Gibbs Garage: Kyle Busch leads JGR drivers with second place finish at Auto Club Speedway

JGR duo started on the front row at ACS
Credit: Boris at

Of all the tracks on the Sprint Cup circuit, only Auto Club Speedway still has a zero in the “wins” column for the Joe Gibbs Racing teams. The JGR trio of drivers had high hopes one of them would crack this track and take home the trophy from the Auto Club 400 on Sunday. But despite valiant efforts, the victory eluded them for another year.  
Denny Hamlin started the race first, earning his tenth career Sprint Cup pole, and was fastest in Saturday practice, too. Hamlin raced outside polesitter Kyle Busch to the start-finish line to lead the first lap, after which Busch took the reins.
Hamlin spent the entire 129 laps of the race running in the top three in his No. 11 FedEx Toyota. He struggled with losing time on pit stops, but managed to make it up on the track. “Between coming in and leaving, we’d lose three or four seconds and have to make the whole run to try to get that back together,” he said. A little past the halfway mark, Hamlin cut Smoke’s lead to less than one second. “We finally got to Tony’s (Stewarts) bumper and the rain came out.”
After setting a record for the longest green flag run without a caution at ACS, the yellow flag flew on lap 124 for rain in turns three and four. While leading under the caution, Stewart sidled down the track as if he was going to pit, then veered back on track. Hamlin, who was running second, continued down pit road. Hamlin said he wasn’t tricked by Stewart’s ploy and that his team had planned to pit in case the race went green again. The unrelenting rain led to NASCAR calling the race complete at 129 of 200 laps, and Hamlin finished 11th.
Kyle Busch started on the outside pole and took the lead from Hamlin on lap two. The No. 18 Interstate Batteries Toyota was strong from the get-go and he went on to lead 80 laps. While racing hard with some lapped cars, Tony Stewart passed Busch on lap 85 for the lead. As he tried to catch up, Busch grazed the outside wall and the car tightened up as a result of the damage. Still, Busch managed a respectable second place finish and gained two positions in the points standings.
Busch tweeted: “The boys brought me a great @interstatebatts Camry. Wish we had 30 more laps in it so we could have been the ones spraying champagne!”
Flashback: Kyle Busch has quite a history at ACS, with emotional highs and lows. He experienced disappointment in 2001 when NASCAR officials pulled him from his first Camping World Truck Series start. Why? Because the open-wheel race that weekend had tobacco sponsorship and Busch was only 16 years old.
On the other hand, 2005 was a banner year for Busch at Auto Club Speedway. In his eighth career Sprint Cup start, he became the youngest driver to win a Sprint Cup pole – at 19 years, 317 days old. Busch also earned his first career NASCAR Sprint Cup victory at the California track while driving the No. 5 Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports.
Joey Logano started the weekend at Fontana with a victory in the Royal Purple 300, giving JGR its eighth straight NNS wins at ACS. Earlier in the week Logano attended American Idol as an audience member, but made a brief cameo standing by the stage as Idol contestant Skylar Laine sang.
Joey Logano wins NNS race at ACS
Credit: Boris at 
The No. 20 Dollar General Toyota rolled off eighth for Sunday’s Sprint Cup race, but fought handling conditions throughout the day, especially in the middle of corners. “The car was so tight right at the start of the race I couldn’t hardly drive it. Each green flag stop, we did a little more and more adjustments, but never could get the car to handle right,” Logano said. He hovered around the 20th position for much of the race, but finished 24th after serving a pass-through penalty for speeding on pit road.
The points standings for the JGR drivers after Fontana:
Denny Hamlin – 7th
Joey Logano – 13th
Kyle Busch – 14th

Beth Bence Reinke writes "Gibbs Garage," Joe Gibbs Racing Sprint Cup team recaps, for the 2012 season. Her Skirts and Scuffs column, “Faith on the Frontstretch,” explores the role of faith in motorsports. Beth is the author of Race Fans’ Devotions to Go, a devotional book geared toward female NASCAR fans. Follow Beth on Twitter at @bbreinke or reach her at

Gibbs Garage: Kyle Busch leads JGR drivers with second place finish at Auto Club Speedway Gibbs Garage: Kyle Busch leads JGR drivers with second place finish at Auto Club Speedway Reviewed by Beth Reinke on Monday, March 26, 2012 Rating: 5