Busch Victorious at final Fontana Superspeedway Race
By Dave Hascall
Midway through the 2022 NASCAR season, it was clear that Joe Gibbs Racing and Toyota either could not or would not find a sponsorship deal to retain NASCAR’s winningest driver, Kyle Busch. It was Richard Childress and his RCR Team who courted Busch and ultimately landed one of the best drivers ever in NASCAR. Best at driving? Very likely. A volatile powder keg? Indeed. In fact, Childress and Busch came to blows in 2011, when the owner of RCR told grandson Austin Dillon to “hold my watch,” before striking Busch. Now Childress, who won many championships with the late Dale Earnhardt, has a winner early in 2023.
San Bernardino County, California, has had the worst Winter Storm in decades over the past few days. Rain washed out all track activities at Auto Club Speedway, near Fontana, California, Friday and Saturday. Snow even fell late Saturday. This meant that the Pala Casino 400 would start with no practice or qualifying. Busch and Kyle Larson were strong favorites. The lack of practice showed early on as Larson fell off the pace and went to the garage with mechanical issues. He returned but wasn’t a factor. Trackhouse Racing’s Ross Chastain was the dominant car most of the day, as Busch recovered from an early pit road speeding penalty. Midway through the final stage, Busch edged closer to Chastain and overtook him just before the final green flag pit stops. Busch was never headed. Chase Elliot moved to second at the end over Chastain, Trackhouse teammate Daniel Suarez and the soon-to-be retiring Kevin Harvick. Chevrolet claimed the first four sports, with Harvick’s Ford fifth. Denny Hamlin’s Toyota finished sixth for that mark’s best placing. Busch, who is either loved or hated, received a hearty cheer when he did his signature bow, at the start-finish line. He was quick to thank Richard and Judy (Childress) and Austin (Dillon) for the introductory phone call that led to Busch moving to RCR’s #8 car. Busch won last spring’s Bristol dirt race but it’s been much longer since his last pavement win. It is his 19th year with at least one win for the two-time Cup Champion.
This is the final race for the 2-mile D-Shaped oval, as NASCAR’s International Speedway Corporation has sold most of the grounds for redevelopment. FOX TV showcased the racing and many drivers seemed upset that this very racy speed plant is dropping off of the schedule. A short track is planned to be built on the land that NASCAR is retaining, but that may not be complete for a few years.
Saturday’s Xfinity Series race is being run after the Cup race.