It appeared Kyle Busch was headed for Victory Lane Sunday at Phoenix Raceway when Joey Logano inadvertently messed with Busch’s well-laid plans once again.
This time, though, it was different.
One week after Logano and Busch scuffled following a race in Las Vegas in which Logano sent Busch spinning as they battled for fourth place, the cars of the two drivers were nowhere near each other when the pivotal moment occurred at Phoenix.
Busch was leading in his No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota and Logano was simply trying to hang onto his No. 22 Team Penske Ford when he lost the right-front tire, sending his car into the outside wall and bringing out a caution with just six laps remaining.
Busch subsequently pitted along with most of the rest of the field, but three cars – including the No. 31 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet driven by eventual race winner Ryan Newman – stayed out on old tires.
On the ensuing green-white-checkered restart, Busch was stuck in fifth on the inside of the third row, thanks in part to having to slow to narrowly avoid hitting the No. 41 Ford driven by his brother, Kurt, as he pulled out of his stall. It was all Kyle Busch could do to drive back up to third before the checkered flag flew.
Afterward, although obviously disappointed, Busch tried to look on the bright side.
“Everything’s great,” Busch insisted. “We got a top five and that’s what we set out to do today. We got a third, so we should be pumped about that and how good this Skittles Camry ran today.
“It was awesome there at the end. … We had a little miscue there on pit road with Kurt and from there it was just too many cars that stayed out. If it was just two that stayed out maybe, but we really needed the outside like (second-place finisher Kyle) Larson had. Overall we should be proud of our run today and we will move on.”
Busch led a race-high 114 laps in all. Newman ended up claiming the win despite leading only the last six.
“We kind of struggled a little bit in traffic, but the car liked the clean air and we were sitting pretty,” Busch said. “But that’s racing.”
After finishes of 38th at Daytona, 16th at Atlanta and 22nd at Vegas to start the season, Busch insisted he was pleased to at least emerge from Phoenix with a third.
“My guys gave me an awesome Skittles Camry and there’s nothing else I could ask for from them,” Busch said. “We were in the right position and we were in a great spot to win the race — but unfortunately it just didn’t happen for us and that’s racing.
“We kind of missed it a little bit at Atlanta. … We tried to rebound a little bit at Vegas and had a shot for a top five there, but we weren’t able to capitalize on that. We were today thankfully. But it seems like every finish that’s destined for us, it seems to end in a worse finish that day.”