FONTANA, CA (WFXG) - With a greater emphasis on winning to get into the Chase, NASCAR has created a sense of urgency in its competitors that is picking up the racing action so far in the 2014 season.
Kyle Busch extended the string of new winners to five races by taking advantage of a late caution to steal victory last Sunday in Fontana.
With 5 laps to go, Jeff Gordon had the best car and seemed headed to a sure victory when a string of tire issues brought out a caution with three laps to go. On the restart, Kyle Busch was the first car on 4 new tires and motored to the front for his first win of the season.
"Cars were just blowing tires left and right all around me and it's unfortunate that was happening but the most important is that the caution came out," said Gordon after the race. "We did not need...we did not need that caution."
In fact tire issues were the challenge of the day as many of the leading competitors fell victim to excessive wear. NASCAR, however, was not concerned.
"We have asked, the competitors have asked to bring more aggressive tires to the track," explained VP of Competition, Robin Pemberton. "To bring tires that they need to manage, how they use them, and how they get the most out of them."
Busch knew that he had to be aggressive on the last restart if he was to have any chance at winning despite the tire concerns.
"I exited turn two with Kurt and Tony side by side in front of me. Then I was kind of on an island and it seemed like everyone behind me was racing too," said Kyle of his late race charge."So, it gave me an opportunity to not have to mess with anybody."
The win makes Busch eligible for the post season Chase and he is relieved to have that stress behind him.
"To put a winner's circle on our roof is certainly good because it gives us a little bit of, I wouldn't say relaxation but it certainly takes the pressure off winning and making the Chase," continued the race winner.
Rookie driver, Kyle Larson followed Busch to the front and backed up his win on Saturday with a second place finish Sunday.
"I was surprised to get up there late in the race," explained Larson. "My guys worked really hard all day long to try to find the right balance and there on the last pit stop we were able to make good enough adjustments where we could be tight enough to go hard for a couple of laps."
At this rate, NASCAR would love to see 16 different winners in the Chase. We know that won't happen but, it's clear that the competitors are sensing the pressure to perform early.