Busch wins third straight Nationwide race at Phoenix
Avondale, AZ (SportsNetwork.com) - Kyle Busch became the first driver to win three consecutive Nationwide Series races at Phoenix International Raceway, even though Saturday's scheduled 200-lap event was cut short by 32 laps due to rain.
Busch, who drives the No. 54 Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing, put on another dominating performance at Phoenix, leading 155 of 168 laps. He had a five- second advantage when the fourth caution came on lap 165. Ryan Reed spun out and made contact with the wall. At the time of Reed's incident, rain began falling on this one-mile oval.
NASCAR displayed the red flag after 168 laps were completed, as the field came to a stop on pit road. When the rain tapered off, NASCAR's new track-drying system, the Air Titan, began its task. Track drying was nearly completed before heavy rain fell on the track again. The race was called after a near two-hour delay.
The weather forecast for the Phoenix area called for a 100 percent chance of rain throughout the day on Saturday. However, final practice for the Sprint Cup Series and qualifying for Nationwide were held at their scheduled times earlier in the day. It had rained here during the early morning hours.
Busch earned his record-extending 64th career win in Nationwide, including his seventh at Phoenix, which is more than any other driver. He also gave Joe Gibbs Racing its fourth Nationwide victory in a row at this track.
"We've been very dominant here in the past years, and we led a lot of laps today," Busch said. "I felt like we could have won it whether it was rain- shortened or we went the whole distance. We had a great race car. It was a great race for us. We battled hard with a couple of guys. All in all, it was meant to be. We just had to put ourselves in the right position."
Last year, Busch led 142 of 200 laps in the spring race and then a total of 169 laps in the fall event at Phoenix. Both of his wins here came from the pole position. He started third in Saturday's race.
Jimmie Johnson won three consecutive Sprint Cup races at Phoenix from 2007-08, and Jack Sprague scored three straight victories in the Truck Series here from 1996-97. No driver from any one of NASCAR's three national series has four race wins in a row at this track.
Kevin Harvick, driving the No. 88 Chevrolet for JR Motorsports in this race, finished second. Brad Keselowski, the pole sitter, took the third spot. Kyle Larson and Matt Kenseth rounded out the top-five.
The first five in the finishing order were all Sprint Cup Series regulars. The 312-lap (500-kilometer) Sprint Cup race at Phoenix is scheduled for Sunday. Keselowski is starting on the pole for that race. Busch will roll off from seventh.
Keselowski rebounded from an incident he had with Daryl Harr on lap 21. He bumped into the back of Harr and put him into the wall in turn 1. Keselowski sustained minor damage to the front end of his No. 22 Team Penske Ford. His team made minor repairs on pit road during the caution. He dropped to 27th in the field but quickly drove back into the top-five and stayed there for good.
Harr's No. 87 Chevrolet suffered major damage, which put him out of the race early. He finished 36th in the 39-car field.
"I got underneath [Harr], and I don't think he saw me there," Keselowski said. "I was trying to show him my nose...I couldn't slow down enough to avoid hitting him from behind and causing that wreck. I feel bad for [Harr's team]. I know those guys are trying their best to make it in this series. It was unfortunate."
Elliott Sadler finished sixth, followed by Trevor Bayne and Regan Smith, who won last weekend's Nationwide season-opener at Daytona. Rookies Chase Elliott and Ty Dillon completed the top-10.