Last year, Kyle Busch promised that he'd start off his first season with Richard Childress Racing with a bang. So far, the two-time NASCAR Cup Series champion has delivered.
Finishing third at the Busch Light Clash at The Coliseum and 19th at the Daytona 500 (though, in both races, Busch was in strong contention for the win), the 37-year-old Las Vegas, Nevada native scored his first Cup victory of 2023 at the Pala Casino 400 at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California. Busch's jump from Joe Gibbs Racing to RCR had many folks skeptical about how quickly he would be able to return to the Kyle Busch of the past. The Kyle Busch who was putting up dominant performance after dominant performance, racking up records, and solidifying himself as one of the greatest drivers of NASCAR's modern era.
If you ask Chase Elliott, though, that Kyle Busch never really left.
Chase Elliott on Kyle Busch challenging for the wins at the Clash, Daytona and then the win at Fontana: ?I?m not surprised and anybody who is should rethink their NASCAR knowledge.? pic.twitter.com/JvttREGXqM
— Bob Pockrass (@bobpockrass) February 27, 2023
"Why is anyone surprised by this? I mean, that's mind-boggling to me that anyone is surprised that Kyle's a fantastic, one of the best race car drivers to ever do this," said Elliott in a post-race interview, responding to a question posed by Fox Sports reporter Bob Pockrass. "And that didn't change over night, so I'm not surprised, and anybody who is should rethink their NASCAR knowledge, in my opinion."
Pockrass clarified the intent of his question, saying, "He went to a car that won three races last year, but he himself hadn't won on pavement in a year and a half."
"Well, he won today," Elliott responded. "Obviously, he knows what he's doing."
Elliott himself had a solid race in Fontana. Despite starting way back in the 33rd spot, the Hendrick Motorsports driver ultimately secured a runner-up finish, marking his best career result at Auto Club.
"Just really proud of our team," Elliott said in a post-race interview. "We obviously didn't run very good there toward the end of the year last year, and just everybody really went to work hard over the winter to try and get better. Appreciate everybody on our NAPA team for just sticking with it and sticking with each other."
"Obviously, I think we still have some work to do, but it was really nice to just see a lot of that hard work pay off and have the car driving like we were wanting it to do. So that's always a good thing. Congratulations to Kyle. For him to leave and then to go get the job done like that is pretty cool. He's always been really good to me, so happy for them and looking forward to getting to Vegas and hopefully competing for some more wins."
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