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Larson holds off Harvick and Busch in Nationwide Fontana thriller

Kyle Larson finally joined the ranks of Nationwide Series winners in fine style in Fontana, fending off Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch in a thrilling finish.
See race results, qualifying and practice speeds and full Nationwide Series championship standings

A nail-biting final 16-lap shootout saw Kyle Larson emerge triumphant to claim his first victory in the NASCAR Nationwide Series despite intense pressure from Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch in a thrilling climax to the Treatmyclot.com 300 race on Saturday in Fontana, California which had previously looked set to be a sure thing for long-time leader Joey Logano.

"Man, it was amazing - those last 11 or 12 laps were the longest laps of my life," said Larson in Victory Lane, where he was rewarded with a bucket of ice water over his head from his jubilant crew. "It was pretty cool to beat those guys. The #54 and the #22 have dominated the series for a while now, and Harvick's with a good team. It was a blast ... I'm shaking still - this is awesome!"

It had been Elliott Sadler who claimed his 16th pole position in 235 Nationwide starts, his lap of 40.680s (176.991mph) thwarting his Joe Gibbs Racing team mate Matt Kenseth's hopes of making it a Cup and Nationwide pole double this weekend by just one hundredth of a second at the two-mile Auto Club Speedway. However it was JR Motorsports' Kevin Harvick - going three-wide on the high line - who took the lead at the start before a rapid caution at the start of lap 2 for Jamie Dick spinning into the wall, by which time third JGR man Kyle Busch - starting from the back after technical issues saw him miss qualifying - had already made up 14 places.

Team Penske's Joey Logano took the advantage at the restart and soon had a four second lead over second place Harvick, while on lap 18 Kenseth was forced to cede third to the storming Busch, who made it second place four laps later. However even Busch could do little to cut into Logano's lead before the first round of green flag pit stops after 40 laps, but a problem removing the right front wheel of the #22 them promptly wiped out Logano's edge and when the pit cycle was completed it was the #54 out in front by almost three seconds instead. Logano's pace proved slightly better during this stint and the gap soon started to come down as Busch complained of loose handling, so on lap 61 Logano successfully retook the lead once again and started to pull away again at the front before a debris caution on lap 67.

After yellow flag pit stops, Logano and Busch were followed by Sadler, Harvick, Kenseth and Richard Childress Racing's Brian Scott in sixth place for a short-lived restart in which Dylan Kwasniewski got loose and leaned on Chase Elliott all the way up into the outside wall on lap 73. At the next green flag Logano managed to overcome a dazzling slingshot move on the low-side by Brian Scott to retake the lead again and hold it through to his next visit to pit lane on lap 113 under yellow. Once the stops had worked their way through, Logano was back in charge ahead by four seconds over Turner Scott Motorsports' Kyle Larson who had suddenly found some speed after a relatively nondescript first half of the race, followed by Busch, Harvick and Kenseth with Chase Elliott the highest-placed Nationwide regular now back up to sixth despite his earlier incident with Kwasniewski.

Larson's late race pace was certainly no illusion, and the Californian local hero was soon pressing Logano hard for the lead before a fourth caution on lap 130 for fluid from the #40 of Josh Wise. All the leaders succumbed to the need for fresh tyres so as not to be left as sitting ducks in the closing laps of the race, and it was Harvick who won the race off pit road ahead of Larson, Logano and Busch for the restart on lap 135 only to lose out to Larson and Busch when the green flag came out. After that there were 16 laps of uninterrupted white-knuckle, close-formation racing between the leading trio, Larson staying commendably calm despite repeated dive-bombing moves to the apron by Harvick in an attempt to take the lead, while Busch's campaign was ultimately undone by a brush with the wall and having to jump off the throttle when he came up behind slower lapped traffic at a critical juncture.

In the end, less than four tenths of a second covered all three drivers as they crossed the line, Larson having acquitted himself admirably under intense sustained pressure to pick up his first win in the series after having previously amassed five second places over 38 Nationwide appearances. His victory also brought to an end a nine-race streak of Nationwide wins at Fontana by drivers from the JGR stable, while Joey Logano finished in fourth place despite having led for 96 of the 150 laps during the afternoon. The highest placed Nationwide Series regular was Elliott Sadler in fifth place after he managed to get back ahead of Chase Elliott, while Trevor Bayne and Regan Smith are now tied in the lead of the championship standings after finishing ninth and tenth respectively. Smith holds the tie-break over Bayne based on his win at the season opener at Daytona.

Full race results, plus qualifying and practice speeds and full Nationwide Series championship standings are available.



