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Larson closes at Auto Club for first ’17 NXS win

Kyle Larson and son Owen show off their first Xfinity Series win sticker of 2017. (Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)

FONTANA, CA – Joey Logano was excited after The Service King 300 at Fontana, California’s Auto Club Speedway Saturday evening.

“I’ll vote for two races at Auto Club Speedway,” the Penske Racing standout driver said. “What an awesome race track. It’s so much fun. You know, you can run anywhere you want…I wish we came here more often, because it’s the best race track we go to.”

Although Logano enjoyed himself, and turned some of the fastest laps of the day, it wasn’t his car parked in victory lane.

California native Kyle Larson added his first mark in the win column of a driver yearly stat card that couldn’t be much better. He hasn’t finished outside of the top five in 2017 NXS competition. The western win didn’t come easy, though.

“I actually got by him one time off of four and I went to block him and he got back to my outside,” Larson explained. “Then it was tough to be able to catch him again.”

Larson, did catch him, though. He caught him, passed him and managed to beat him to the line by a mere tenth of a second. Kyle Busch, Erik Jones and William Byron rounded out the top five.

Joey Logano wanted more. Larson and Logano swapped the lead numerous times in the closing laps, with Logano charging to the outside in a failed at attempt at his second NXS win of the year as Larson closed the deal. He was upbeat about a race that entertained himself as much as the fans, but disappointed in the result and the overall effort.

“I’m excited to race tomorrow; I’m mad about not winning today,” Logano said with a laugh. “Such a fast Discount Tire Ford today…We had the fastest car and we didn’t win the race. A lot to look back at and understand exactly why. Obviously execution; it plays a big role in these races. You can have the fastest car and if you don’t execute, you don’t win. Today we didn’t execute well at all and we were lucky to finish second.”

Logano lead six times for a total of 77 laps – 49 more than led by Larson. Kyle Busch also led six times, en route to a third place result, for a total of 55 laps. Jeremy Clements, William Byron and Ray Black Jr. also took turns as leaders. Busch has finished in the top 10 in 15 of the 19 times The Service King 300 has been run – 18 of which he has competed in.

Kyle Larson held off Joey Logano to win The Service King 300 by a tenth of a second. (Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)

Just past halfway, winner Kyle Larson was docked to the tail end of the field for exiting pit road too fast, but it was the lap 142 of 150 caution flag – one that set up a four lap shootout – that Larson felt became his biggest obstacle.

“Our car was better than Joey’s on that longer run, but we got the caution, had a great pit stop and lined up on the outside row because [Daniel Hemric] had taken two [tires] and I knew Joey was gonna be the guy to beat because he was super fast on the short runs, so I wanted to line [Hemric] up in front of him and kind of choke him down…Probably another lap and he would have gotten me. He was quite a bit better than I was in one and two.”

Adding to a seemingly renewed excitement level across NASCAR series in 2017, 31 of the 40 teams finished on the lead lap. However, the race was slowed seven times by yellow flags. Paul Menard took a hard outside wall impact that ended with a quick escape due to fire under the No. 2 Menards Chevrolet. Erik Jones was credited with the incident as well. Jones went for a croosover to the inside aas Menard arced up the track, but contacted his rear bumper instead, sending Menard to the SAFER barrier.

Cole Custer and Ryan Sieg got together with 42 laps remaining, bringing out the sixth caution of the afternoon.

“I just got hooked going into the corner,” Custer said. “I thought we could have competed for a win there. We had a bad pit stop. We were going to work our way back up there, but just got our day ended by a clown move.”

William Byron led the rookies with a top five. Daniel Hemric was 11th. Matt Tift finished 17th, with Spencer Gallagher 19th and Custer 25th.

Elliott Sadler advanced to a 17-point lead in the series standings with a seventh place effort. Byron trails in second over Justin Allgaier, Ryan Reed and Darrell Wallace Jr., who sits just 49 points out of the top spot. Allgaier and Reed both have race wins, while Sadler has two stage wins and playoff points.

The event concluded in 2 hours, 34 minutes, with Kyle Busch claiming stages one and two.

The Xfinity Series takes a breather this week before heading to Texas Motor Speedway for The Bariatric Solutions 300 on Saturday, April 09.

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