Joe Gibbs Racing’s winning streak at Auto Club Speedway – one of the most remarkable in NASCAR – ended not with a whimper but with a very large bang.
To the delight of the crowd, Kyle Larson, Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick waged a wild, back-and-fourth three-way battle for the lead over the final 16 laps of Saturday’s TreatMyClot.com 300, with Larson eventually holding off Harvick to earn his first Nationwide Series victory.
Taking a cue from his sprint car racing victories, Larson did a post-victory burnout while holding the steering wheel outside the driver’s window of his No. 42 Chevrolet.
To cap off the celebration, he also managed to turn some victory doughnuts in Auto Club Speedway’s Victory Lane.
Larson’s victory denied JGR the chance to extend its streak of series wins at ACS to 10, although Busch – who won last season’s race – was in the mix until the end.
“It was so much fun racing those guys – they’re really the best there is in the Nationwide series right now. To out-race them at the end to get my first win means a lot,” said Larson, who also competes in the Sprint Cup Series with Chip Ganassi Racing.
“I didn’t think when I won I would be this excited just because I’ve been so close to winning so many times, but in the fashion we did it just made it very special.”
It was a familiar scene for Larson as the laps wound down on Saturday. Just last weekend at Bristol, Tenn., Larson battled Busch for the win but came up second.
“This is so awesome,” Larson said.
Busch ended up third, Joey Logano was fourth and pole-winner Elliott Sadler was fifth. Regan Smith and Trevor Bayne are tied atop the series standings after five races.
While Harvick and Busch are known to be extremely competitive drivers, both appeared to handle losing the close battle very well.
“I’d rather win, but when you’re involved in a race like that you can’t be too disappointed,” said Harvick, who is running a partial Nationwide schedule this season with JR Motorsports.
Added Busch: “Nobody should be happier than the fans in the stands. The fans won today.”