Related Pictures

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Joey Logano, driver of the #22 America`s Tire Ford, races Kyle Busch, driver of the #54 Monster Energy Toyota, and Kevin Harvick, driver of the #5 TaxSlayer.com Chevrolet, during the NASCAR Nationwide Series TREATMYCLOT.COM 300 at Auto Club Speedway on March 22, 2014 in Fontana, California. (Photo Credit: Jerry Markland/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kyle Larson, driver of the #42 Cartwheel Chevrolet, crosses the finish line to win the NASCAR Nationwide Series TREATMYCLOT.COM 300 at Auto Club Speedway on March 22, 2014 in Fontana, California. (Photo Credit: Chris Graythen/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kyle Larson, driver of the #42 Cartwheel Chevrolet, celebrates with a burnout after winning the NASCAR Nationwide Series TREATMYCLOT.COM 300 at Auto Club Speedway on March 22, 2014 in Fontana, California. (Photo Credit: Brian Lawdermilk/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Credit: 296561Jerry Markland/NASCAR via Getty Images Joey Logano, driver of the #22 America`s Tire Ford, races Kyle Busch, driver of the #54 Monster Energy Toyota, and Kevin Harvick, driver of the #5 TaxSlayer.com Chevrolet, during the NASCAR Nationwide Series TREATMYCLOT.COM 300 at Auto Club Speedway on March 22, 2014 in Fontana, California.
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Jimmy John`s Chevrolet, leads a pack of cars into the pits during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Crown Royal Presents The John Wayne Walding 400 at the Brickyard Indianapolis Motor Speedway on July 27, 2014 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo Credit: Chris Graythen/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Jimmy John`s Chevrolet, and Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Axalta Chevrolet, lead the field to the green flag for the start of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Crown Royal Presents The John Wayne Walding 400 at the Brickyard Indianapolis Motor Speedway on July 27, 2014 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo Credit: Patrick Smith/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Ty Dillon, driver of the #3 Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet, and his team celebrate by kissing the bricks after winning the NASCAR Nationwide Series Lilly Diabetes 250 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on July 26, 2014 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo Credit: Rainier Ehrhardt/Getty Images)
Ty Dillon, driver of the #3 Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet, celebrates with a burnout after winning the NASCAR Nationwide Series Lilly Diabetes 250 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on July 26, 2014 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo Credit: Sean Gardner/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Ty Dillon, driver of the #3 Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Nationwide Series Lilly Diabetes 250 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on July 26, 2014 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo Credit: Brian Lawdermilk/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Ty Dillon, driver of the #3 Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Nationwide Series Lilly Diabetes 250 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on July 26, 2014 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo Credit: Brian Lawdermilk/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Ty Dillon, driver of the #3 Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet, stands on the grid with Haley Carey prior to the start of the NASCAR Nationwide Series Lilly Diabetes 250 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on July 26, 2014 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo Credit: Sean Gardner/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #54 Monster Energy Toyota, and Matt Kenseth, driver of the #20 Resers Toyota, lead the field at the start of the NASCAR Nationwide Series Lilly Diabetes 250 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on July 26, 2014 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo Credit: Andy Lyons/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Ty Dillon, driver of the #3 Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet, celebrates with brother and Sprint Cup driver Austin Dillon after Ty won the NASCAR Nationwide Series Lilly Diabetes 250 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on July 26, 2014 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo Credit: Chris Graythen/NASCAR via Getty Images)
The Richard Childress Racing #3 Chevrolet Nationwide Series car driven by Ty Dillon. (Photo Credit: Getty Images for NASCAR)
Ty Dillon with his team owner and grandfaster Richard Childress at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on March 7 2014. (Photo Credit: Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Jimmy John`s Chevrolet, qualifies for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Crown Royal Presents The John Wayne Walding 400 at the Brickyard Indianapolis Motor Speedway on July 26, 2014 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo Credit: Sean Gardner/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Axalta Chevrolet SS, qualified 2nd fastest Saturday, July 26, 2014 for Sunday`s Brickyard 400 Nascar Sprint Cup race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Indianapolis, Indiana. Next to him on the front row will be pole winner Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Jimmy John’s Chevrolet SS. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Jimmy John’s Chevrolet SS, was the fastest qualifier Saturday, July 26, 2014 to capture the pole position for Sunday`s Brickyard 400 Nascar Sprint Cup race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Indianapolis, Indiana. Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Axalta Chevrolet SS will join him on the front row. (Photo by Rusty Jarrett/HHP for Chevy Racing)

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