1015073885 LAT 20180316 18FON1LW 08706

1015073885 LAT 20180316 18FON1LW 08706Kyle Busch took to Twitter to dispute those who felt he might have blown off a television interview after finishing third at Auto Club Speedway.

Fox Sports said they didn't "catch up" with Busch post-race. However, the Joe Gibbs Racing driver explained that he did a radio interview with Motor Racing Network (MRN) but never saw the television crew.

Busch led 62 laps Sunday afternoon on his way to earning his fourth consecutive top-seven finish.

The winning pass was made on Busch by Toyota teammate Martin Truex Jr. with 32 laps to go. Although he had beaten Truex off pit road during their final stops when Busch launched out of his stall better than Truex had, a bobble off Turn 2 negated Busch's advantage. Truex then easily drove away.

"Everywhere," Busch said of getting beat by Truex. "Just thought we were closer than that, but obviously not. We were right on top of the 78 [Truex] yesterday. The first run I thought we were really good and showed some strength, but from there on out showed no strength."

1015077895 LAT 20180318 18FON1LW 49408Joey Logano's optimism is growing around the potential for his No. 22 Team Penske group.

Coming off a 2017 in which he failed to make the playoffs and struggled to find speed and performance late in the year, Logano has been adamant he has no plans to repeat that. Last year was a horror movie, he said.

But through five races this year, Logano has scored four top-10 finishes and has just one qualifying effort outside the top 10.

"Yeah, if you run in the top five, I mean, we ran top five all day long from the first run all the way to the end," Logano said of his fifth-place finish at Auto Club Speedway. "My pit crew was incredible. It was one of the most unbelievable days on pit road I've ever seen, so they were on fire.

"Are we as fast as we need to be yet? No, but we're getting closer. Take Phoenix out – for whatever reason the whole company can't go fast at Phoenix, but today we had some decent speed and it's progress. It's progress in the right direction. We still have a ways to go, but we're getting closer to where we can have solid runs, score stage points, score good finishes and keep ourselves up there for points."

When it comes to points, Logano is third in the championship standings. He has also scored 44 stage points, which is sixth best in the series.

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Logano, like many, did not have anything to match up evenly with winner Martin Truex Jr. But Logano did enjoy having a brief time running in front of Truex at one point in the race.

"I was like, 'Hey,' but it was short-lived," said Logano.

Overall, Logano said his weekend, which included winning Saturday's Xfinity Series race, was good.

"I've been so close for quite some time now and it's been a great racetrack for us and a lot of fun to race here, I just need more speed to be able to keep up there," Logano said. "We made one change that the car didn't like right before the last stage and we lost some track position there, and by the time we were able to start catching back up it was too late.

"We probably could have finished fourth, maybe third at the end if we didn't have that bad run. But overall that's where we're at."

1015073785 LAT 20180316 18FON1LW 00134Five weeks into the season Jimmie Johnson has his first top-10 finish. It came Sunday at Auto Club Speedway with a quiet ninth-place effort.

Afterward, Johnson called it a "solid day" in which his Hendrick Motorsports team had no tire issues, great pit stops and an effective race called by crew chief Chad Knaus. Johnson had not finished higher than 12th coming into the weekend.

"We'll take it," said the seven-time champion, whose finish was also his first top 10 since last October at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

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In addition to edgng further up the point standings – he's now 18th – Johnson also earned points in all three stages of the race. Remarkably, Sunday was the first race this season in which Johnson scored stage points.

Not making a qualifying lap Friday when his No. 48 failed to make it through inspection, Johnson lined up 33rd on the starting grid. At the end of the first 60-lap stage, Johnson was fifth. He ended the second stage seventh.

"Each week we have been getting a little better," he said. "We are definitely not happy with where we are right now, but we are seeing the improvements, we have been seeing it internally. We're making the cars drive better and better, and we're getting more competitive.

"So, a strong day for the Lowe's Chevrolet Camaro ZL1. We're not where we want to be, but we're getting closer every week."

A bobble by Kyle Busch opened the door for Martin Truex Jr. and that was all the defending series champion needed.

Truex pounced when Busch got loose off Turn 2 with 32 laps to go in the Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway. Taking the lead for the final time, Truex drove away from the field to a dominating 11.6-second lead, leaving just 10 cars on the lead lap.

