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

Toro Rosso extends contract for technical director James Key

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Scuderia Toro Rosso technical director James Key will continue with the team for the foreseeable future, following a contract extension announced on Tuesday.

Key joined the team in 2012 and has seen the Faenza-based squad solidify its role in the upper midfield, with occasional surprise finishes that have pushed the team near the top three or four teams on the grid.

“I am delighted to continue with Toro Rosso and remain part of the Red Bull family,” he said. “This is a team which I have great respect for and have thoroughly enjoyed working with for the past 5 years; now I look forwards to continuing our project into the future.

“STR is unique, facing the challenges of being spread over two countries and fulfilling the roles of both a team in its own right and an important part of the Red Bull driver program: they are challenges that the team takes in its stride and, whilst doing so, continues to grow and improve year on year.

“Most importantly, the people I have had the pleasure to work with at STR are second to none: professional, ambitious and focussed, they have all worked incredibly hard to improve the team’s performance and will continue that hard work with the same dedication and optimism in the coming years too. I would like to thank Franz Tost and Red Bull for their continued support and confidence. We have more work to do, and I look forwards to taking the next steps with Toro Rosso towards our goals.”

Team principal Franz Tost added, Formula 1 is a team sport, but one in which an individual can still make a difference. So far, in his time with us, James has proved that he can indeed make that difference, leading the technical side of the operation.

“Not only has he been adept at producing chassis-aero packages that are well regarded throughout the paddock, he has also shown the management skills necessary to get the most out of all the various departments that work together both here in Faenza and in Bicester. I am therefore delighted that James will be with us for the foreseeable future to continue this fruitful process.”

Teams load up on supersoft tires for Italian GP

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There’s almost no variety in team Pirelli tire selections for the Italian Grand Prix, with nearly all teams going with two sets of softs and 10 sets of supersofts for next week’s race. All teams have selected just one set of mediums.

The only variance comes with Mercedes, Force India and Haas going with three sets of softs and nine supersofts. The rest are all the same choice, two softs and 10 supersofts.

Monza comes a week after Spa this week.

Pirelli’s tire breakdown is below.

Jackie Joyner-Kersee to serve as Gateway grand marshal

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The Verizon IndyCar Series’ return to Gateway Motorsports Park for the Bommarito Automotive Group 500 presented by Valvoline will feature quite an excellent grand marshal, in the form of three-time Olympic gold medalist Jackie Joyner-Kersee.

The full release from the track is below.

An Olympic champion has been selected to give the command to start engines for the Bommarito Automotive Group 500 presented by Valvoline comes to Gateway Motorsports Park in Madison, Illinois on August 26. Jackie Joyner-Kersee, considered to be one of the greatest athletes of all time, will serve as the grand marshal for the Verizon IndyCar Series event.

“I am humble,” said Joyner-Kersee, who is a native of East St. Louis, Illinois. “I do not take this honor for granted to be the INDYCAR race’s grand marshal at Gateway Motorsports Park. Very few people are asked to give the command and I am grateful to be one of the few. Thank you!”

Track-and-field star Joyner-Kersee has won three Olympic gold medals, as well as one silver and two bronze. She was the first American to win gold for the long jump and the first woman to earn more than 7,000 points in the seven-event heptathlon, making her the most decorated female athlete in Olympic track and field history.

As a teen, she won the National Junior Pentathlon championships for consecutive years and received widespread honors in high school in various sports, including track, basketball and volleyball. During her junior year, she set the Illinois high school long jump record for women, with a 6.68-meter jump. Joyner-Kersee attended the University of California, Los Angeles on a full scholarship and continued to gain fame on both the court and field. In 1981, at the age of 19, she began to focus on training for the Olympics, specifically for the heptathlon — an Olympic track-and-field competition comprised of seven separate events, including the 200-meter run, 800-meter run and 100-meter hurdles. She graduated from UCLA in 1985.

Joyner-Kersee won a silver medal in the heptathlon at the 1984 Summer Olympics, as well as gold and bronze medals in the long jump in 1988 and 1992, respectively, and is currently the heptathlon world record-holder.
Following her retirement from competition, she founded the Jackie Joyner-Kersee Youth Center Foundation. The mission of the foundation is to instill youth in the a Greater East St. Louis area with the dream, drive and determination necessary to succeed in academics, athletics and leadership. “Winners In Life.”

Chuck Wallis, Vice President of the Bommarito Automotive Group, will serve as honorary starter and will wave the opening green flag.

Kimi Raikkonen confirmed at Ferrari for 2018 F1 season

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Scuderia Ferrari has confirmed that Kimi Raikkonen will remain with the team for the 2018 Formula 1 season after being given a new one-year contract.

Raikkonen, 37, has raced with Ferrari since 2014, and has been on a one-year rolling contract since the end of 2015.

The Finn has been a regular focus for the F1 driver market’s ‘silly season’ given his age and struggle for form compared to teammate Sebastian Vettel, who currently leads the drivers’ championship.

Raikkonen has scored 86 less points than Vettel through the opening 11 races of the 2017 season, but has nevertheless done enough to secure a new contract, confirmed by Ferrari on Tuesday.

“Ferrari announces that Scuderia Ferrari has renewed its technical and racing agreement with Kimi Raikkonen,” a brief statement from Ferrari reads.

“The Finnish driver will therefore race for the Maranello team in the 2018 Formula One World Championship.”

Raikkonen is the first of the big-name free agents to have his plans for 2018 confirmed, with Vettel, ex-Ferrari racer Fernando Alonso and Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas yet to announce a drive for next year.

Raikkonen first joined Ferrari in 2007, winning the F1 drivers’ championship in his first season, but left at the end of 2009 to take some time out from the sport.

A return in 2012 with Lotus saw Raikkonen display plenty of his old spark, taking two wins for the financially-hamstrung team before leaving at the end of 2013 over a pay row.

Raikkonen moved back to Ferrari for 2014 alongside Fernando Alonso, with Vettel arriving the following year.

Questions over Raikkonen’s motivation and ability have been rife for some time, but without any outstanding candidates for a seat available as things stand, the news is not overly surprising.

Nevertheless, it does defuse some of the silliness of ‘silly season’, with Vettel’s confirmation at Ferrari seemingly set to follow.