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Kyle Busch Returns to Victory Lane at Fontana for First Win with RCR

It didn’t take awfully long for Kyle Busch to bring home a win for Richard Childress Racing. (Photo: Luis Torres | The Podium Finish)

FONTANA, Calif. – Kyle Busch got his first career NASCAR Cup Series win at Auto Club Speedway in 2005. Over 17 years later, Busch got his first win since joining Richard Childress Racing in Sunday’s Pala Casino 400.

Busch’s 61st career Cup win was bittersweet as the 200-lap race marked the swan song of the two-mile oval. But, it was also historic as it marked the 19th consecutive season that Busch has won at least one Cup race, surpassing Richard Petty with the longest annual winning streak in the 75-year history of the sport.

“There’s not very many records that you can beat that Richard Petty has,” said Busch. “Certainly that was one that I set early on a long, long time ago that I always wanted to achieve and get, so I’m just so thankful for the opportunity to set that bar and would love to continue to keep raising it.”

To accomplish this win, the entire No. 8 RCR squad had to dethrone the dominant Ross Chastain, who won both stages. In fact, Busch overcame an early speeding penalty to get back into the fray. Once Busch was in the winning picture, he battled Chastain hard and put on a show in front of a sold-out crowd in Southern California.

Chastain and Busch entered pit road for the final pitstops side-by-side. Whoever exited first would have the best shot at winning the race.

When the dust settled, the blue No. 8 Lucas Oil Chevrolet Camaro bested Chastain. Once Michael McDowell — who was on an opposite strategy — pitted, Busch’s path towards victory lane became easier. The final margin of victory over runner-up finisher Chase Elliott was just shy of three seconds.

“He got faster. I don’t know,” Chastain on losing the battle against Kyle. “Our balance was building loose most of the day, so I thought we did everything right. We kept up with it. It would just feel pretty loose late in the runs. At times it was enough, and at times they got way better.”

Chastain frantically holding off Busch with Elliott further back. (Photo: Luis Torres | The Podium Finish)

For Busch, it was the final bow at Auto Club Speedway before going away until at least 2024 as the circuit that hosted its first Cup race in 1997 will become a short track.

His older brother Kurt, who won at Fontana in 2003, was there to share a wonderful bond. With 2023 being the first season without the 2004 Cup champion, Kyle wished he was racing against him.

“(Kurt’s) left all the heavy lifting for me to do for the rest of my time here. He took a break,” Busch said. “It would have certainly meant a lot to have him in the field, but just him being here and being around and still his role over at 23XI is really special. I know he’s got a lot of friends over there, a lot of great guys over there that really pull for him.”

“It’s neat to have him be there. He was emotional. He’s getting soft in his old age. It was just cool to see him come up to the car and be a part of our celebration there for a quick moment. But it’s fun to set records always, and when you’re able to do it as a brother tandem, there’s nothing more special for our parents, I’m sure.”

Aside from a memorable winning battle, the other highlight was a 10-car pileup on Lap 87, the biggest ever in a Cup race at Fontana. A rough chain-reaction restart saw the infield care center for Tyler Reddick, Ryan Preece, Aric Almirola and polesitter Christopher Bell.

The consensus was that a bad stack-up caused the mayhem. The melee included Reddick, who’s off to a rough start in his new tenure with 23XI Racing.

“I saw it stacked up pretty bad. I saw the car behind me kind of laid off to get a really big run,” said Reddick. “I kind of elected to make the decision to go to the bottom and get around it. Unfortunately, I think Ryan (Blaney) had the same idea. We just got collected and went through the grass and the right front of The Beast Unleashed Toyota Camry TRD was broke. ”

With Fontana in the books, it’s off to Busch’s home track, Las Vegas Motor Speedway, for the second leg of NASCAR’s West Coast Swing. It’s safe to say that Busch will head to the 1.5-mile oval with tremendous swagger, something he might’ve regained at RCR.

“It’s great to have the group that I do, and I’m excited about — I was excited about working with them when it all came through and I had the — basically I got hired,” said Busch. “But it’s been fun to work with them and behind the scenes, and just last night we just went and had a go-kart night and had some fun. Just kind of laying low and letting loose a little bit and having fun right now.”

The final bow to Fontana as a two-mile oval. (Photo: Michael Donohue | The Podium Finish)

Stage 1 Results: Chastain, Blaney, Suarez, Bowman, Hamlin, Byron, Logano, Harvick, Truex Jr., Elliott

Stage 2 Results: Chastain, Busch, Logano, Harvick, Suarez, Hamlin, Elliott, Bowman, Keselowski, LaJoie

Final Top 10 Results: Busch, Elliott, Chastain, Suarez, Harvick, Hamlin, Keselowski, Bowman, A. Dillon, Logano

Throughout my young motorsports media career, my number-one goal is to be a personnel that can be flexible with my writing and photography in the world of NASCAR and INDYCAR. Content delivery is vital because this is my main passion and what keeps me going. On the side, I also do sports production ranging from Seattle Kraken hockey to the 2023 NCAA Women's March Madness. All for the love of the game. With four National Motorsports Press Association photography awards, I'm not slowing down anytime soon. Outside of media, I'm super vocal about my musical tastes that goes from Metallica to HAIM. At times, there might be some Paul Thomas Anderson and Southern California references in my social media.

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