Fontana holds a special place to Busch, fitting that he wins the final race on this 2-mile layout

Sunday’s Pala Casino 400 was the 33rd and final time that the NASCAR Cup Series will be coming to the current layout of the Auto Club Speedway. Now that the checkered flag has fallen on this weekend’s events, the noise of bulldozers will take over.

The track is being completely redone as the land that this 2-mile facility sits on has been sold to a developer. NASCAR sold it for hundreds of millions of dollars and will in turn, reinvest their capital on a tiny part of land that they kept.

That plan is to make Fontana a high banked short track. However, it will take a while to do so, as the footprint of this area may not be completed in enough time to even return in 2025. It may be 2026 before NASCAR returns to this area.

It’s also why it was so fitting that Kyle Busch took his trademark bow to the fans after securing his 11th victory in Fontana. 5 of those 11 wins came via the Cup Series, 3 of which occurring for all three teams that he’s ever driven for.

The Auto Club Speedway is the site of Busch’s first Cup win back in 2005. He also won his 200th victory in NASCAR here too. In the 33rd and final race on this 2-mile layout, Busch triumphed in front of a sold-out crowd.

Before the 37-year-old had a chance to relish his feelings of a Cup win, he reminded us that it was an incident 21 years ago here that caused him to have some fun memories of this place too.

“A lot,” Busch said of his Fontana memories. “I would say that the first one that comes to mind is when I was 16 years old. I came here to run in the Craftsman Truck Series, and I practiced, I was fast he’s in practice and had a really fast truck and then somebody decided I wasn’t old enough to race, so they kicked me out. That was my welcome-to-NASCAR moment and welcome-to-California-Speedway moment.”

Busch was 16 for that 2001 season finale. However, CART was racing here that weekend as well. Marlboro was the sponsor and with Busch being only 16, the forced the track to not allow Busch on the track for the race. So, off Busch went.

NASCAR then made the rule to where you have to at least be 18 to race. So despite six Truck Series starts in 2001, he’d have to sit out a full year in 2002 and most of 2003 before he was eligible to return.

When he did return, he left his mark.

“But was able to come back, and when I came back here the next time I came back was — no, I ran Xfinity here. My first Cup Series start here I was able to qualify on the pole, and then we finished 25th, and then my second time here, I qualified 25th and I finished first. That one was much better,” he continued.

“But first win, my first Cup Series win was here. We’ve had five wins, including today, so just great time at California Speedway. There’s a few in there that I missed out on, but I think it was also here where I won — I was the first person to win two NASCAR races in the same day, Xfinity race and a Truck Series race if I’m not mistaken. Yeah, this place has had a lot of great memories.”

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