back from an unexpectedly difficult weekend in Phoenix to claim fourth place, despite having struggled for balance and dropping to the periphery of the top 10 in the first stage.
Ryan Blaney ensured that all three Penske cars finished in the top five. He led the field at the final restart after being the only driver in the top six to have not pitted at the final caution.
Blaney passed Kurt Busch in the closing stages to deny the Chip Ganassi Racing driver a fourth consecutive top five finish.
Despite picking up a pitlane speeding penalty at the same time as his JGR team-mate Busch, Denny Hamlin recovered to seventh place, ahead of last year’s dominant Fontana victor Martin Truex Jr.
SHR’s Aric Almirola did briefly lead the race in the early stages but ended up ninth.
Austin Dillon started on pole position and finished in 10th. Xfinity driver Cole Custer had been on standby to replace Dillon, after he spent the morning in the medical centre receiving treatment for an illness.