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Busch gets first win with RCR in last race at 2-mile Auto Club Speedway

Kyle Busch celebrates his fifth and final win at the Auto Club Speedway after winning the Feb. 26, 2023 Pala Casino 400. Photo: TRE

FONTANA, CALI. — For the fifth and final time at the 2-mile Auto Club Speedway, Kyle Busch made it to victory lane in a NASCAR Cup Series race.

Busch recovered from a speeding penalty on Lap 17 to run 11th and 2nd in the first two stages. He worked over leader Ross Chastain and took the lead with 30 laps to go just before they pitted together.

The two-time Cup champion stayed ahead through pit stops, then cycled to the lead with 19 to go and never looked back.

The five-time ACS winner is the 11th different winner in Richard Childress Racing’s 48-year history as a full-time organization. RCR has now also won 114 races.

Busch has also won in 19 straight NASCAR Cup season, which is the most all-time – besting Richard Petty who won in 18 straight Cup seasons.

Kyle Busch gets the checkered flag in his No. 8 Lucas Oil Chevrolet after winning the Feb. 26, 2023 Pala Casino 400 at Auto Club Speedway. Photo: TRE

As the two-mile ACS’s Cup history is fully etched in stone, Busch’s five wins puts him second, behind only six-time ACS winner and seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson.

“It’s a sad day to see this track go but I’m glad I was the last one to win on it,” Busch said.

Busch led three times for 27 laps, behind only Ross Chastain who led 5 times for 91 laps. Chastain finished third after winning the first two stages.

“We did everything we could’ve in the race and we just got beat at the end. We [Trackhouse] are learning and improving, but we’ll continue to grow,” Chastain said.

Trackhouse Racing looked strong throughout Sunday’s race as Chastain won the first two stages. Suarez started up front and even had a speeding penalty in stage two but finished 3rd and 5th in the stages.

“We have fast cars wherever we go. I don’t feel like we had the best car but we had the right car that could’ve won in the right situation, so we’ll continue to build.”

The top 10 finishers were as follows: Kyle Busch, Chase Elliott (led 1 lap), Ross Chastain, Daniel Suarez, Kevin Harvick (led 5 laps), Denny Hamlin (led 11 laps), Brad Keselowski (led 2 laps), Alex Bowman (led 17 laps), Austin Dillon (led 3 laps), Joey Logano (led 6 times for 19 laps)

Daytona 500 champion Ricky Stenhouse Jr. finished 12th after finishing 15th and 13th in the stages.

Kyle Larson, the defending winner of the Pala Casino 400, had mechanical issues early on.

On Lap 12, Larson went to pit road with an engine issue. They returned to the track three laps later, rode around for a couple of laps, then went back to pit road from Laps 17 to 29 and fixed the issue.

Larson showed speed but it was a moot point, as he finished 15 laps down in 29th.

Corey LaJoie finished 14th after an eventful race.

LaJoie spun on Lap 82 but was also involved in Brad Keselowski’s spin on Lap 43 and A.J. Allmendinger’s backstretch wreck on Lap 76.

Despite this, LaJoie ran in and around the top 10, finishing 10th in the second stage and 12th in the first stage.

One other caution for incident flew in Sunday’s race, on a Lap 88 restart where drivers up front didn’t get going and stacked up the field.

In total, nine drivers were involved: Ryan Preece, Christopher Bell, Ryan Blaney, Aric Almirola, Tyler Reddick, Justin Haley, Cody Ware, Ty Dillon and Todd Gilliland.

Bell, Preece, Reddick and Almirola were all taken out and finished 32nd through 35th.

Among the drivers involved, Gilliland was the only one to finish on the lead lap, in 17th.

Four non-incident cautions also flew – a competition caution on Lap 17, the stage breaks at Laps 67 and 132 and Ty Dillon stalling out on Lap 142.

Dillon finished 31st after his second straight DNF due to an engine issue.

The longest green flag run in last year’s race was just 19 laps. In contrast, the second half of Sunday’s race featured four green flag runs longer than that, including a 40-lap green flag run and a 55-lap closing green flag run in the second half.

The competition was still up to par, despite fewer cautions. Sunday saw 13 different drivers lead a lap, up from nine last year, even despite there being four fewer lead changes than last year (32 last year vs. 28 on Sunday).

The next race for the NASCAR Cup Series is the March 5 Pennzoil 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway (3 p.m. ET; TV: FOX; Radio: PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

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