Those were the keys to winning in NASCAR Nationwide competition at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif., on Saturday. And Busch should know. His win of the Royal Purple 300 at the track that day was his sixth Nationwide win at ACS, his 54th-career series victory and the ninth-straight Nationwide win for Joe Gibbs Racing at Auto Club.
“Great home game for us,” Busch went on to say, pointing out that the Southern California area is home base for Toyota North America, Toyota Racing development and his sponsor Monster Energy.
Series points leader Sam Hornish Jr. was the only driver able to keep up with Busch on a consistent basis throughout the race. Hornish, himself, led several laps and for most of the race, he and Busch occupied the top-two positions in the running order.
“Sam — he’s put on a whole new game this year,” Busch said of his closest competitor.
With a second-place race finish, Hornish moved out to a 28-point lead in the championship standings over Regan Smith.
“It feels really good,” Hornish said of being in command of the points lead. “We started off the year just the way we wanted to and have made sure we took care of the car throughout the first five races as well as we could. We wanted to get out of the box good and I preached that to the team in the off-season. We wanted to get through the first five races in good standing and I am real happy with the way Greg Erwin and the guys on the team have been performing and the job they are doing for me.”
Smith finished the race third to Busch and Hornish after overcoming a flat tire that brought out a debris caution on lap 33 of the 150-lap race.
The day was a good one for Busch as both a driver and car owner. The car he owns, the No. 77 driven by Parker Kligerman, finished fourth. Austin Dillon rounded out the top-five.
Busch and Hornish were both accompanied at the front by teammates early on in the race — Busch with fellow-JGR drivers Elliott Sadler and Brian Vickers and Hornish by Penske Racing teammate and reigning Sprint Cup Series champion Brad Keselowski. But the teammates didn’t have quite as flawless of a race.
Keselowski dropped back through the field because of a handling issue at one point. After his crew made improvements to the car with each pit stop, Keselowski got back to the front by staying out during a late-race caution for track position. But the strategy put him in fuel mileage mode, and he dropped back again, winding up 19th at the finish.
Sadler saw his primary ignition box catch fire within the first 25 laps of the race, causing him to fall off the pace. He was able to switch boxes, though, and move back up into the top-10, finishing in the seventh spot.
Vickers car, meanwhile, suffered from an overheating issue that sent him to pit road and out of the race on lap 52.
“It’s a shame,” Vickers said. “We had a car capable of winning. We were just one adjustment away. Now, we’re in the garage.”
– Photo courtesy of Getty Images for NASCAR