Camry driver Kyle Busch earned his third NASCAR Nationwide Series (NNS) victory of the 2013 season on Saturday at California’s Auto Club Speedway.
Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) drivers have won a record nine consecutive NNS races at California dating back to Feb. 2008. The Camry drivers that have registered wins during the streak include Busch (six wins), Joey Logano (two) and Tony Stewart (one).
Toyota drivers have led 938 of 1,354 laps in those nine wins.
Busch’s six NNS triumphs at Auto Club Speedway equal the six wins he has registered at Charlotte for the most career NNS race wins he holds at one track.
Camry driver Parker Kligerman earned a career-best NNS result of fourth in the 150-lap race. Kligerman’s 90-year-old grandmother, Doris Hammond, a resident of Glendale, Calif., attended her first NASCAR race on Saturday.
Elliott Sadler (seventh) also earned a top-10 finish at the two-mile race track.
Other Camry drivers in Saturday’s race included Alex Bowman (12th), Joe Nemechek (14th), Mike Bliss (18th), Hal Martin (24th), Eric McClure (27th), Blake Koch (32nd), Jason White (33rd), Brian Vickers (34th), Michael McDowell (36th), Jeff Green (37th) and Joey Gase (40th).
Three Toyota drivers are in the top-10 of the unofficial NNS point standings — Kligerman (eighth), Sadler (ninth), and Bowman (10th).
KYLE BUSCH, No. 54 Monster Energy Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing | Finishing position: 1st
Why are you so successful at Auto Club Speedway? “I don’t know. You work hard and you give it all you can. There’s been days on the Cup side where we can lead all the laps and we mess up either on adjustments or I just can’t get enough out of the car that I need, but here today — this is awesome. It’s the home for Monster Energy, so we appreciate their support. Great ‘home game’ for us. Also, TRD (Toyota Racing Development) is right down the road. Of course we appreciate Toyota’s support and Nationwide Insurance — what can I say. It’s fun to come out here and race with these guys. Sam (Hornish Jr.), he’s put on a whole new game this year — these guys better watch out for going after the championship. He’s done a great job. I was comfortable today in my Butler seat and just want to say again, thanks to Mark Cronquist (JGR engine builder) and all the guys at JGR engines.”
When did you decide the outside lane was the better? “I had seen Sam (Hornish Jr.) getting away from me a little bit when I was following on the bottom. I’m like, ‘Well, if he’s driving away from me and I’m following him, I better do something different.’ I started going to the top and we broke even for a few laps and then I started hunting him down. We had good momentum up there and we were able to get to his bumper and pass him, of course. I kept running the top for a little bit there and he kept making the bottom working again, so I thought I’d switch it up on him a little bit and I thought I’d try the bottom and we seemed to be a little bit faster down there for a few laps and it might have went away a little bit. But, we still kept the maintain speed with him and it was fun. Can’t say enough about this Monster Energy Camry and this team, everybody at JGR — all these guys do a great job. It was fun to race today like that. We had a great time and I hope the fans did too, and I hope there’s a whole heck of a lot more that want to come and watch tomorrow, another race like that.”
What do you think about the success Joe Gibbs Racing has had at Auto Club Speedway? “It’s really, really cool — it’s just been fun to be able to work with Adam (Stevens, crew chief) and work with these guys at Joe Gibbs Racing again. They’re known for having great stuff, but yet you still have to be able to wheel it and today, I don’t think we were the best car, but got up on the wheel there at the end and just chased down that 12 (Sam Hornish Jr.) — he was really, really good today. Didn’t want to see him win here in front of our hometown crowd of Monster Energy folks that were in the stands today, and of course the Toyota folks that are here as well. We got up on the wheel, like I said and tried to push as hard as I could and run the top side there for a little bit. Ran him down and got there, was able to do a draft move by him and sort of kept running the top to keep the momentum going, but was still trying to search around to find a lap time that was good for us. It seemed like we were back and forth a little bit. Sam could run a good lap, I’d run a good lap. We were battling each other there on the stop watch, not necessarily on the race track, but still felt like it was a great race. Halfway through, two-thirds through us and the 12 (Sam Hornish Jr.) were putting on a good show up front, trading the lead back and forth a little bit, side-by-side, he’d go inside, I’d go inside. It’s pretty neat.”
