NASCAR Barometer:  Busch Sets Consecutive Season Wins Record

NASCAR Barometer: Busch Sets Consecutive Season Wins Record

This article is part of our NASCAR Barometer series.

Kyle Busch got his first win with Richard Childress Racing out of the way quickly with another competitive 2023 race in Sunday's Pala Casino 400 at Auto Club Speedway. His win also made it 19 consecutive seasons with a victory, setting an all-time record for the veteran. More importantly, the win put him into the playoff field before any driver from his old organization, and crucially allows him and his new team to focus early on growing the notebook of data that the pairing will use in the championship battle. It appears that the promise many saw in Busch joining RCR was real, and the early success could be a warning shot to the rest of the garage for the season to come. 

Sunday's victory wasn't a cakewalk for Busch, though. An early penalty on pit road put him at the back of the field while Ross Chastain consolidated things at the front. Chastain went on to lead 91 of 200 laps, the most of any driver. Busch and team steadily pulled their way forward, though. Ultimately, he took the lead for the final time on lap 180 as the final cycle of pit stops played through. From that point on it was Busch who simply managed his tires and multi-second lead to come out on top in the final NASCAR Cup Series race of Auto Club Speedway's 2.0-mile configuration. Two more races on the west coast await the contenders with Las Vegas Speedway next in line with this week's

Kyle Busch got his first win with Richard Childress Racing out of the way quickly with another competitive 2023 race in Sunday's Pala Casino 400 at Auto Club Speedway. His win also made it 19 consecutive seasons with a victory, setting an all-time record for the veteran. More importantly, the win put him into the playoff field before any driver from his old organization, and crucially allows him and his new team to focus early on growing the notebook of data that the pairing will use in the championship battle. It appears that the promise many saw in Busch joining RCR was real, and the early success could be a warning shot to the rest of the garage for the season to come. 

Sunday's victory wasn't a cakewalk for Busch, though. An early penalty on pit road put him at the back of the field while Ross Chastain consolidated things at the front. Chastain went on to lead 91 of 200 laps, the most of any driver. Busch and team steadily pulled their way forward, though. Ultimately, he took the lead for the final time on lap 180 as the final cycle of pit stops played through. From that point on it was Busch who simply managed his tires and multi-second lead to come out on top in the final NASCAR Cup Series race of Auto Club Speedway's 2.0-mile configuration. Two more races on the west coast await the contenders with Las Vegas Speedway next in line with this week's Pennzoil 400.

UPGRADE

Kyle Busch – The new pairing of Richard Childress Racing with Busch didn't take long to pay off. After competitive runs at the Clash and in the Daytona 500, Busch captured his first win for the organization at Auto Club Speedway. The No. 8's speed was apparent within the first stage as Busch marched through the field from his 21st starting position. He finished second in the second stage and grabbed the lead for the first time on lap 138, going on to spend 27 laps out front to win. It was a statement win from the veteran, overcoming a pit road penalty early in the race. This pairing was promising on paper and is already delivering for fantasy players. Next up is Las Vegas, another good track for Busch. He finished fourth or better in the last four races at the track.

Ross Chastain – Chastain picked up his second stage win of the season by jumping out front in the first segment Sunday in Fontana. He then went on to win the second stage by more than six seconds, too. Unfortunately, he lost the lead during the final stops of the day and wasn't able to regain it, finishing third for his second top-10 in as many races this season. While he didn't win the race, Chastain does leave Fontana with the points lead in hand. The Trackhouse Racing Team is not showing any signs of having lost the competitive edge that carried them into the championship final last season, and Chastain might just be the favorite this coming week at Las Vegas, too. He finished second and third in the two races there last season and led a combined 151 laps in those races. A win doesn't appear too far away in 2023.

Chase Elliott - With rain washing out practice and qualifying at Auto Club Speedway, Elliott's poor Daytona finish became even more painful. The former champion was forced to start 33rd Sunday afternoon, setting up charge through the afternoon to regain the ground lost a week prior. Charge forward is exactly what Elliott did, too. He finished in the top 10 to collect stage points in both opening segments of the race. After that he cycled his way forward to find himself in second place, reeling in Kyle Busch, in the closing miles of the race. The second-place finish was a championship performance, and the ground regained in points could prove very valuable as the season ages. Elliott will now work to solidify his spot among the playoff contenders this week at Las Vegas. He finished in the top-10 five times at the track from 12 series starts.

Kevin Harvick – The current season will be Harvick's last before retiring from full-time competition at the end of the year. His competitiveness does not appear to have left early, either. With two races down he sits sixth in the championship standings. He finished 12th in the Daytona 500 and scored his first top-five of the year last week at Fontana. Sunday's race was relatively quiet for the former champion, which he won't complain about. Consistency and top finishes are what will put him into contention for wins and the playoffs, and those achievements would ensure he bows out of the sport while still at the top of his game. Harvick is a two-time Las Vegas winner who finished 12th in the two races at the track last season. Another race in the top 15 would be further evidence of consistency in 2023, which should put him in playoff contention at the end of the year.