The 16th victory of Truex's career is his first of the season and it came after he started on the pole and swept all three stages. He led 125 of 200 laps.

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"Just fighting hard and we never gave up on it," Truex said of his day. "I knew we had a really good race car after, honestly, the first adjustment of the race the thing came alive and from there it was just managing my tires and being smart.

"We had a little trouble getting beat out of the pits and that was tough, and one run we fell back to fifth and had to work our way back up and I just really had to take care of my front tires. And once we could get some clean air, this thing was unbelievable."

The bid for four straight wins did not happen for Kevin Harvick, who finished 35th and multiple laps down after crashing on Lap 39 with Kyle Larson.

Larson was able to continue and finished second after getting around Busch with 18 laps to go. But the No. 42 continually lost ground to Truex as the laps wound down.

Rounding out the top five were Kyle Busch and the Team Penske duo of Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano. Busch led the race's second-most laps at 62.

Truex was the hunter after he fell to second on his final pit stop, having come down pit road as the leader. Both Truex and Kyle Busch pitted together with 38 laps to and Busch beat Truex off pit road as he launched out of his pit stall, which was directly behind Truex's, better than the 78 did.

The lead didn't last long. Truex led on six different occasions on his way to his first Fontana victory.

Completing the top 10 were Denny Hamlin, Erik Jones, Ryan Blaney, Jimmie Johnson, and Austin Dillon.

The race featured 16 lead changes among seven drivers and five caution flags.


harvick crashFour for the No. 4 was not meant to be for Kevin Harvick at Auto Club Speedway, as his bid for a fourth consecutive win came to an early end.

The Stewart-Haas Racing driver heavily damaged his Ford after contact racing Kyle Larson off Turn 2 on Lap 39. Harvick turned down on Larson with the No. 42 moving slightly to the right as the two hit the backstretch. While the contact was flush, Harvick then shot back toward the outside retaining wall, hitting hard with the right front and the rear.

"I went down to side draft, and he was coming up, and we touched, and it just knocked the thing to the right, just spun out," said Harvick. "I don't know that that's his fault, I think that's my fault for coming down the racetrack and trying to side draft, and as we touch right there, it just came back up the racetrack.

"Just trying to get a little too much right there, I knew the stage was coming to an end."

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Harvick fell two laps down as his team made repairs on pit road. With continued repairs throughout the afternoon, Harvick fell nine laps down and finished 35th. Larson suffered minimal damage and rebounded to finish second.

"We were racing really hard; I was better than him in [Turns] 3 and 4, he was better than me in [Turns] 1 and 2," said Larson. "I'd side-draft him down the frontstretch, he'd side-draft me down the backstretch, and I don't know if he was coming down to side-draft me or what, but we made contact and spun his car to the right. You never want to make contact with anybody, but all in all, it was a good day for our DC Solar team.

"We had a lot of weird issues, vibrations and different stuff that happened that we had to restart near the back and drive back forward and seemed like we could always get to third or fourth and kind of stall out there. But still, really good day."

Pipo Derani, Nicolas Lapierre and Johannes van Overbeek drove a flawless race to win Saturday’s 66th Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring in the No. 22 Tequila Patron ESM Nissan Onroak DPi.

"[It was] maximum [fuel conservation]” said Derani, who made what proved to be the winning pass with one hour, 35 minutes remaining.

1015077010 LAT 20180317 levitt 0318 SEB 31641"The pit was every lap telling me the gap and I was trying to save fuel as maximum as I could. "In the end it was really, really tight. We got the low fuel on the last lap, but we finally made it, I can't believe it.

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"Thanks to this amazing team, we've been working so hard. This one is for my dad – he's fighting really hard for health and I love him so much, this is for you, man."

The winners completed 344 laps – 1,286.56 miles – on the 3.74-mile circuit. Derani nursed his fuel to the finish to give Nissan its fifth triumph in the Sebring classic, and first since Clayton Cunningham Racing took the overall victory in the 1994 event in a Nissan 300ZX.

"It's a real testament to ESM,” van Overbeek said. "Today saw some of the best teams and some of the best manufacturers have a lot of trouble.

"Of course my co-drivers did an awesome job. I don’t think there’s a scratch on the car."

