The final race at the 2 mile configuration of Fontana did not disappoint. Let's take a look at some key takeaways for the Pala Casino 400.
Kyle Busch is Back
No one could have predicted this quick start to the 2023 season between Rowdy and his new RCR group. No one would have been surprised with some growing pains, but the team has had instant chemistry. 3rd in the LA Clash, had a shot to win the Daytona 500 last week, and then won at Fontana. Kyle has to be an instant contender for your way-too-early championship picks, and if he doesn't slow down then he could certainly be in the mix at Phoenix. Kyle overcame a bit of adversity early on the race, after speeding on pit road. Impressive performance from the entire #8 crew.
Chevy is King
It wasn't even close - Chevrolet was the fastest manufacturer at Auto Club. Four of the top-5 finishers were Chevy, as well as 6 of the top 10, not to mention obviously the winner. Trackhouse was probably the most impressive team today, with Ross Chastain finishing 3rd after winning both stages and Daniel Suarez coming home 3rd. RCR had quite the day themselves, not only winning the race but Austin Dillon ran in the top 7-8 most of the day, and managed a 9th place finish. Hendrick Motorsports had a rollercoaster day, but had a ton of speed. Each Hendrick car look like a contender for the win at one point or another, but didn't have the good fortune today.
Biggest Crash In Auto Club History
The final race at the 2 mile configuration of Fontana delivered the biggest crash (in terms of car count) in the track's history. 10 cars were involved, and several were knocked out. Ryan Preece, Aric Almirola, Christopher Bell and Tyler Reddick were all done for the day after this wonky stack-up. Very weird incident at a weird time of the race. Luckily, there weren't any other big wrecks throughout the race.
Not a Lot Of Parity
The word of the 2022 NASCAR season was undoubtably "parity." In my 2023 NASCAR Predictions, I predicted that there would be less in the 2023 season, and today definitely leaned in that direction. There were no real surprises in the top finishers, other than Corey Lajoie's 14th place. Ricky Stenhouse Jr did exactly what he needed to do after his Daytona 500 win, and had a quiet, solid race to finish 12th. Trackhouse is obviously no longer a surprise, as they have cemented their place among NASCAR's best teams.
Final Race at Auto Club as We Know It
The final race at Auto Club delivered. It was a super fun race with a ton of lead changes, passing, multiple lanes, big runs, intense moment - it had it all. I was on the edge of my seat the entire race, and the drivers managed to keep it relatively clean, other than the big crash on the restart. Ultimately, 10 years from now we may even be glad that Fontana shifted to a short track, as the outlook on the reconfiguration seems promising. We haven't had a new, purpose-built, permanent short track made for NASCAR since the 60s, so this should be fun.