Kyle Larson had to work hard for the win in Saturday’s XFINITY Series race at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif.
Larson overcame a pit-road speeding penalty and held off fellow Cup Series regular Joey Logano in a spirited duel over the final 20 laps to win his second career series race at the 2-mile track. It was Larson’s third victory in his last 13 starts in the series, and the sixth of his career overall.
“The racing there at the end with Joey was awesome,” Larson said. “I just had fresher tires than he did and I was able to chase him down.”
But as hard as Larson had to work, it paled in comparison to how hard Joey Logano had to pedal to finish second.
Logano started from the pole. But he had to come from near the rear of the field not once, but twice – first after a speeding penalty dropped him from the lead to 35rd on Lap 31, and then again after his No. 22 Team Penske Ford fell off the jack on a pit stop on Lap 96.
Logano passed nearly the combined total of 60 cars in all as he made his way back to the front on both occasions.
And still it wasn’t a done deal when he regained the lead, as Kyle Larson, on fresher tires, made a pass with 17 to go – only to have Logano almost immediately pass him back to regain the advantage once again.
Larson subsequently brushed the outside wall and fell back – but he was still faster on the fresher tires and worked hard to pass Logano yet again. He finally got back to his bumper and passed him again with 11 to go, then battled door-to-door, brushed the outside wall again, and used a lapped car as a pick to put Logano in his rear-view mirror for a third time.
“I was just trying to be patient with him,” Larson said of Logano. “I got by him and then made a mistake trying to block him in (Turn) 4 and he got back by. That was a lot of fun, though.”
But just as it appeared Larson might then sail away for the win, Brandon Jones hit the wall to bring out a caution and set up a restart with five to go.
This time, Logano got trapped behind the car of Spencer Gallagher, which had taken only two tires and could not get a good restart.
Getting a push from Kyle Busch in fourth, lined up on the outside behind him, Larson then sailed away to victory. Busch ended up third behind Larson and Logano, with Erik Jones fourth and XFINITY rookie William Byron, the top-finishing series regular, rounding out the top five.
“I wish that last caution hadn’t come out,” Larson said. “I think I could have won a heck of a lot easier of a race.”
Kyle Busch was running second with 28 laps to go when he appeared to run through some Speedy-Dry and got into the outside wall, dropping him all the way to fifth before he could regroup. Earlier, Busch won the first two stages of the three-stage event.