It was the second Sebring triumph in three years for ESM. Derani and van Overbeek joined co-owners Scott Sharp and Ed Brown in the winning Tequila Patron Honda Ligier JS P2 in the 2016 event.

Derani held off a determined run by the No. 55 Team Joest Mazda RT-24-P, which showed both serious pace and superior fuel mileage throughout the event. Harry Ticknell was running a competitive second when the top five Prototypes pitted with 41 minutes remaining. Tincknell had trouble restarting the car, resulting in a lost lap and a sixth-place finish for the car shared by Jonathan Bomarito and Spencer Pigot.

1015077327 LAT 20180317 RD 12 SEB 18440With the No. 55 falling out of contention, Renger van der Zande finished second in the No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi-V.R co-driven by Jordan Taylor and Ryan Hunter-Reay, 12.427 seconds back, with the team battling overheating throughout the second half of the event.

"We were testing in the heat and the race finishes in the night when it is cool, so you are in survival mode during the heat of the day," note van der Zande. "The car really comes alive at night. The engineers are superstars and they know what they are doing. They give me everything I need to perform.

"It was an eventful day. I got tapped on the rear and they made a quick fix. I have a lot of faith in my new team. They don't give up and they stay calm when things happen. We were the best of the rest today."

Felipe Nasr, Eric Curran and Mike Conway placed third in the No. 31 Whelen Engineering Cadillac DPi-V.R, running in contention throughout the race. Also finishing on the lead lap were the No. 54 CORE autosport ORECA 07 Gibson of Colin Braun, Jon Bennett and Romain Dumas, and the No. 32 United Autosports Ligier JSP217 Gibson of Phil Hanson, Paul DiResta and Alex Brundle, who was filling in for an ill Bruno Senna.

Both of the Mazda Team Joest RT-24-Ps led the event. The No. 77 of Tristan Nunez, Oliver Jarvis and Rene Rast lost 10 laps due to a brake issue but rallied to place eighth, turning the fastest lap of the race in the process.

The winners managed to avoid the attrition that took struck many of the contenders in Round 2 of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. The sister No. 2 ESM Nissan was hit on the very first turn of the race by the pole-winning No. 90 Spirit of Daytona Cadillac DPi – suffering from enough damage that it failed to complete a lap. The No. 90, driven by Tristan Vautier, also had a massive shunt during the final two hours.

"It started from the beginning of the out lap – I flat-spotted a tire because I was too impatient trying to change a switch on the car," related Vautier. "When I got to Turn 17, I locked up a bit. I didn't feel as though I was as wide as I was, but when I realized my left-side tires were in the marbles, I tried to get on the gas. But once you're in the marbles, it's like ice, and the wall came to me pretty quickly."

The Daytona-winning No. 5 Mustang Sampling Cadillac DPi-V.R of Joao Barbosa, Filipe Albuquerque and Christian Fittipaldi lost 20 laps to replace broken steering components following an incident near the pit entrance. That resulted in a 10th-place finish, while both Team Penske Acura ARX-05s were struck with mechanical DNFs while running in contention.

Porsche 911 MPIn GTLM, Nick Tandy stretched his advantage on the final round of pit stops to break open a tight class battle and cruise to a 6.230-second victory in the No. 911 Porsche GT Team 911 RSR co-driven by Patrick Pilet and Frederic Makowiecki.

"I feel awesome!" Tandy said. "What a race! That was super on the limit in the end, fighting with the BMW. It’s been a really good weekend for the team."

Alexander Sims took second in the No. 25 Team RLL BMW M8 GTLM co-driven by Connor De Phillippi and Bill Auberlen. Third went to the 912 Porsche 911 RSR of Laurens Vanthoor, Earl Bamber and Gimmi Bruni, followed by the No. 67 Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT of Ryan Briscoe, Richard Westbrook and Scott Dixon.

The No. 62 Risi Competizione Ferrari 488 GTE driven by James Calado, Toni Vilander and Alessandro Pier Guidi ran near the front of the class throughout the event, eventually finishing sixth and the last car on the lead lap.

48 MPBryan Sellers used a final-hour charge to break open a tight GTD battle and win in the No. 48 Paul Miller Racing Lamborghini Huracan GT3 co-driven by Madison Snow and Corey Lewis.

