Winners and Losers at Fontana’s Farewell on a Big Day for Kyle Busch
We pause these proceedings to give Kyle Busch the opportunity to gloat.
“I’ve worked with a lot of great people who’ve given me a lot of great opportunities in my career. It’s awesome to be able to reward them.”
Yup, that’s about as outlandish as the at-times brash future NASCAR Hall of Famer got in the aftermath of his triumph in the Pala Casino 400 at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California.
As usual, the weekly Cup Series race provided winners and losers, and there were connections to Busch in both categories.
Fontana’s temporary farewell was big for Kyle Busch
Kyle Busch has been so good on Auto Club Speedway’s two-mile oval over the years that Sunday’s Cup Series triumph did not surprise. He’s won there in the Cup Series five times, with four coming since 2013. His record in Xfinity Series races – six wins from 2008-13 – is even more impressive. For good measure, he was 2-for-2 in the Craftsman Truck Series more than a decade ago.
The latest victory, his 225th across the three national NASCAR circuits, was Busch’s 61st in the Cup Series, breaking a tie with Kevin Harvick for the honor of winningest active driver. He’s also won at least once in 19 consecutive seasons, breaking a tie with Richard Petty to set a record.
And, of course, he won in just his second appearance with Richard Childress Racing in a points race, a nice segue into the rest of the day’s winners.
More winners from Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series race at Fontana
Austin Dillon – Richard Childress most definitely still calls the shots at RCR, but it’s not as though he isn’t open to suggestions. The accomplished owner’s grandson opened the door to Kyle Busch taking over the No. 8 Chevy by starting the conversation with the outgoing Joe Gibbs Racing star. Dillon finished ninth a week after an overtime crash took him out of the Daytona 500 but give him credit for an assist on Busch’s latest success.
Trackhouse Racing – Two stage wins for third-place finisher Ross Chastain (with 91 laps led) and a fourth-place result for Daniel Suarez? Yeah, that’s a solid day at the oval office.
Chase Elliott – Four hundred miles is plenty of time to work one’s way from 33rd to second. Nevertheless, it’s exactly what the 2020 Cup Series champion needed after ending last season with 28th place in the Championship 4 and starting 2022 by wrecking out at the midpoint of the Daytona 500. Second place may still be the first loser, but this was a good result for the No. 9 Chevy.
The day’s losers
Toyota Racing Development – Not that we’re counting or anything, but Tyler Reddick and Christopher Bell crashed out less than halfway through the race, and Bubba Wallace bowed out with engine trouble on Lap 172. Sixth place by Denny Hamlin could have almost salvaged the day, except for the matter of JGR castoff Kyle Busch driving onto Victory Lane.
Kyle Larson – The No. 5 Chevy pulled behind the wall before the guacamole dip made it to our snack tray in front of the tube. By the time the 2021 series champion made it back out onto the track, he was 16 laps down. Salvaging eight points from this mess constituted a gift.
SoCal Racing fans – Wind, rain, and snow made for a miserable weekend for the last NASCAR action the track will host until 2025. Tickets sold out for the last race on the two-mile oval, which will be rebuilt as a half-mile track. The locals deserved sunshine and 70 degrees as they stopped by to say farewell to one of the few venues where sustained three-wide racing was possible.
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