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Years from now, fans will remember the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series race at Auto Club Speedway for several notable reasons, including the final race on the track’s two-mile configuration and Kyle Busch picking up his first win with Richard Childress Racing.

Unfortunately, it will also be remembered for tragedy. During the race, a black cat somehow made its way onto the track. And, as you might expect, it didn’t end well.  

Final NASCAR Cup Series race at Auto Club Speedway as a two-miler

For the last several years, Auto Club Speedway has been rumored to be changing. Those rumors were confirmed last week when the Sports Business Journal reported that the sanctioning body, which owns the track, had closed on selling a large portion of the speedway land for a staggering $544 million. 

Drivers have been outspoken about the track in the past and their desire to keep it the same because it provides some of the most enjoyable racing throughout the year, allowing them to go five-wide and slipping and sliding around the rough and bumpy surface.

Kyle Busch will always have a special fondness for the track because it was the site of his first Cup win in 2005 with Hendrick Motorsports. He fittingly closed down the track on Sunday by winning on the two-mile circuit in dominating fashion. 

Cat tragically killed during first stage

While Busch’s first win at RCR was undoubtedly the highlight of the day in California and what most fans were talking about after, there was, unfortunately, a lowlight during the 400-mile race. It occurred in Stage 1 when a black cat inexplicably made its way onto the track near Turn 4. 

Several unverified photos appeared online showing the situation, including one with the four-legged creature walking along the wall as Ross Chastain zipped by at 190 MPH. Another later showed what appeared to be track workers picking up the lifeless feline.

However, the most definitive evidence of the cat’s existence and sad demise appeared on the Fox broadcast at the close of the first segment when the Trackhouse Racing car crossed the finish line for the stage win. Moments before the finish, the cat can be seen lying on the ground near the wall as multiple cars race by.  

Not the first time an animal has made its way on track

While the cat at Fontana didn’t have a happy ending, other incidents in the past did. In 2014, Kevin Harvick dodged a fortunate feline at Atlanta Motor Speedway. 

“Almost hit a cat,” Harvick said surprised over the team radio. “A cat just ran right in front of me.” 

Interestingly, Auto Club Speedway has been the scene of other near-misses with wildlife, including a memorable encounter with bees near the flag stand in 2016 and a year later when a large bird decided to land in the middle of the track. 

With no more races scheduled, the local natural inhabitants are safe from danger. But it does make you wonder if somehow a black cat dying on the final race at the track is some sort of sign for the future.


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