Welcome back to Nationwide Series dominance, Kyle Busch.
Once an almost automatic winner in NASCAR’s No. 2 series, Busch returned to Nationwide victory lane Saturday at Phoenix International Raceway after going winless since Sept. 2011.
And it wasn’t close.
Busch led 142 of the 200 laps in the Dollar General 200 and won without a serious challenge from second-place Brad Keselowski.
Completing the top 10 were Justin Allgaier, Trevor Bayne, Elliott Sadler, Austin Dillon, Sam Hornish Jr., Matt Kenseth, Aric Almirola and Brian Scott.
Busch led the first 40 laps of the race but later dropped into a hole as he was penalized for speeding on pit road. That dropped him to 23rd place, but he rallied to regain the lead and ran away with the victory, his 52nd in the series and fifth at the track.
After meeting frustration trying to win in his Kyle Busch Motorsports cars last year, Busch agreed to run Joe Gibbs Racing Toyotas this season. That move paid off big Saturday.
“It feels awesome,” Busch said. “I wish we could have gotten it done with all my guys at Kyle Busch Motorsports, but I can’t say enough about Joe Gibbs Racing and their cars. We’ve seen it in the Nationwide Series for years.
“I’ve had a trying time, but we’re here now.”
Contact between the cars of Hornish and Johanna Long in the early laps left Hornish's No. 12 with a banged-up front end. Hornish passed Long, who failed to slow soon enough entering the corner and hit Hornish's car. The exchange started a crash that also involved Jamie Dick, Travis Pastrana and Alex Bowman.
Hornish was involved in another incident later in the race but rallied to finish seventh.
Two contenders found themselves in trouble with 25 laps to go. Brian Vickers and Bayne were racing for third place when they attempted to lap Mike Harmon at the same time. Vickers was caught between Harmon and Bayne and went into a slide, causing the other two cars to also lose traction, sparking a caution.
One of the race’s most interesting duels involved five-time Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson and highly regarded rookie Kyle Larson. They wrestled for position most of the day, Johnson edging Larson for 12th on the final lap.
Mike Hembree is NASCAR Editor for SPEED.com and has been covering motorsports for 31 years. He is a six-time winner of the National Motorsports Press Association Writer of the Year Award.