Kyle Busch splashes to Phoenix Nationwide win
Kyle Busch once again showed the NASCAR Nationwide Series field why he’s the all-time leader in race victories.
Busch easily drubbed the field to win Saturday’s rain-shortened Blue Jeans Go Green 200 at Phoenix International Raceway, leading all but 13 laps in his Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota to score his seventh Nationwide Series victory here, third in a row here, and 64th overall in his career. The race was halted after 168 laps because of persistent rains.
" I think just the pure dominance we’ve shown here the last few times that we’ve come here and the amount of laps we’ve led with how fast our cars are is pretty phenomenal," said Busch, who now has 128 victories in NASCAR’s top three series. "All the credit goes to Adam Stevens (crew chief) and everybody back at the shop."
Kevin Harvick finished second in a JR Motorsports Chevrolet, followed by Brad Keselowski’s Penske Racing Ford. Kyle Larson and Matt Kenseth completed the top five.
Harvick was pleased with the effort that went into his first race with JR Motorosports. "There’s a lot of new things that have been put together, a lot of new people, a lot of cars cut up, a lot of bodies cut off," said Harvick. "They’ve had a really long winter. … To show up and have everything work and everybody communicate – just really proud of them."
As for Keselowski, he knew he didn’t have anything for Busch, either.
"We made adjustments to try to get better but I just had my hands full for whatever reason," Keselowski said. "I felt kind of relieved to get it over with here. Third was about all I could do. I was holding on pretty bad. It was a decent run I guess. We will take it and move on."
Keselowski started from the pole, flanked by Brian Scott’s Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet. Keselowski led at the start, with Busch moving his JGR Toyota to second on the opening lap.
By Lap 6, Busch was into the lead going under Keselowski in Turn 2, with teammate Kenseth up to second one lap later.
Keselowski brought out the first caution on Lap 22, turning Daryl Harr and in the process damaging the nose of his own Ford. Repairs on his car dropped him from fourth to 27th. "I didn’t do myself any favors with the damage to the car," said Keselowski. "But that’s part of racing."
With rain expected, drivers picked it up in the early stages, dicing furiously in mid-pack as they attempted to get to the halfway point.
By Lap 40, Keselowski was back up to 12th, while Busch led Kenseth by 0.796 seconds.
Busch led by more than 5 seconds at Lap 80, when green-flag stops began for the field. Busch came in on Lap 88, one of the last cars to pit, taking four tires in 14 seconds.
That stop put Keselowski back in the lead, and three laps later, Derrike Cope lost a right-front tire and hit the wall while running 29th, bringing out a caution.
By this point, there were only eight cars on the lead lap, with Keselowski surrendering the point by pitting.
After the pit stops, Harvick took over the lead ahead of Busch, Kenseth, Keselowski and Chase Elliott. Busch took the lead back as soon as the green came out, and led at the halfway point of the race.
At Lap 110, Busch led Harvick by 1.854 seconds.
Jamie Dick lost an engine on Lap 134 to bring out a yellow and send the field down pit road. Under caution, Busch won the race off pit road to maintain the top spot. Keselowski challenged him hard on the restart, but Busch held the point and quickly pulled away, leading by 1.474 seconds at lap 150.
"Brad can always hang in there for a few (laps), but our car is so strong it’ll get going. And once it gets going and the momentum gets build up, you can kind of see the gap widen."
On Lap 160, Harvick went under Keselowski to take over second place.
Seven laps later, the caution came out after Ryan Reed crashed, erasing a 3.071-second lead for Busch. At the same time, the skies opened, heavy rain coming down. After a red flag delay of 2 hours, 7 minutes and 54 seconds, the race was officially called. 27 54
"This is my first time winning a rain-shortened one," said Busch. "Welcome to the tent. I don’t know that it really made a whole lot of difference. We were really good. I would have loved to gone back out there after, but the weather wasn’t on our side today."
Busch said the rain delay was nerve-wracking.
"It made it harder because we were like, ‘Alright, come on, just call it, just be done with it,’" said Busch. "NASCAR did everything they could to get us back out there. We appreciate the fans being out here today. Unfortunately they didn’t get to see a full race, but we tried with what we could and Mother Nature just wasn’t on our side. I can’t say enough to be in Victory Lane today."