Kyle Larson celebrates Saturday's his first Nationwide Series win at Fontana. (Phoot: Jerry Markland/NASCAR via Getty Images)

In classic finish, Kyle Larson holds off Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch at Fontana for first career Nationwide Series win

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It was a classic shootout between the winningest driver in series history against one of the most promising bright stars in NASCAR today, ending up being the kind of race fans will be talking about for a long time.

While the first name on their lips will be Kyle, the next name and word will be Larson and not Busch.

The young gun, Kyle Larson, outworked, outdrove and outfinished the winningest driver in Nationwide Series history, Kyle Busch, to capture Saturday’s TreatMyClot.com 300 at Auto Club Speedway.

“Those last 11 or 12 laps were the longest laps of my life,” a smiling Larson said in victory lane. “It’s nice to get a win. I was looking at the board over there in (turns) one and two and it said ‘five second-place finishes in the Nationwide Series,’ and I didn’t want to make it six,” said Larson, a native of Elk Grove, Calif., about 425 miles northwest of Fontana. “It means the world to finally get it here, in my home state of California.”

Larson led just 17 laps, including 15 of the final 17, to notch his first career win in the Nationwide series (and second NASCAR win overall, having won a Trucks race last season at Rockingham), edging Harvick at the finish line, with Busch falling back on the last lap to finish third.

“The 54 (Busch) and 5 (Kevin Harvick) were really good behind us,” Larson said. “I had a heck of a race with those guys, it was amazing. … I could see the 54 and 5 racing hard behind me and they weren’t getting any further behind.”

No matter what Busch, who has won a record 65 NNS races in his career, tried to do, Larson displayed the savvy of a veteran driver in holding off his main challenger.

Larson had more than Busch to contend with as Harvick began a late surge with seven laps to go, but couldn’t quite get to the front.

Busch skimmed the wall with six laps to go, but damage appeared minimal and didn’t seem to affect his Toyota Camry.

Busch regained the lead briefly right after that, but on the next lap, Larson incredulously found a way to sneak by Busch on the right without hitting the wall.

If Larson had a couple of inches to clear, it was barely that, at best.

“(I’ve dreamed of this) for quite a while, ever since I finished second last year at Bristol,” Larson said. “It’s been over a year now since I’ve been close to winning, I finally got it done and it means a lot to have done it here in California.

“That was a blast racing out there and I’m pretty sure it’s going to be a heck of a race in the Cup car, too (on Sunday).”

Busch, who started from the back of the 40-car field due to his car failing pre-race inspection, came into victory lane while Larson was giving a post-race interview to congratulate him, as did Sprint Cup team owner Rick Hendrick.

“You want to come out here and win, that’s what we’re here to do,” Busch said. “When it all comes down to the end like that and a great finish happens, there shouldn’t be anyone any happier than the fans in the stands.  I thought that was a really good day.  Maybe we put on the best show because I had to start last and drove all the way to the front.  There at the end we were just a little shy and (Kyle) Larson won.  All in all, the fans won today.”

In the closing laps, and to his credit, Harvick continually worked the low line and gave Larson all he could handle.

Meanwhile, Larson and Busch stuck to the high groove, forcing Harvick to slide up several times before going back down to the bottom of the two-mile track.

That strategy wasn’t enough to win, but did earn Harvick the runner-up finish.

“It’s pretty cool to beat those guys,” Larson said. “The 54 and 22 (fourth-place finisher Joey Logano) have dominated this series for a while now and Harvick’s with a good team, so I’m sure we’ll be battling them for a while. It was a blast.”

Logano led the most laps (96) in the 150-lap race around the two-mile oval, but faded in the latter part of the race to finish fourth. Busch led 25 laps and Harvick eight.

Elliott Sadler was fifth, followed by Chase Elliott, Matt Kenseth, Ty Dillon, Trevor Bayne and Regan Smith finished 10th.

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Check out the video of the closing laps below, followed by the unofficial finishing order:

Unofficial finishing order of Saturday’s TreatMyClot.com 300 at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif.:

1 Kyle Larson

2 Kevin Harvick

3 Kyle Busch

4 Joey Logano

5 Elliott Sadler

6 Chase Elliott

7 Matt Kenseth

8 Ty Dillon

9 Trevor Bayne

10 Regan Smith

11 Dylan Kwasniewski

12 Brian Scott

13 David Ragan

14 Chris Buescher

15 Brendan Gaughan

16 James Buescher

17 Ryan Reed

18 Mike Bliss

19 JJ Yeley

20 Dakoda Armstrong

21 Mike Wallace

22 Ryan Sieg

23 Jeffrey Earnhardt

24 David Starr

25 Eric McClure

26 Joey Gase

27 Daryl Harr

28 Derrike Cope

29 Carlos Contreras

30 Kevin Lepage

31 Tanner Berryhill

32 Jason White

33 Josh Wise

34 Jamie Dick

35 Landon Cassill

36 Jeremy Clements

37 Matt DiBenedetto

38 Carl Long

39 Blake Koch

40 Jeff Green

Pla powers to unofficial lap record at Petit Le Mans night practice

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Photo courtesy of IMSA
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BRASELTON, Ga. – Cooler conditions produced the fastest lap times yet this weekend for the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season finale in night practice, and Olivier Pla kept the No. 60 Michael Shank Racing Ligier JS P2 Honda at the top of the charts.

