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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 Budweiser Chevrolet, celebrates with a burnout after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 16, 2014 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Chris Trotman/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet, and Ryan Newman, driver of the #31 Caterpillar Chevrolet, lead a pack of cars during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 16, 2014 in Homestead, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet, passes Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Express Toyota, to take the lead and win the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 16, 2014 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell-Pennzoil Ford, pits during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 16, 2014 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Jerry Markland/Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet, and team owner Tony Stewart celebrate winning in Victory Lane after the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 16, 2014 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Todd Warshaw/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet, celebrates with his wife DeLana and son Keelan in victory lane after winning during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 16, 2014 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet, celebrates with the trophy in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 16, 2014 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet SS, celebrates his victory and the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship Sunday, November 16, 2014 winning the final NASCAR Sprint Cup race of the season at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida. Ryan Newman, driver of the #31 Caterpillar Chevrolet SS finishes 2nd. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet SS, celebrates his victory and the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship Sunday, November 16, 2014 winning the final NASCAR Sprint Cup race of the season at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida. Ryan Newman, driver of the #31 Caterpillar Chevrolet SS finishes 2nd. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet SS, celebrates his victory and the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship Sunday, November 16, 2014 winning the final NASCAR Sprint Cup race of the season at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida. Ryan Newman, driver of the #31 Caterpillar Chevrolet SS finishes 2nd. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet SS, celebrates his victory and the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship Sunday, November 16, 2014 winning the final NASCAR Sprint Cup race of the season at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida. Ryan Newman, driver of the #31 Caterpillar Chevrolet SS finishes 2nd. (Photo by Christa L Thomas/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet SS, celebrates his victory and the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship Sunday, November 16, 2014 winning the final NASCAR Sprint Cup race of the season at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida. Ryan Newman, driver of the #31 Caterpillar Chevrolet SS finishes 2nd. (Photo by Garry Eller/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet, leads Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Drive To End Hunger Chevrolet, during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 16, 2014 in Homestead, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 and the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 16, 2014 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

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