In only third start with RCR, Busch cruises to Fontana victory

Nigel Kinrade/Motorsport Images

In only third start with RCR, Busch cruises to Fontana victory


In only third start with RCR, Busch cruises to Fontana victory


Kyle Busch is off to a one-and-one start in his career at Richard Childress Racing with a win Sunday at Auto Club Speedway.

Busch came on strong in the final stage of the Pala Casino 400. The two-time NASCAR Cup Series champion hunted down Ross Chastain with 34 laps to go and took the lead off Turn 2 before both drives dove to pit road for the final round of pit stops.

Busch’s No. 8 team kept him in the lead, and he drove away from Chastain in the final stint, cycling back to the top spot with 21 laps to go, driving around Michael McDowell, who was on a different pit strategy.

“Coulda, woulda, shoulda last week, right?” said Busch. “I think it’s just phenomenal. I can’t thank Richard and Judy (Childress) enough. I can’t thank Austin (Dillon) for calling me and getting me talking and getting me this opportunity to come over here to RCR and be a part of Chevrolet, and be able to race this Lucas Oil Camaro today and be able to put it up front like that.

“The guys did a great job. Randall (Burnett, crew chief), everybody that has worked so hard during the offseason. We’ve done a lot of sim stuff. We’ve done a lot of testing in general, just trying to get up to speed. Man, there is nothing more rewarding than being able to go to victory lane.

“I need some 3CHI for my hands; I death-gripped that wheel throughout the second half of that race. But we held on. We got it today.”

Busch and his new team missed an opportunity to win the Daytona 500 when he and teammate Austin Dillon, who lined up on the front row, were overtaken on the first overtime restart.

He led 27 laps en route to the win. The day also included overcoming a speeding penalty on lap 43 in the first stage. Busch quickly charged back through the field and finished 11th in the stage.

The victory is his fifth at Auto Club Speedway and the 61st of his Cup Series career. It is his first with Childress in only their second points race together.

Chase Elliott finished second after getting around Chastain in the closing laps. Chastain swept the first two stages and led a race-high 91 laps before finishing third.

Daniel Suarez finished fourth and Kevin Harvick finished fifth. Harvick made his 750th consecutive start Sunday.

Denny Hamlin finished sixth and Brad Keselowski finished seventh. Keselowski overcame a spin on lap 42 after contact with Corey LaJoie and had to go through the grass to avoid a multi-car crash on a lap 86 restart.

Alex Bowman finished eighth, Austin Dillon ninth and Joey Logano 10th.

There were 28 lead changes among 13 drivers in the final race of the two-mile oval configuration of Auto Club. There were eight cautions.

With Sunday’s win, Busch has earned at least one victory in 19 consecutive seasons, breaking a tie with Richard Petty (18) for most all-time.

Busch has won for the three organizations he’s driven for the Cup Series: Hendrick Motorsports, Joe Gibbs Racing and Richard Childress Racing.

“I think it ranks high just because it (speaks) to the fact of, ‘I can do it,’” Busch said. “I never doubted myself, but sometimes you do. You get down, and you wonder what’s going on and what’s happening, and you put yourself in a different situation and you’re able to come out here and reward your guys. It’s not about me always winning, but it’s always the guys.

“I’ve been with a lot of great people who have given me a lot of great opportunities in my career, so it’s awesome to be able to reward them. We got to enjoy it and hopefully, there’s many more to come.”