Kyle Busch Crushes Field In Phoenix As Championship Battles Heat Up
Joe Gibbs Racing's Kyle Busch put on a clinic in Saturday's NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Phoenix International Raceway, leading 169 of the 200 laps, en route to his 12th win of the season.
Starting from the pole, Busch set a blistering pace in the opening laps of Saturday's ServiceMaster 200. Forced to overcome varying pit strategies and multiple restarts, the series' all-time winner made it look easy as he drove to his 63rd win in 269 starts.
As Busch was dominating the field out front, the championship battle was raging between Austin Dillon and Sam Hornish Jr. While Dillon had a strong car for much of the afternoon, Hornish struggled to run in the top 10 for much of the opening segments of the race.
Taking a gamble on the third caution of the day on Lap 131, crew chief Greg Erwin had Hornish stay on the track as most of the leaders headed for pit road. While Hornish was able to gain track position, he failed to lead a lap as Justin Allgaier took off with the lead on the restart. Luckily for the Hornish, Dillon did not lead a lap in Saturday's race either.
When the checkered flag fell, Dillon was third and Hornish was fifth.
With his third-place run, Dillon padded his lead in the standings by two points, now holding an eight-point advantage over Hornish heading into next weekend's season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
The Dillon-Hornish battle was not the only championship fight that will go down to the wire in Homestead. The owners' championship took a dramatic turn Saturday in Phoenix, when Brad Keselowski was caught up in a wreck in the No. 22 Penske Racing Ford.
Entering the weekend, Penske's No. 22 held a 26-point advantage over Joe Gibbs Racing's No. 54 car. With Busch's dominant performance and Keselowski's issue, the gap was cut to only four points.
"I hate it for Mr. Penske and all these guys," Keselowski said. "Some things you can control, some things you can't. That was just a situation with no control."
The task of bringing home the owners' championship to Roger Penske will land on Joey Logano's shoulders at Homestead, as he will be in the No. 22 car for the 15th time this season.
Two titles being decided by four fierce competitors. Next week's season finale is sure to be one for the books.