Daniel Suarez – The 2023 season is starting well for Suarez and the No. 99 Trackhouse Racing team. Despite spinning and bringing out a caution late in the Daytona 500, he avoided the final crashes to finish that race seventh. He went on to back up that top-10 with another one last week at Fontana. Sunday was a smooth race for the No. 99 with points from both stages and a fourth-place finish. Those combined results put him seventh in the championship standings after two races. After winning his first race in the series last season expectations for an even better 2023 are high, and the team is living up to those expectations thus far. Las Vegas could be a great barometer for fantasy players to assess his potential, too. He has just one top-10 there from 2008, but he led 31 laps there last fall before finishing 16th.

DOWNGRADE

Kyle Larson – Electrical troubles bit Larson's bid to repeat as winner at Auto Club Speedway early in Sunday's race. The issues surfaced before the race even got to the competition caution, which at least gave the No. 5 crew an extra yellow-flag period to diagnose and fix the trouble in the garage. Upon returning to the track the No. 5 was significantly behind and simply made laps to gain as many points as possible, finishing 15 laps down in 29th position. This is now two races out of the gate where the result wasn't there, leaving Larson 24th in the championship standings. This week the team will be hungry simply to finish and start reversing their current trajectory. Larson has one Las Vegas victory from 2021. He also led 225 total laps in the three races prior to last fall when he crashed out of the race and finished 35th.

AJ Allmendinger – After a nice start to the year at the Daytona 500, Allmendinger tasted adversity in California. With rain washing out qualifying he was able to start near the front of the field, but a stack up following the start of the second stage caused contact between Corey Lajoie and Allmendinger. The No. 16 car came off the worst, spinning into the inside wall. Allmendinger limped the car back to the pits with multiple flat tires and heavy chassis damage, which ended his day and left him last in the finishing order. The return to full-time Cup competition this season is bound to have ups and downs, and Sunday's visit to Fontana was definitely a down. Fantasy players will want to watch how this team responds this week. Allmendinger has two top-10s from 11 starts at Las Vegas, including a ninth-place run at the track last fall.

Martin Truex Jr. – The early miles were shaping up well for Truex as he raced near the front and tried to position himself to be in contention for the win. Unfortunately, the team wasn't able to secure a front tire in a stop under yellow at the start of the season stage, and the wheel came off as Truex tried to gingerly work his way back around the track and back to pit road. The penalty was a costly two laps, but Truex fought back to finish 11th at the end of the afternoon. Most painfully will be the fines and suspensions that the team will have to deal with in the coming weeks as a result of the mistake. The organization will have to persevere and make the most of the next few weeks regardless. Truex has two Las Vegas victories to his credit, and even more impressively he only finished outside of the top 10 at the track once in his last 11 visits.

Christopher Bell – Bell was one of the many drivers involved in a restart pileup in the second stage. The Joe Gibbs Racing driver rear-ended the car ahead while simultaneously getting clobbered from behind. The No. 20 machine ended up hitting the outside wall as well as Aric Almirola as it spun into the infield grass. The accident ended their afternoon early and left the NO. 20 in the 32nd finishing position. All is not lost, though. Bell still sits in 15th in the playoff standings and has the speed to win races. Sunday's early exit will make things a bit more difficult for the team through the next two west-coast races, though. Bell has two top-10 finishes from six starts at Las Vegas, including a 10th-place finish from pole in the spring race last season. He led 32 laps that afternoon, too.

BIGGEST SURPRISE

Corey Lajoie –  After two races in the 2023 season Lajoie heads to Las Vegas 13th in the championship standings between Ryan Blaney and Chase Elliott. First, he drove his Spire Motorsports Chevrolet to 16th in the Daytona 500. He then backed that finish up by leveraging his 12th-place starting spot in Fontana to pick up a stage point and finish 14th in the race. Lajoie has consistently shown himself capable of outperforming expectations at certain tracks, but 2023 could be shaping up to be a breakout year for him and the small team. Time will tell how long this success will continue, but for now fantasy players may want to ride the team's wave of momentum. Lajoie snagged his best Las Vegas finish in the series in this race last season, coming home 15th. A repeat of that afternoon would make it three impressive races in a row from him.

Want to Read More?
Subscribe to RotoWire to see the full article.

We reserve some of our best content for our paid subscribers. Plus, if you choose to subscribe you can discuss this article with the author and the rest of the RotoWire community.

Get Instant Access To This Article Get Access To This Article
RotoWire Community
Join Our Subscriber-Only NASCAR Chat
Chat with our writers and other RotoWire NASCAR fans for all the pre-game info and in-game banter.
Join The Discussion
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
C.J. Radune
Radune covers NASCAR, Formula 1 and soccer for RotoWire. He was named the Racing Writer of the Year by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association in 2012 and 2015.
NASCAR DFS: The Great American Getaway 400
NASCAR DFS: The Great American Getaway 400
NASCAR DFS Xfinity: Explore the Pocono Mountains 225
NASCAR DFS Xfinity: Explore the Pocono Mountains 225
NASCAR DFS Trucks: CRC Brakleen 175
NASCAR DFS Trucks: CRC Brakleen 175
The Great American Getaway 400 Preview: The Tricky Triangle
The Great American Getaway 400 Preview: The Tricky Triangle