B’gosh n’ begorrah: Luck is with Kyle Busch on St. Patrick’s Day as he wins at Auto Club Speedway

FONTANA, CA - MARCH 17: Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 Interstate Batteries Toyota, celebrates in victory lane after winning the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Auto Club 400 and winning his 200th NASCAR race at Auto Club Speedway on March 17, 2019 in Fontana, California. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

Driving a green car on St. Patrick’s Day Kyle Busch had a little luck of the Irish on his side in route to his 200th NASCAR win across all three of NASCAR’s top touring series Sunday.

Busch overcame a pit road speeding penalty and caught a caution flag during a round of green flag stops to score the 53rd win of his Cup career, his second of the season and that 200th win.

“Feels just like number one,” Busch said.  “Feels just like yesterday.  Man, that was such an awesome racecar.  I mean, dang.  This Interstate Batteries Camry was awesome today.  I’m glad we put on a heck of a show for all these fans out here in California at Auto Club Speedway.”

“It takes green to get in Victory Lane today,” he joked.  “Today is St. Patty’s day.  All these other guys were at a disadvantage.”

Up until the end of Stage 2, it looked like Busch would be cruising to victory. He had led much of the laps to that point, won Stage 1 and swept the stages. But during the stops at the end of Stage 2 Busch was penalized for speeding.

He restarted 17th after being sent to the back of the longest line. From there he began to slowly claw his way forward. He was inside the top 10 by lap 140 of 200; and sixth a few laps later.

As those in front of him began to pit under green, Busch inherited the lead.  On a gamble Busch stayed out and on lap 165 he got the break he needed when Bubba Wallace lost a tire, scattered debris on the track and the fourth and final caution of the day flew.

Busch was able to pit and after restarting second behind Ryan Blaney who had stayed out, had the lead again with 25 laps to go.

“I knew we had a great racecar,” Busch said.  “We had a great racecar all day long.  We were fast.  I wasn’t sure how well we were going to be able to come through the field, get back in traffic, get our way worked back up to the lead.”

From there Busch would not be denied winning by 2.3 seconds over Joey Logano after leading the most laps on the day 134.

“We were racing hard and no matter who got to the lead, the 18 was going to pass us,” Logano said. “He was the best car today. We have some work to do to get faster but the team did a great job today.”

The only real threat to Busch the entire race came from Brad Keselowski. Keselowski struggled early in the going but his crew adjusted on his car and he was soon in the front fighting for the lead. He would lead the second most laps on the day 42 and came home third.

“We were really good and got to the lead there on that last run but I just couldn’t quite keep it there,” Keselowski said. It was a good effort by the team and we were right there in position and we gave it all we had.”

Kevin Harvick was fourth with Blaney hanging on for fifth.

NASCAR’s new aero package was in full use for the second time this season but that didn’t seem to matter to Busch who had a lead at different times nearing five seconds.

Older brother Kurt Busch nearly had his third top five of the season, the only Chevy driver to accomplish that feat, but was passed on the final lap by Blaney and had to settle for sixth.

Denny Hamlin who was penalized for speeding on the same lap as Busch rallied back to finish seventh.  Last years winner Martin Truex Jr. survived damage obtained from a spinning Ricky Stenhouse Jr. on lap 61 to finish eighth, Aric Almirola was ninth. Pole sitter Austin Dillon who had Cole Custer standing by in relief after an illness forced him to see doctors Sunday morning, stayed in the car and after a blown tire send him two laps down, came back to finish a respectable 10th.

The aero package won’t be in play next Sunday as NASCAR heads to its shortest track, Martinsville Speedway.

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Race Results Auto Club 400

Auto Club Speedway

Fontana, California

Sunday, March 17, 2019

1. (4)  Kyle Busch, Toyota, 200.

2. (5)  Joey Logano, Ford, 200.

3. (13)  Brad Keselowski, Ford, 200.

4. (2)  Kevin Harvick, Ford, 200.

5. (10)  Ryan Blaney, Ford, 200.

6. (21)  Kurt Busch, Chevrolet, 200.

7. (6)  Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 200.

8. (27)  Martin Truex Jr, Toyota, 200.

9. (3)  Aric Almirola, Ford, 200.

10. (1)  Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 200.

11. (8)  Chase Elliott, Chevrolet, 200.

12. (15)  Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, 200.

13. (20)  Daniel Suarez, Ford, 200.

14. (12)  Ricky Stenhouse Jr, Ford, 200.

15. (22)  William Byron, Chevrolet, 200.

16. (14)  Chris Buescher, Chevrolet, 200.

17. (11)  Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, 200.

18. (24)  Matt DiBenedetto, Toyota, 200.

19. (18)  Erik Jones, Toyota, 200.

20. (25)  Paul Menard, Ford, 200.

21. (23)  Alex Bowman, Chevrolet, 200.

22. (7)  Ryan Newman, Ford, 199.

23. (26)  Ryan Preece #, Chevrolet, 199.

24. (29)  Michael McDowell, Ford, 198.

25. (19)  David Ragan, Ford, 198.

26. (32)  Matt Tifft #, Ford, 197.

27. (16)  Ty Dillon, Chevrolet, 197.

28. (31)  Ross Chastain(i), Chevrolet, 195.

29. (33)  Landon Cassill, Chevrolet, 195.

30. (28)  Bubba Wallace, Chevrolet, 194.

31. (30)  Corey LaJoie, Ford, 193.

32. (34)  Cody Ware #, Chevrolet, 192.

33. (17)  Daniel Hemric #, Chevrolet, 192.

34. (35)  Reed Sorenson, Chevrolet, 192.

35. (38)  Joey Gase(i), Toyota, 188.

36. (37)  Garrett Smithley(i), Chevrolet, 188.

37. (36)  BJ McLeod(i), Ford, 172.

38. (9)  Clint Bowyer, Ford, Overheating, 130.

Average Speed of Race Winner:  143.113 mph.

Time of Race:  2 Hrs, 47 Mins, 42 Secs. Margin of Victory:  2.354 Seconds.

Caution Flags:  4 for 22 laps.

Lead Changes:  18 among 9 drivers.

Lap Leaders:   A. Dillon 0;D. Hamlin 1-2;A. Almirola 3-9;D. Hamlin 10-12;K. Busch 13-30;W. Byron 31-33;K. Busch 34-56;D. Hamlin 57-59;K. Busch 60-69;J. Logano 70-71;K. Busch 72-122;B. Keselowski 123-160;K. Busch 161-165;R. Stenhouse Jr 166;R. Blaney 167-168;K. Busch 169;B. Keselowski 170-173;J. Logano 174;K. Busch 175-200.

Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led):  Kyle Busch 7 times for 134 laps; Brad Keselowski 2 times for 42 laps; Denny Hamlin 3 times for 8 laps; Aric Almirola 1 time for 7 laps; Joey Logano 2 times for 3 laps; William Byron 1 time for 3 laps; Ryan Blaney 1 time for 2 laps; Ricky Stenhouse Jr 1 time for 1 lap.

Stage #1 Top Ten: 18,22,11,4,10,20,41,48,12,8

Stage #2 Top Ten: 18,2,12,22,10,4,20,1,11,9

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