FONTANA, Calif. – Danica Patrick accomplished one of her goals by finishing the race. She is still a long way from the lead packs in NASCAR.

Kyle Busch barely overtook Greg Biffle out of the final turn of a green-white-checker finish to win by .051 seconds in the NASCAR Nationwide race at California on Saturday, with Brad Keselowski right behind them.

It was a heartbreaking loss for Busch’s Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Joey Logano, who led 130 laps and was up front when the final caution came out. He finished fifth.

Patrick was 31st, three laps off the pace. But unlike Daytona, where she got caught up in a 12-car crash just past the halfway point, she was racing at the finish on the slick two-mile superspeedway where she was originally scheduled to race for the first time. And she made progress during a trying 300 miles, though she wasn’t involved in the exciting finish.

On the final restart, created after Brendan Gaughan spun out on Lap 145 to bring out a caution, Biffle quickly pushed by Logano and Busch followed him. Busch then got around Biffle on the final turn and beat him for his 31st Nationwide victory.

When the race restarted after a caution for debris, Logano was in 11th place behind several cars who decided not to pit and 1.5 seconds behind Biffle, who had taken the lead.

Logano needed only four laps to move up to fifth and two more laps to get into third behind Biffle and Kevin Harvick. Then on Lap 100, Logano regained the lead when he went low on the track and passed Biffle coming out of Turn 4.

It looked as if that was where he might stay until he stumbled on the final restart, respinning his tires.

Patrick started 36th and quickly dropped to the back of the field. She repeatedly said this week that the difficult part for her is not knowing for sure how things are supposed to feel in a stock car. It was clear she was trying to figure that out and she accomplished what she has to do — focus on running laps and gaining experience.

”You progressed a lot in this race, girl. I’m proud of you, what you’ve learned,” crew chief Tony Eury Jr. told her over the radio more than two-thirds of the way through the race.

FORMULA ONE: Jenson Button of McLaren was fastest on Saturday as Formula One’s penultimate test session ended without rain.

The defending champion’s lap of 1 minute, 18.871 seconds set the pace as the 11 cars ran in dry conditions for only the second of eight testing days at the Jerez Circuit.

Renault’s Robert Kubica was more than two-tenths of a second behind for second place, followed by Kamui Kobayashi of Sauber, Tonio Liuzzi of Force India and Nico Rosberg of Mercedes GP rounding out the top five. Rosberg was within 1.190 seconds of Button.

Fernando Alonso of Ferrari was sixth with a best time of 1:20.436 as most teams concentrated on long fuel runs. Jarno Trulli made his Lotus debut with a best time of 1:23.470 from a session-high 141 laps.


SPRINT CUP: Dale Earnhardt Jr. isn’t getting too excited about his late charge to a surprise second-place finish at Daytona.

While Earnhardt admittedly enjoyed the ride — and the reminder of ”what success or what doing something good feels like” — he knows a near-win one race into the season at a track where he’s been good before isn’t a sure indication that everything is right again.

The No. 88 team needs more good finishes, and the next chance is today at California.

”I know I wouldn’t be able to really convince anybody that we were back or we are a strong team or had fixed anything until we come to these kind of tracks and run good at them,” Earnhardt said.

After the season-opening Daytona 500, the restrictor plates are off and it’s time to get on the kind of tracks that dominate the 36-race championship season. First comes the 2-mile speedway at California, then the 1 1/2-mile Las Vegas track next weekend.

”Everybody in the garage kind of feels like this is the start of the regular season. Daytona is so different than every other kind of racing that we do and of course it’s the Daytona 500,” said Jimmie Johnson, the four-time Sprint Cup champion and California native who has won four times at his home track.

”Everybody is really interested and anxious to understand where we are with the cars.”


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