With rain canceling qualifying and practice, Kyle Busch started 21st in the 36 car field. That was good for Ross Chastain; otherwise Busch might have led even more laps on his way to his first victory for RCR.
This was the final race on the current track layout at Fontana and it didn’t disappoint. Cars were racing all over the track but having the lead was important to keep clean air on the nose of the car.
This iteration of the NextGen car is just as aero sensitive as any other so getting up front was important to be able to pass. That doesn’t mean the racing was single file or bad, it was just different as drivers explored the track trying to find out where their car ran best on the gritty surface.
In all, 13 drivers led laps with Chastain dominating with 91 laps and winning both Stages. At various stages, it looked like this might be the day for Hendrick as Alex Bowman, Kyle Larson and Chase Elliott showed speed. Larson wound up having an electrical issue that put him down 15 laps but at least the team was able to repair the issue and continue on.
Joey Logano and Ryan Blaney also led substantial laps but Blaney got caught up in a wreck on a Stage 2 restart while Logano fell victim to dirty air.
Meanwhile, it was a bevy of Chevy’s at the front with Busch, Elliott, Chastain and Daniel Suarez leading the way and six of the Top 10. The sole Toyota belonged to Denny Hamlin who led 11 laps but didn’t have the power that Busch displayed.
Things to note
The Stage 2 restart that created the largest wreck ever at Fontana was caused by the new rule that extended the restart zone. Drivers trying to time the leaders launch caused this wreck. We didn’t see that at Daytona and it will be interesting to see how drivers and spotters adapt at Vegas and Phoenix.
There has been a lot made on the sale of Fontana and NASCAR recently sold 80% of the land the track sits on. While the track has long been rumored to come out the other side as a short track, NASCAR has not guaranteed that and even if it does, the acreage would make it one of the smallest holdings in NASCAR.
Kyle Busch leads all drivers with a 19 straight Cup seasons with a win. That’s some serious racing cred. And that doesn’t count all of the other wins he has in the Busch/ Xfinity or the truck series.
It’s nice to lead the points (Ross Chastain) but it is only two races in. Let’s talk after COT.
Of course while I say that, I am looking at a surprising fifth place car (I’m looking at you, Daniel Suarez) and find that very interesting. But like I said, let’s hold the praise until after COT.
I know, it’s still early but Kevin Harvick has only led 6 laps in two races. Second fewest in the Top 10. That’s going to have to change if he is going to go out with a bang instead of a whimper. In the last 6 races at Las Vegas, he has 3 Top 10 finishes and averages 20th. At Phoenix, he has 6 Top 10s in the last 6 races and averages 10th but his laps led there (68) are poor compared to Logano (519), Elliott (390) and Blaney (321).
Alex Bowman won the spring race while Joey Logano won in the fall. Ross Chastain finished second in both. Hmmmmm.
Kyle Busch leads all drivers with a best 5.7 average finish. He has no wins here in his last 6 races. If he shows up with Fontana speed, look out.
The top three drivers in average finishes at intermediate tracks since 2020 are Kyle Larson (8), Denny Hamlin (9) and Kevin Harvick (9.6).
The top winning drivers at intermediate tracks since 2020 are Larson (6), Hamlin (6), Logano (4), Harvick and Busch (2).
Sorry Toyota, Las Vegas could be a Ford vs Chevy contest. If I had a dark horse for the race, I would give RFK racing a hard look. They are showing speed and if they can stay out of trouble (hard to do) they might just be able to surprise a few folks.
Stay dry and keep the shiny side up. Leave your thoughts on Fontana in the comment section below.
(Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)