A 1:13.541 is an unofficial lap record for IMSA (note times were quicker in the American Le Mans Series, but we’re talking post-mergification in 2014 when ALMS and GRAND-AM came under one roof) as Pla dropped the hammer Thursday night in the car he shares with Ozz Negri and John Pew, in Shank’s 250th and last scheduled prototype start. It also gave Shank a Thursday three-practice sweep of the top of the timesheets.

“I’m very happy with the performance today. I love this track, Road Atlanta, and the car has been great from the beginning. We just kept improving the car during each session. All of the changes we made were very positive so thank you to the team for that. I think it’s looking good for the race,” Pla told IMSA Radio.

Other class leaders at night included 2015 IndyCar driver Stefano Coletti, in the third Starworks Motorsport entry in Prototype Challenge, Dirk Mueller in GT Le Mans in the No. 66 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT and Marco Seefried in GT Daytona in the No. 44 Magnus Racing Audi R8 LMS.

Night practice, like the two day sessions that preceded it, was largely uneventful – a welcome departure from last year’s nightmarish day of crashes and rain on Thursday.

A final pre-qualifying practice occurs on Friday before qualifying later Friday afternoon.

Session three times are linked here.

Stefan Johansson’s latest blog: Rosberg’s ascendance, Pagenaud’s title

SOCHI, RUSSIA - MAY 01:  Nico Rosberg of Germany and Mercedes GP speaks with his team-mate Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain and Mercedes GP as he celebrates his win on the podium during the Formula One Grand Prix of Russia at Sochi Autodrom on May 1, 2016 in Sochi, Russia.  (Photo by Dan Istitene/Getty Images)
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Stefan Johansson’s latest blog entry previews the forthcoming Formula 1 title battle between Mercedes AMG Petronas teammates Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton, recaps the IndyCar title just won by Simon Pagenaud, and addresses some other topics from both worlds as well.

Per usual, it’s the latest conversation with Jan Tegler live on Johansson’s website, and continues with what we’ve been chronicling throughout the year on NBCSports.com.

On the Rosberg vs. Hamilton title title, Johansson notes that the narratives around the two keep popping up depending on who’s winning and losing on-track.

“Nico really dominated this one, no doubt,” Johansson wrote of Rosberg’s peerless weekend in Singapore. “He had a flawless weekend throughout qualifying and the race and never put a foot wrong.

“But what’s funny is that again some of the pundits are back saying that Lewis is finished because he’s partying too hard, he’s not focused, etc. I say leave the guy alone. What we’re seeing is the normal, natural dynamics over the course of a 21-race season. You’re going to have good and bad races.

“Rosberg was certainly off-the-boil too for a few races mid-season and the pundits were saying he’s not mentally strong enough and this and that. The changing of momentum back and forth is completely normal but I guess some people just don’t have enough to talk about. Because there is effectively only two of them at the moment with a realistic chance of winning and they are so incredibly closely matched all the time it doesn’t take a lot for the momentum to swing one way or the other.”

Johansson also acutely notes how Sebastian Vettel has taken advantage of 2017 Pirelli tire testing to perhaps gain a leg up on the competition next year.

He writes of Vettel and Scuderia Ferrari’s test runs on the newer 2017 rubber, among other things, “What’s more interesting is that Sebastian Vettel has been doing every test lap for Ferrari that has been available. I guarantee you that this will give him an advantage next year. Every time you run a car you gain some level of knowledge. Racing and F1 in particular is no different than any other business in that it relies on human interaction and relationships to get the best results.

“The fact that Pirelli has Vettel doing testing, making every single run he can make will pay off. I’ve done lots of tire testing in the past and it’s absolutely the best way to move things forward for driver or a team performance.”

On Simon Pagenaud’s IndyCar title, Johansson praised the 32-year-old Frenchman who’s come into his own this year:

“Pagenaud ended the season in a pretty impressive way. There’s no doubt that he went to Sonoma to win the race as well as the championship. He did a superb job all weekend and the Penske team definitely has the momentum now. Ganassi had the momentum for several years but it seems to have swung toward Penske now. They also have four very strong cars with any one of them capable of winning any race under right circumstances, Ganassi doesn’t have that at the moment.”