"The car was great in the end," Sellers said. "For the first time, I’m at a loss for words. This is the 20th anniversary of the first time I came here with my dad, and I remember him saying it would be amazing if I could someday do this race."

"Glad to be on the top step," Snow said. "This is huge. After finishing Daytona in third place, to come here and get a first place, we couldn’t get off to a better start.”

Alessandro Balzan, Cooper MacNeil – who spent time in the hospital Friday after an allergic reaction to peanuts – and Gunnar Jeannette finished second in the No. 63 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 488 GT3, 8.169 seconds behind, followed by the defending class-winning No. 33 Riley Motorsports Mercedes-AMG of Ben Keating, Jeroen Bleekemolen and Luca Stolz, and Christopher Mies, Sheldon van der Linde and Alessio Clemente Picariello in the No. 29 Montaplast by Land Motorsport Audi R8 LMS GT3.

"I wanted it for WeatherTech and Scuderia Corsa," Balzan said. "We put our heads down after Daytona, and it was really fun. We had a great battle out there. It was a team effort."

Michael Shank Racing was denied a storybook finish for its No. 93 Curb Records Acura NSX GT3 driven by Lawson Aschenbach, Mario Farnbacher and Justin Marks. The car was badly damaged in an incident during Thursday practice. Shank nearly withdrew the entry, but the team frantically worked to have it repaired in time for Saturday morning warm-up. After starting last on the 43-car grid, the team led the race and ran in contention throughout the event, eventually finishing seventh.

Team GT3 had a strong showing by both of its Lexus RCF GT3s, although double trouble struck the team midway through the event while its cars were both in the top three. The No. 15 of Jack Hawksworth, David Heinemeier Hansson and Sean Rayhall was assessed a penalty for an infraction in the pits. Moments later, the sister No. 14 of Dominik Baumann, Kyle Marcelli and Philipp Frommenwiler struck a sponsor sign during an off-course excursion, damaging the hood badly enough to send the car to the paddock for repairs. The No. 15 entry worked its way back to finish fifth.

Two cars were eliminated in the opening 10 minutes. Olivier Pla started on the outside pole in the No. 2 Tequila Patron ESM Nissan Onroak DPi, but slid wide in the first turn while fighting for the lead. His car promptly was retired with transmission trouble without completing a lap.

Twenty minutes later, Frank Montecalvo’s No. 64 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 488 GT3 was flipped on its roof after contact in Turn 17 with Sebastian Saavedra in the No. 52 AFS/PR1 Mathiassen Motorsports Ligier JSP217. Montecalvo was unhurt after coming to a stop on his roof, but the car sustained terminal damage.

After the early excitement, the race settled down for three hours and 15 minutes of green-flag racing before the second caution waved when a spectator pop-up tent blew onto the track in Turn 10. Cautions bred cautions, with the race eventually slowed 11 times under the yellow.

Acura Team Penske had the pace to win the 66th annual Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring, but the other two ingredients – mechanical reliability and luck – were missing.

Credited with 40th and 41st in a field of 43 cars, the pair of Acura ARX-05 Daytona Prototype internationals succumbed to engine failure with Ricky Taylor behind the front-running No. 7 entry, and side-to-side contact with Juan Pablo Montoya behind the wheel of the No. 6 severed the connection between the engine and transmission.

"We were just settling in and everything was going to plan," Taylor said. "The whole Acura Team Penske crew had done an amazing job leading up to the race. We were settled into the top three for the entire day. Unfortunately, this [mechanical problem] knocked us out. We had such a solid plan moving forward. We were really looking forward to battling at the end."

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When added to the reliability issues on the team's debut at Daytona, the problems at Sebring have given the brand-new Acura DPi program a significant hole to dig out of in the season-long championship. With a shift to shorter events in the months ahead, Taylor is confident the pace of the ARX-05s will allow Team Penske to begin mounting a comeback when the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship returns next month in California.

"It's one thing if we were never competitive and fell out," he added. "To have this kind of speed and put on this kind of show so far excites us to move onto Long Beach and hopefully get a win there."

IMSASebring 2018 MarshallPruett Sat3172 1342Images from the 66th Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring.

Click on the thumbnails to view larger images.

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