NASCAR takeaways: Kyle Busch earns first RCR win; Chase Elliott making progress

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FONTANA, Calif. – Kyle Busch needed just two races into the 2023 season to prove he can win a race at Richard Childress Racing.

Busch, who spent the previous 15 seasons at Joe Gibbs Racing before falling short of a deal last year and landing at RCR, led the final 21 laps to capture the final race at the 2-mile oval Auto Club Speedway.

The track will be closed for at least two years as it is reconfigured into a half-mile. Busch is probably sorry to see him around.

Busch called it a “phenomenal” victory as he won for the fifth time at the track as he crossed the finish line ahead of Chase Elliott, Ross Chastain, Daniel Suarez and Kevin Harvick.

[Can Kyle Busch break RCR’s title drought? Richard Childress has no doubt]

“I’ve been around a lot of great people who have given me a lot of opportunities in my career, so it’s great to be able to repay them,” Busch said.

Takeaway from Fontana:

Busch takes the asphalt victory

The win was Busch’s first win in his last 29 starts and his first win on pavement since June 2021 at Pocono.

His only win of 2022 came at Bristol, where he took advantage of Chase Briscoe and Tyler Reddick getting tangled up on the final lap and out-speeded both of them in the final turns.

So you could say this was a long time coming.

“I never doubted myself, but sometimes you do,” Busch said. “You kind of get into it, you wonder what’s going on and what’s going on and you put yourself in a different situation and you can come out here and reward your guys.”

Busch takes first win at RCR

Busch takes first win at RCR

Kyle Busch said Sunday’s win at Auto Club Speedway was one of the most rewarding of his career.

Elliott Solid Second

Chase Elliott won five races last year and even made it to the championship round of the playoffs, but he wasn’t strong late in the year at the intermediate tracks, finishing 21st in Vegas and 14th in Homestead.

He wouldn’t proclaim himself a full bounce back with a second-place finish on Sunday, but at least he could smile.

“It’s hard to tell after a day, isn’t it?” Elliott said. “I was definitely proud of how our whole group came together. We definitely ran poorly these last few months. … I felt like we played more defense than offense.

“So I expect that trend to continue. We’ll have to hit other tracks and see how we fit in.”

Elliott said he “could have stayed home in Las Vegas in the fall.” Now you’ll be able to see the gains the team made as the series heads into next week.

“We’re ready for the grind,” Elliott said. “I’m looking forward to it.”

Elliott contained with 2nd

Elliott contained with 2nd

Chase Elliott talks about his second place finish behind Kyle Busch at Fontana.

stack them up

A wreck on a restart took out four cars and involved several more. It is rare to see in the cup series that the accordion effect happens in a reset.

“I think the leader was just playing around, trying to keep the races from coming from behind and they stopped in the middle of the restart zone. [which] he was right where they should have accelerated,” said Aric Almirola, one of those disappointed accident victims.

“It was just a huge accordion effect. We were in 16th place so everybody started piling up and you can’t stop on a dime. It’s disappointing to go out of the race like that on a silly Mickey Mouse restart, but I should have known better.”

Ryan Preece added: “It’s a bit stupid, to be honest with you on a professional level and we all go down on a reset.”

Christopher Bell, who started on pole, was also eliminated from the race. I wasn’t sure who to blame, but drivers tend to pull up behind the car in front of them to have room to accelerate and possibly make a pass.

“All it takes is for guys to lay back a little bit and all of a sudden the more you get back on the field, you have a big run,” Bell said.

As for the leader at the time, Joey Logano said he wasn’t playing any games. He said NASCAR’s 50 percent increase in track restart zones means he, as the leader, has more room to grind the gas: The leader restarts the race in the restart zone.

Logano in shipwreck reset

Logano in shipwreck reset

Joey Logano said the larger restart zone will be more difficult to anticipate without getting into trouble.

“Go back and look [telemetry] data: I didn’t do anything,” Logano said. “I just threw it and I was late. Everyone is anticipating, this is part of the new reboot zone. It’s bigger. You can’t anticipate as much as you used to without getting into trouble.

“I got to the area late because the car I was in was laying backwards. I was waiting for him to pull up next to me before I left. I didn’t slow anyone down.”

Bob Pockrass covers NASCAR for FOX Sports. He has spent decades covering motorsports, including the last 30 Daytona 500s, with stints at ESPN, Sporting News, NASCAR Scene magazine and The (Daytona Beach) News-Journal. Follow him on Twitter @bobpockrassand register at FOX Sports NASCAR Newscast with Bob Pockrass.

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