FONTANA, Calif. — They call him ‘Rowdy’ for a reason. Kyle Busch took the checkered flag in the 23rd annual Auto Club 400 on Sunday afternoon. This was his 200th win—across all three NASCAR divisions—to tie the great Richard Petty.
After winning the first and second stages of the race, Kyle suffered a pit road speeding penalty they sent him back to 18th place. However, he was able to battle back and make his way to the front of the pack. With 26 laps to go, the Las Vegas native passed the second and third place cars for the lead. He never looked back.
“It’s just been a crazy ride,” Busch explained. “To get to 200 here at Auto Club Speedway is pretty cool. I mean to book end number one and 200 here at the same place is kind of crazy–on the same ashpalt. This place hasn’t been repaved. That’s been pretty cool as well too.”
Meanwhile, Joey Logano finished second and was followed by Brad Keselowski in third, Kevin Harvick in fourth and Ryan Blaney in fifth. Positions two to five all were Ford race cars. The best finishing Chevrolet was Kyle’s brother, Kurt, in sixth.
“There’s so many of the 200 that are special or meaningful,” Busch said in the post-race press conference. “The top 10 are the most memorable. It was so happened to be out here in California. This milestone is obviously a special one to me. I could go lightly and say 250 and reach for the stars and say 300. I would be banned by all of them by then. Nobody from F1 is calling. That’s the only thing higher. Being close to 100 in xfinity. I’d like to continue with trucks. It’s going to be hard to get there. Set your goals high and strive to achieve.”
There were four caution flags for a total of 22 laps. The first came on laps 57-59 when Austin Dillon’s car left some debris on the track. Then, a crash involving four cars took place in turn two at the end of the first stage. The third caution was for the end of the second stage. Then, the final caution came out on lap 165 when Bubba Wallace’s car left some debris on turn one.
I asked race winner Kyle Busch at what point in the race did he think he was going to win.
“Before the race started,” he laughed. “I don’t think you ever know when you are going to win. I guess, the relief sets in when you take the white flag. Obviously, you are hearing every single little noise in the race car for the last 20 laps of the race. You are hearing rocks flying up in the quarter panel. Is that rubber chunks? Is the tire falling apart? Once you take the white flag, that’s pretty much when you seal the deal.”
Crew Chief Adam Stevens added: “It was reminding him of the situation we were in. I think we restarted about 18th. The ground to cover was a lot but it was something we could do. He has the ability to make lots of moves. I just felt like it was the right thing to do.”
The 2019 Auto Club 400 lasted two hours, 47 minutes and 42 seconds. The average speed was 143.113 mph. However, I saw speeds way over 180 mph! There were 18 lead changes among 9 different drivers. Kyle Busch led the most laps with 134, Brad Keselowski led 42 and Denny Hamlin led eight.
“Always, I’m amazed really,” said team owner Joe Gibbs. “It was a great charge from the back. Our car was up front all day. Now for us to be in the back I wasn’t sure we could handle traffic and get it through there. We all celebrate this. It’s a huge deal for this. He’s unusual got a real gift and as part of that a determination and competitive attitude you just found very often. Because of that he’s accumulating all the wins he has.”
Pole winner Austin Dillon finished the race in 10th position. Last year’s winner, Martin Truex Jr., ended up in 8th position after starting all the way back in 27th.
Legendary rock group Motley Crue said the most famous works in racing to get things underway… “Gentlemen, Start Your Engines.”
Racing fans love the Auto Club Speedway
Fans were treated to a free pre-race concert by Canadian rock group Sum 41. They sang their hit songs and some famous cover tunes for all to enjoy.
“It was perfect, perfect, because Kyle won,” said fan Kelly Barnes from Ontario, Calif. “Oh Kyle, rowdy all the way. He’s got the attitude and the talent to back it up.
“A beautiful race and a beautiful track,” says fan Steven Langan from New York City. “It’s the most amazing NASCAR track I’ve ever been to, actually. Kyle Busch is an amazing driver. Obviously, to come back from a pit road penalty to get to where he was. A great race, fantastic. The man has superior driving skills or a better car. I’ve had an amazing time. A good crowd, amazing energy and good weather. You cannot ask for better.”
“It’s cool, I come here almost every year with Furlin,” said attendee Jason Lee from Pasadena, Calif. “It’s like a yearly tradition. I mean 200 wins, that’s amazing. He’s like what, 33, or something? Pretty amazing. I enjoy grabbing a beer and a hot dog. It’s more of a casual thing for me.”
“Kyle Busch is an American hero as far as I’m concerned,” said Patrick from Tempe, Ariz. “He drives a green car, St. Patrick’s Day, American hero. That’s pretty much it.”
Next week, the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series heads to the Martinsvile Speedway for the STP 500.
Once again, Congrats to Kyle Busch for winning the 2019 Auto Club 400 in Southern California.