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Pala Casino 400: Kyle Busch Earns Historic First Win With RCR In Final Two-Mile Auto Club Race

Updated: May 3, 2023


In typical Rowdy fashion, Kyle Busch silenced the critics who thought his move to Richard Childress Racing was a downgrade by taking the No. 8 Chevrolet to victory lane in Fontana. (Photo: Meg Oliphant | Getty Images)

FONTANA, Calif. – In the last-ever NASCAR Cup Series race at Auto Club Speedway's two-mile configuration, Kyle Busch earned his first win with Richard Childress Racing in Fontana which can be described as "historic."


During the "Rowdy" Pala Casino 400, the race featured 28 lead changes between 13 different drivers and ultimately ended with Busch helping team owner Richard Childress reach victory lane. The 37-year-old from Las Vegas has a long history with the track and made even more history with his fifth career Cup victory in Fontana.


The 2023 Pala Casino 400 marked Busch's 61st career win in the NASCAR Cup Series, which gave him sole possession of ninth all-time on the list of drivers with the most wins in NASCAR's top-level series. Busch was previously tied with former RCR driver and current Stewart-Haas Racing driver Kevin Harvick, who recently announced he will be retiring at the conclusion of the 2023 season.


In addition to earning win No. 61 of his accomplished Cup career at Auto Club Speedway, Busch got his first career Cup win at the same track back in 2005 with Hendrick Motorsports. Busch piloted the No. 5 Chevrolet with Hendrick Motorsports from 2005-2007, before leaving for Joe Gibbs Racing to drive the No. 18 Toyota from 2008-2022.


During his time with JGR, Busch won three Cup Series races at Auto Club Speedway in 2013, 2014 and 2019. With his victory piloting the No. 8 for Richard Childress Racing, Busch has won a race in Fontana with three separate teams (HMS, JGR, RCR) over the course of his 19 full seasons in the sport's top level.

Another historic feat that came from Busch's victory is that he has now won a NASCAR Cup Series race in 19 consecutive seasons, which breaks the previous record of 18 straight winning Cup seasons that was held by Richard Petty since 1984. For additional context, Busch wasn't alive yet when this record was set as he was born the following year in 1985.


"There’s not very many records that you can beat that Richard Petty has, and certainly that [consecutive seasons with a win] was one that I set early on a long, long time ago that I always wanted to achieve and get," Busch said in a post-race interview. "I’m just so thankful for the opportunity to set that bar and would love to continue to keep raising it."


Busch's 61st Cup win was also his 225th NASCAR National Series win (61 Cup wins, 102 Xfinity wins, 62 Truck wins), which now puts him 25 ahead of Petty (200 wins), and 104 ahead of the next closest active driver, which is Harvick, who has a total of 121 wins (60 Cup wins, 47 Xfinity wins, 14 Truck wins). More information on these stats can be found on Jayski.com.


Kyle and his brother Kurt Busch also hold the record for most wins in the NASCAR Cup Series by brothers with 95 combined (61 wins for Kyle, 34 wins for Kurt), breaking the previously held record by Bobby Allison and Donnie Allison, who had 94 wins combined (84 wins for Bobby, 10 wins for Donnie).


Other Race Facts

Trackhouse Racing had yet another dominant day as both Ross Chastain and Daniel Suárez finished third and fourth respectively. Chastain led a race-high 91 laps and swept the stages for the first time in his career.


Chevrolets occupied the top-four spots for the second-straight season. In 2022, Kyle Larson finished first, followed by Austin Dillon, Erik Jones and Suárez. In 2023, Busch finished first, followed by Chase Elliott, Chastain and Suárez once again rounding out the top-four.


Toyota had every entry in the field experience at least one issue during the race:

  • Denny Hamlin complained about his engine possibly blowing up.

  • Martin Truex Jr. had a tire fall off his car after a pit stop.

  • Christopher Bell was involved in an accident that ended his day.

  • Bubba Wallace's engine blew with 28 laps to go and ended his day.

  • Tyler Reddick was involved in an accident that ended his day.

  • Ty Gibbs battled with damage on the nose of his car throughout the day.

Drivers such as Ty Dillon, Ryan Preece, Aric Almirola, Reddick and Wallace have started the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series campaign with back-to-back DNFs.


The Pala Casino 400 marked the end of an era that began in 1997 when the NASCAR Cup Series held its first race at the track. Since 1997, Auto Club Speedway has held 33 Cup Series races at the track.


Results for the final NASCAR Cup Series race at Auto Club Speedway are listed below.


GRID Ranking

The 2023 GRID Ranking will be the seventh year of the premier motorsport ranking in the world, and it will be released during the week of April 2.


Before the official ranking releases on the first Sunday of April, drivers in the seven racing series that participate in the ranking (NASCAR, IndyCar, Formula 1, Formula E, World Rally Championship, Repco Supercars, MotoGP) earn GRID Ratings, which help determine their initial seeding when the GRID Ranking releases.


For NASCAR, Busch's win at Auto Club Speedway ties him with Daytona 500 champion Ricky Stenhouse Jr. at the top of the second NASCAR Cup Series Grid Rating.


Here is the rest of the NASCAR Top-10 GRID Rating:

  1. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. - 25

  2. Kyle Busch - 25

  3. Joey Logano - 19

  4. Daniel Suárez - 18

  5. Chase Elliott - 18

  6. Ross Chastain - 17

  7. Christopher Bell - 15

  8. Alex Bowman - 14

  9. Chris Buescher - 12

  10. Kevin Harvick - 10

Out of the 10 current drivers in NASCAR's second GRID Rating, six of them were in the pre-season poll completed by the members of GRID Network. Those six were Bell, Busch, Chastain, Elliott, Logano and Suárez.

The next race for the NASCAR Cup Series is on Sunday, March 5 (3:30 p.m. ET on FOX) at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.


GRID NETWORK

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