Johansson still said Scott Dixon, the 2015 and four-time champion, put together a barnstorming 2016 campaign – but it was one undone by horrific luck.

“As I’ve said, it’s weird but Scott had his best year for many years in some ways. If everything had gone his way, he could have won three races where he had mechanical failures which are almost unheard of now in IndyCar. But he had engine problems at Detroit, Road America and St. Petersburg. There were also a few strategic errors all adding up to a Championship finish that was his lowest for quite some time. If all that hadn’t happened he would have almost dominated the season.”

There are several more great nuggets within Johansson’s latest blog, which you can view in its entirety here.

Previous linkouts to Johansson’s blog on MotorSportsTalk are linked below:

Additionally, a link to Johansson’s social media channels and #F1TOP3 competition are linked here.

Rosberg leads Mercedes 1-2 in shorter Malaysian first practice

KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA - SEPTEMBER 30: Nico Rosberg of Germany driving the (6) Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team Mercedes F1 WO7 Mercedes PU106C Hybrid turbo on track during practice for the Malaysia Formula One Grand Prix at Sepang Circuit on September 30, 2016 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.  (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)
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Despite a near-20-minute red flag for Kevin Magnussen’s fire in pit lane, the Mercedes AMG Petronas pair needed less time to retain their usual positions on the top of the scoreboard for this weekend’s Malaysian Grand Prix.

Nico Rosberg, who regained the championship lead with his third win in a row two weeks ago in Singapore, topped the timesheets at 1:35.227 on Pirelli’s soft tires, which was 0.494 of a second clear of teammate Lewis Hamilton.

The profile of the Sepang International Circuit has changed this year owing to a resurfacing and the angles and lines to some of the corners are different compared to years past. And the race shifts back to October for the first time since 2000.

Juan Pablo Montoya’s race lap record is 1:34.223 set with Williams in 2004 and pole times in the V10 era were in the 1:33s. On harder tires – Pirelli has brought the three hardest compounds on offer with the soft, medium and hard tires this weekend – and times aren’t far off.

In the 90-minute session, Rosberg did have an off with 15 minutes to go; Hamilton had a monster lockup with about 53 minutes to go and Carlos Sainz Jr. went off course just following the session restart.

Magnussen’s pit fire though was the story of the session. The Dane pitted, then scrambled to exit his Renault when smoke and flames emerged from both the airbox in the engine cowling and then from the engine bay. His crew worked wonders to extinguish the flames.

Behind the Mercedes teammates at the top of the charts, Ferrari’s pair of Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel were next followed by Fernando Alonso’s McLaren in fifth. Red Bull teammates Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen were sixth and seventh, ahead of the Force India teammates Nico Hulkenberg and Sergio Perez. Perez is hoping a resolution on his F1 future will be revealed sooner rather than later.

Romain Grosjean’s struggles with Haas F1 Team continued as he radioed that “something must not be right” with the car after a late off in the session. He was an unlucky 13th.

Further down the order neither Felipe Massa of Williams or Jolyon Palmer in the second Renault were able to eclipse the two Saubers, and languished in 18th and 19th.

Free practice two runs from 2 a.m. ET on NBCSN and the NBC Sports App, via streaming at f1stream.nbcsports.com for participating providers. Leigh Diffey is back in the booth with David Hobbs and Steve Matchett, with Townsend Bell in the pits. Set your DVRs, or brew some coffee.

Times from FP1 are below:

Renault crew fights, extinguishes Magnussen fire at Malaysia (VIDEO)

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There must be something about the Enstone team and scary pit fires, because Kevin Magnussen had his near-Jos Verstappen at Hockenheim 1994 moment during this morning’s first free practice from the Malaysian Grand Prix.

The young Dane pitted his Renault RS16 just eight minutes into the session because it all went wrong from there. Smoke and flames emanated from out of the roll hoop and in the engine bay, and Magnussen frantically jumped out of the car from there.

He was OK, but in the subsequent minutes that followed, the car lit up several more times as it burned off fuel. The Renault Sport F1 Team crew then took to fighting and fanning the flames with fire extinguishers, and managed to douse it and put it out, in a valiant effort.

The car was wheeled back into the garage and Magnussen, most importantly, was unharmed.

The fire caused a 19-minute delay to the session.

Verstappen’s raging inferno came during a pit stop in the 1994 German Grand Prix, when the team now known as Renault was known as Benetton.

Tweets from the team are below and the video is above. FP2 runs on NBCSN from 2 a.m. ET.