Kyle Busch wins NASCAR Cup Series race at Auto Club Speedway
Kyle Busch and Richard Childress completed the circle Sunday.
Busch, who joined Childress’ team at the end of last season after 15 years with Joe Gibbs Racing, rolled to victory Sunday at Auto Club Speedway in his second points race with RCR. The driver and team owner were at odds once upon a time, Childress responding to on-track aggression by Busch by urging a bystander to “hold my watch” while he addressed the issue with Busch.
Confirming the wisdom of putting him in RCR’s top car, Busch dominated the final portion of Sunday’s race and made it clear he likely will be a front-line contender in their first season together.
Busch had the lead before the final round of green-flag stops, returned to the front after the stops and wasn’t challenged over the final miles.
“I think it ranks high just because it ranks to the fact of I can do it,” Busch told Fox Sports. “I never doubted myself, but sometimes you do. You kind of get down on it, 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 about the guys. I’ve been with a lot of great people that have given me a lot of great opportunities in my career, so it’s awesome to be able to reward them.”
The victory gave Busch a significant record. It marked his 19th consecutive season winning at least one Cup race, giving him the all-time lead in that category. He was tied at 18 with Richard Petty.
The race was the final one on the 2-mile oval at ACS. The track is scheduled to be replaced by a half-mile oval.
Following in the top five were Chase Elliott, Ross Chastain, Daniel Suarez and Kevin Harvick.
A packed restart on lap 87 changed the face of the race as a chain-reaction crash enveloped nine cars. The accident appeared to start as leader Joey Logano made a slow restart, jamming traffic behind him and causing several cars to lose control. The cars of Christopher Bell and Ryan Blaney absorbed the heaviest damage of those who remained on the track after the accident.
Bell said poor visibility was an issue.
“You can’t see what’s going on,” Bell said. “You are just going off the guy in front of you, and all of sudden he slows down and I got into him, and other guys got into me.”
The race’s first on-track caution flew on lap 42 as Corey LaJoie made contact with Brad Keselowski, sending the No. 6 car into a long slide. LaJoie was involved in another caution about 40 laps later when he was hit by Tyler Reddick, forcing LaJoie’s car onto the grass apron separating the track from pit road.
Chastain led 29 laps and won the first stage over Blaney. Following in the top five were Suarez, Alex Bowman and Denny Hamlin. At the end of the second stage, Chastain again was in front, leading second-place Kyle Busch by six seconds. Chastain led 68 of the race’s first 130 laps.
Stage 1 winner: Ross Chastain
Stage 2 winner: Ross Chastain
Who had a good race: Kyle Busch underlined the fact that joining Richard Childress Racing was an excellent move, winning in only his second points-race outing with the team. ... Ross Chastain had a strong car throughout the afternoon, winning the first two stages and dominating the middle part of the race. ... Chase Elliott made gains throughout the race, challenging in the top five over the closing miles and finishing second. ... Martin Truex Jr. rallied from a two-lap penalty to finish 11th.
Who had a bad race: Kyle Larson’s California visit turned sour in the early laps as his Chevrolet developed electrical issues. After repairs, he returned to the track 15 laps down. ... Overheating issues sent Bubba Wallace to the garage with 24 laps to go, ending what had been a good run.
Next: The Cup Series moves on to Las Vegas Motor Speedway for a March 5 race.