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Kyle Busch Survives Controversial Tire Race at Fontana
Posted by: BGerhart on Mar 24, 2014 - 07:04 AM
Feature Articles
Kyle Busch Survives Controversial Tire Race at Fontana

By Brad Gerhart

Many predicted the Auto Club 400 race at the Auto Club Speedway in Fontana would be quite tough on the tires.

And they were correct as roughly half of the NASCAR Sprint Cup field had some sort of tire issue at one time or another around the two mile track.

The longevity of the Goodyear tires seemed to be maxed out around the 30 lap mark as numerous cars spun or hit the wall due to a blown tire with only one green flag period of at least 29 laps in the 200 lap race. Robin Pemberton, Vice President of competition and racing development did not see this as a Goodyear issue.

“We've talked to Goodyear. We have asked, the competitors have asked to bring more aggressive tires, to bring tires that they need to manage and want to -- how they use them and how they get the most out of them,” he said. “At this point in time I think Goodyear, it's the same tire that we've run on in the past. Just the car is a little bit different.”


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For the fifth time in five consecutive races to begin the 2013 Cup season a different driver made his way to the winner’s circle. This time around Kyle Busch, who finished second in Saturday’s Nationwide Series race won his second Spring Fontana race in a row. Right behind Busch, oddly enough was the Nationwide race winner, Kyle Larson.

With under 10 to go Jimmie Johnson looked to be in total control of the race. After all he led 104 laps and nobody really contended with the No.48 car all day long. However, a short time after the television crew commented on Johnson’s ability to stay away from tire issues, the No.48 car went low to the apron and immediately into the pits to replace a blown tire. Johnson finished as the last lead lap car back in 24th.

Johnson’s loss would be fellow Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jeff Gordon’s gain, momentarily anyway. After an early pit violation (drive thru for speeding) Gordon made his way all the way to the front of the pack and a few seconds up on the field. Gordon felt a vibration inside the car and clearly throttled back in an effort to make it the entire race distance.

Things looked fairly good for Gordon since everyone behind him battled for position, then of course Clint Bowyer spun out just as Gordon neared the start/finish line with two to go to bring out the final caution of the day, Gordon could not contend on the final restart and finished 13th. “They gave me the most incredible race car today and it is just so disappointing for it to end like that,” Gordon said. “I hate the caution came out. I hate Goodyear was not prepared today for what happened. They are so good at what they do and that is just uncalled for.”

Nearly the entire field made quick spots to ensure they had sufficient tires for the sprint to the checkered flags, although Landon Cassill gambled and opted to stay out. Shortly after the green waved again Cassill went into the wall and his shot at race victory were clearly short lived.

The Busch brothers battled for the lead until Kyle clearly pulled ahead of Kurt. Larson made a valiant effort to pass Kyle but Busch blocked the low inside line to keep the No.42 behind him for his 29th career victory and third in Fontana. Thought I might have a shot at Kyle depending on where he'd go into Turn 3, but he was good enough to keep it on the bottom and stay ahead of me,” Larson said. “But we'll take a second. Long race and definitely didn't expect to run second, so I'll take it and head back to North Carolina with a smile on my face.”

Busch battled his way on the final restart from fifth to first in a very short period of time, going through numerous blocks on several different track groves, he sure earned the victory in the closing moments of the race.

“With the race that we had today, to be in victory lane is a huge relief,” Busch said. “We're excited about that and now we've just got to put our focus forward on continuing to work hard and look forward to the next few weeks.”

With NASCAR's comments and several different driver views, this tire topic will not die off quickly. There's going to be more backlash in the upcoming days or perhaps weeks.

Brad Gerhart

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