Kyle Busch still smiles at the memory of being thrown out of California Speedway during his first competitive trip here in 2001. The 16-year-old upstart dominated a NASCAR Truck Series practice, only to be told he couldn’t race in a sponsored race. for Marlboro because he was too young to smoke.
«That was my ‘Welcome to NASCAR’ moment and my ‘Welcome to California Speedway’ moment,» Busch said.
Anger, conflict and disrespect have always seemed to be Busch’s favorite fuels, and the record-setting veteran burned many of them Sunday as he rewarded his new team, sending off this beloved track in style.
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Busch came from behind after an early speeding penalty to earn his first win for Richard Childress Racing, winning at this two-mile Southern California track for the fifth and final time.
Busch held off Chase Elliott and Ross Chastain in the final race of the NASCAR Cup Series on the gloriously weathered asphalt of Auto Club Speedway, soon to be demolished to make way for a proposed half-mile track. Busch asked Fontana officials for a piece of that asphalt as a souvenir after he last burned it on his way to Victory Lane.
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«That’s what I enjoy most about this track,» Busch said. «It’s big. It spreads out. But man, you can move and you can expand and you can make your own destiny trying to find something that works for your race car. It’s a sad day for me to see this.» racetrack in his last race with a two-mile setup. I’m glad I was able to win the final race here.»
Busch drove his Chevrolet to victory in only his second race with RCR, which picked him up in December after his 15-year tenure with Joe Gibbs Racing ended. This win was Busch’s first since Bristol last season on a dirt track, and his first on pavement since the Pocono in 2021.
With his 61st career win, Busch earned a win in his record 19th straight Cup season, breaking a tie with Richard Petty. Busch said he focused on Petty’s longevity record «a long, long time ago.»
«I’m very grateful for the opportunity to set that bar and I’d love to keep raising it,» Busch said.
The win was also the combined 95th win for Kyle and Kurt Busch, breaking the NASCAR record for brothers previously held by Bobby and Donnie Allison.
Elliott finished 2.998 seconds behind Busch in his Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet. Daniel Suárez finished fourth, and Kevin Harvick was fifth in the Bakersfield native’s 750th Cup race.
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«Congratulations to Kyle,» Elliott said. «For him to leave and then go do the job like that is great. He’s always been very good to me, very happy for them.»
After that teenage issue, the Las Vegas native has enjoyed plenty of highlights on I-15 in Fontana. Busch earned his first Cup win at this track in 2005 in a Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet, and only Jimmie Johnson (6) had more Cup wins here.
Even California fans appreciate a driver who usually gets boos after his wins: Fontana cheered as he claimed another surfboard trophy.
«There’s nothing more rewarding than being able to go to Victory Lane,» Busch said. «I held onto that wheel really hard for the second half of that race, but we got the win.»
Busch was sent to the back early in the race for speeding on pit road, and the penalty infuriated him. To the surprise of no one at all, he roared through the field in response, passing Michael McDowell for the lead with 20 laps to go.
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«That’s why he’s won so many races,» said Randall Burnett, Busch’s crew chief. «Because he always pushes it to the limit.»
Associated Press contributed to this report.