Busch edges Biffle; Patrick finishes 31st
By STEPHEN HAWKINS
FONTANA, Calif. — Danica Patrick accomplished one of her goals by finishing the race. She is still a long way from the lead packs in NASCAR.
Kyle Busch barely overtook Greg Biffle out of the final turn in a green-white-checker finish to win by 0.051 seconds last night in the NASCAR Nationwide Stater Bros. 300 at the Auto Club Speedway, with Brad Keselowski right behind them.
It was a heartbreaking loss for polesitter Joey Logano, who led 130 laps and was up front when the final caution came out. Busch's Joe Gibbs Racing teammate finished fifth.
Patrick was 31st in her second Nationwide race, three laps off the pace and ahead of six other cars that were still running at the end.
But unlike Daytona, where she got caught up in a 12-car crash just past the halfway point, Patrick was racing at the finish on the slick two-mile superspeedway. And she made progress during a trying 300-mile race, though she wasn't involved in the exciting finish.
"I wanted to finish, and the expectation of staying on the first lap was probably not realistic and I knew that," Patrick said. "It wasn't so pretty to start, but I came here and did what I wanted today."
On the final restart, created after Brendan Gaughan spun out on lap 145 to bring out a caution, Biffle quickly pushed by Logano and Busch followed him. Busch then got under Biffle on the final turn and beat him for his 31st Nationwide victory, tying him for third on the career list after only 175 starts.
"This is a neat race track, it's pretty wide and spread out. ... There at the end, it felt like the race track was really narrow," Busch said. "It was exciting for us."
Logano was trying to win from the pole at California for the second time in a row. But Busch still gave Gibbs its fifth consecutive Nationwide victory in Southern California, with an average speed of 143.886 mph despite leading only four of the 152 laps.
"A little bittersweet for Joey," team owner J.D. Gibbs said. "For us to come through that and for Kyle on that last lap to do what we had to do to win the race is a big deal for us."
When the race restarted after an earlier caution for debris, Logano was in 11th place behind several cars who decided not to pit and 1.5 seconds behind Biffle, who had taken the lead. He needed only eight laps to go back, passing Biffle coming out of Turn 4 on lap 100 and staying there until the final restart.
Patrick started the day 36th and quickly dropped to the back of the field. She was passed by Logano only 17 laps into the race. Yet, it took another 43 laps before Logano lapped her again.
On her first two stops, Patrick was penalized for speeding on pit road. So was veteran driver Carl Edwards, who finished fourth.
"It's always disappointing when something isn't perfect, but it's not what ruined our day," Patrick said.