Once Landon Cassill on old tires was done and disposed with, the two drivers that ascended to the lead at the end of Sunday’s Auto Club 400 in Fontana were Stewart-Haas Racing’s pair of Tony Stewart and Kurt Busch.
But while they both went for the lead into Turns 1 and 2, Stewart briefly emerging ahead before Busch powered through on corner exit, they’d eventually fall back into the clutches of a handful of other drivers.
At the end of this green-white-checkered shootout, Kyle Busch had the win ahead of Kyle Larson, with Kurt Busch third, Matt Kenseth fourth and Stewart down to fifth.
On the bright side, it was Kurt Busch’s first top 20 of 2014, and Stewart’s second straight top-five after ending fourth at Bristol one week ago.
Yet it could have been so much more.
“Unreal the amount of emotions of running well today, executing on pit road,” Busch said in the team’s post-race release. “Daniel Knost (crew chief) did a great job and this Haas Automation Chevy was fast and then to race your boss for a win. Neither one of us came home with the ‘W’ so we are both upset about that, but at the same time it was a genuine moment for Tony (Stewart) and I to race and to put it all out on the line for Stewart-Haas. I came home third, he came home fifth.”
As for the boss’ take: “It wasn’t very good at the beginning. I had a problem where I spun. Chad (Johnston, crew chief) thought it might’ve been a cut tire, and I had to tell him that it was just driver error. I messed up and spun early. The guys did an awesome job, but we kept fighting the balance (of the car). It was really loose off the corners. Chad kept working on it. We had really good pit stops when we needed it and got track position at the end, and Chad had another great call to get us another top-five.”