Column By: REID SPENCER / NASCAR – FONTANA, CA – Make no mistake—there were heated words on the radios of Kyle Larson and Kevin Harvick after their collision on the backstretch on Lap 38 of Sunday’s Auto Club 400 that ended Harvick’s bid to win a fourth straight Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race.
Harvick wondered aloud what Larson was doing when the driver of the No. 42 Chevrolet turned up the track after Harvick moved down to side-draft the Chip Ganassi Racing machine.
Larson questioned why Harvick would race him so hard for position so early in a 200-lap event.
But after Larson recovered to run second to race winner Martin Truex Jr., and Harvick rolled home 35th in a heavily damaged car, the drivers were far more conciliatory.
“I went down to side-draft, and he (Larson) was coming up and we touched, and it just knocked the thing to the right and spun out,” Harvick said after watching the video replay. “I don’t know that it’s his fault. I think that’s my fault for coming down the race track right there and trying to side-draft, and then as we touch it just came back up the race track.
“I was just trying to get a little too much right there. I knew the stage was coming (to an end). I’ve just got to thank all of my guys. They did a great job on our Busch Beer Ford, and it was just my fault back there.
“That was just a dumb mistake on my part… The race car was there. It was just a mistake.”
Larson likewise took a more amicable tone after his runner-up result.
“We were racing really hard, and I was better than him in (Turns) 3 and 4, and he was better than me in (Turns) 1 and 2,” Larson said.
“I would side-draft him down the frontstretch, and he would side draft me down the backstretch, and I don’t know if he was just coming down to side draft me or what, but we made contact and it spun his car to the right. So you never want to make contact with anybody, but all in all it was a good day for our DC Solar Chevrolet team.”
KYLE BUSCH DISAPPOINTED WITH THIRD-PLACE RUN
You couldn’t call Sunday a bad day for Joe Gibbs Racing’s Kyle Busch.
After all, the driver of the No. 18 Toyota led 62 laps in Sunday’s Auto Club 400, second only to race winner Martin Truex Jr. And though Busch finished third behind Truex and Kyle Larson, he held second place in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series standings, nine points behind Truex, who took over the lead.
The problem was that Busch expected better after a strong showing in Saturday’s practice. But clearly, his Toyota team has some catching up to do relative to Truex’s squad at Furniture Row.
Where was Busch’s car losing time to Truex’s?
“Everywhere,” Busch said succinctly. “Just thought we were closer than that, but obviously not. We were right on top of the 78 (Truex) Saturday. The first run, I thought we were really good and showed some strength, but from there on out showed no strength.”
Busch took the checkered flag more than 12 seconds behind Truex.
DENNY HAMLIN SCORES ANOTHER QUIET TOP 10
When Denny Hamlin finds some short-run speed, he’ll be dangerous.
Hamlin overcame a pit road snafu to finish sixth in Sunday’s Auto Club 400, lowering his average finish through five Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series races to 6.8. Hamlin is also sixth in the series standings after Sunday’s race.
But his team still has work to do to contend with the fastest cars in the series.
“We just had a mistake on our pit stop,” Hamlin said. “I flew through my box again. Once I got that remedied, it looked like were some somewhere around a fourth- or fifth-place car-even a third-place at times. In the long run, we were exceptional, but we were just too slow on the short run to keep up.
“Those guys would pull seven seconds on us, and we’d maintain after that and gain a little. We were letting these guys stretch a little on us too much in the short run. Overall a good day for our FedEx Camry, but we wanted to get a top five there. We were really in it there at the end of the race with the leaders, but we didn’t have enough time.”