How important is it to keep the Joe Gibbs Racing/Toyota Camry winning streak alive? “I really didn’t know about the streak until we got here. Once we got into today’s race, I thought that would be pretty cool to keep that streak going. I thought we had two really good shots at it and throughout the race, I then thought we had three. We were pretty good, the 20 (Brian Vickers) was right behind me there early, the 11 (Elliott Sadler) passed me early, so he was really strong. I thought it was going to be a race for the Joe Gibbs Racing cars up front, but then the 12 (Sam Hornish Jr.) came out of nowhere and was really fast today. I think it’s pretty cool that you can see a team go to a race track and dominate like that in the series. Although it’s really awkward because we have nine in a row in the Nationwide Series and JGR has yet to win a Cup race here. That’s quite an odd stat, but we’re working hard at it. I know Denny (Hamlin) is really good for tomorrow and I think we’re okay for tomorrow, too. Hopefully we can change that.”
What would it mean for JGR and Toyota to get their first California NSCS win? “I don’t think it’s that big of a deal. Certainly we’d like to end it, it certainly would be nice, but it’s not going to be the end of the world if we don’t. We’ll just continue to work hard. There’s a lot of great teams that run on Sundays that have been dominant forces here in the past. I know Hendrick of course with the 48 (Jimmie Johnson) has been so good here over the years. Before that, I think it was the Roush gang with the old car from 2007 and before that. It kind of comes and goes a little bit. You just have to continue to work hard and put everything forward and try to make sure that you’re doing what you can do to make sure your cars are the best they need to be.”
ADAM STEVENS, crew chief, No. 54 Monster Energy Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing
How does it feel to win at Auto Club Speedway two years in a row? “It’s pretty special to win back-to-back. I guess we did it at Bristol as well last week, from the fall to the spring race this year. This is a tough place to race and win. There’s just so many grooves you can run and the track surface is aging, which is fun. The tires fall off and you can get alternate pit strategies if you have a couple quick cautions. All that makes it remarkable that Joe Gibbs Racing has been able to win now nine in a row. It’s a driver’s track — they can really manage the tires and manage the car and adjust their balance from what they do behind the wheel and I think that’s been our strength here and Kyle (Busch) obviously is a big part of that. Just keep that streak alive and give him a car that is close enough. We weren’t dominant by any means. That’s tough to do. We’re still getting used to each other and figure each other out and I feel like unloading strong and finishing it off with the pole and the win — that’s a feather in our cap for sure.”
PARKER KLIGERMAN, No. 77 Toyota Camry, Kyle Busch Motorsports | Finishing Position: 4th
How was your race? “We had a pretty solid day. We ran in the top-10 all day. Maybe once or twice we were outside it, just through pit strategy, but from there I felt like we had a solid top-five car and through pit strategy and stuff, we didn’t run there all day. At that last pit stop Eric (Phillips, crew chief) made a great call to take tires and we just blasted through the field and tried to hold on for third, but couldn’t quite run them down for first or second and just barely came up short on third.”
How intense was the battle for third-place in the closing laps? “It was a hell of a battle with Regan (Smith) and Austin (Dillon). I think we were all just loose as heck and I had no right rear tire left. We were hanging on, but that’s what’s cool about this place. You are — it’s so bumpy, it’s so slick, you’re just wheeling it and moving the wheel and using the brake and throttle — everything you can to get the car to turn and put the power down to the ground and that’s what makes it fun.”
How has your team owner Kyle Busch been a mentor? “Kyle (Busch) is a great mentor as an owner and as a driver. I like to tell the story when we were at Phoenix and in 10 minutes I learned more with him than I have with about most drivers I’ve met. So, he has a great feel for these Toyota Camrys, he has a great feel for these race tracks — he’s obviously very talented and also very open about how to help you out and what you should do to get better.”
What did you think of your 90-year-old grandma coming to her first NASCAR race today? “My 90-year-old grandma came to the race and I had my career-best finish in front of her. I’m proud of that — happy she was here and hope she enjoyed herself.”
ELLIOTT SADLER, No. 11 OneMain Financial Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing | Finishing position: 7th
What happened with your Camry during the race? “We had ignition problems and by the time we put the box in, we lost a little bit of track position. The car was still good and the 3 car (Austin Dillon) ran us in the wall off turn two there early in the race and knocked my fenders in. That kind of put us in a bind, we were fighting from behind. Then, there at the end, we wanted to save our tires just in case and we didn’t get another caution. We did run good today. We qualified good. Our OneMain Financial Camry was fast, we just lost a little track position there at the end. Not the finish we wanted, but we’ll regroup in the next few weeks and move on.”
BRIAN VICKERS, No. 20 Dollar General Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing | Finishing Position: 34th
What forced you from the race early? “We don’t know yet. You know, the engine started to tighten up and I had a lot of smoke in the cockpit. We’re assessing the damage now. I’m not sure what it is, either way it’s not a good day for the Dollar General Toyota. The guys did a good job all weekend. We were one small adjustment away from being able to win the race and now we’re in the garage.”