FONTANA, Calif. (AP) - Kyle Busch figured he had little chance to defend his Fontana title for most of Sunday while he circled the oval in a “mediocre” car.
Yet his tires were just fine, unlike much of the rubber on the bumpy racetrack. And when the race came down to a two-lap sprint to the finish, Busch demonstrated his spectacular closing skills one more time.
Busch won at Fontana for the second straight year, holding off Kyle Larson, Tony Stewart and his older brother Kurt for his 29th career Sprint Cup victory.
Kyle Busch capably blocked Larson and outlasted a crowded field to win a race featuring a track-record 35 lead changes and numerous tire problems. Busch stayed out of trouble and roared up late for his second straight stunner in Southern California, following up the Las Vegas native’s final-lap surge to victory a year ago.
“Holy cow, what do you expect when you’ve got a green-white-checkered finish and everybody has to come down pit road and put four tires on?” Busch asked after his third career win at Fontana. “That was `Days of Thunder’ right there. Unbelievable day.”
Busch is NASCAR’s fifth winner in five races this season. He led just five laps - the fewest of his career in a win - in his Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota.
“I came off the fourth turn in disbelief that we won this thing, because we were mediocre all day,” Busch said. “It was really weird for us, not a race that we’re typically used to. But now there’s a load off your shoulders that you can go out the rest of the season and race the way you want to.”
He also got a thrill from outlasting Larson, the 21-year-old rookie in the No. 42 Chevrolet for Chip Ganassi Racing.