Kyle Busch led 142 of the 200 laps that made up the Dollar General 200 NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Phoenix International Raceway on Saturday, en route to his fifth series win at the track. Brad Keselowski finished second in the No. 22 Penske Racing Ford, and Justin Allgaier was the highest finishing Nationwide championship-eligible driver, taking third-place honors.
The win was Busch's first behind the wheel of the No. 54. The car raced under the Kyle Busch Motorsports banner in 2012, winning a single race at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway with Kurt Busch behind the wheel. Kyle Busch's last series win came in September 2011 while still driving JGR's No. 18 Toyota.
"It feels awesome," Busch said in victory lane. "I wish we could've gotten it done with my guys at Kyle Busch Motorsports."
The Joe Gibbs Racing trio of Busch, Brian Vickers in the No. 20 Toyota and Matt Kenseth in the No. 18 Toyota dominated the top-three in the running order through the first half of the race. All three drivers ran in the top-three for the first 40 laps when Busch overshot his pit stall during a caution and then was penalized for speeding down pit road. He restarted the race in the 23rd spot while Kenseth and Vickers restarted on the front row.
When the race went back to green, Keselowski posed a challenge to the JGR camp and moved into the second spot. By lap 89, Busch was back up to the lead, with Kenseth running second. Keselowski was third and Vickers in fourth.
Right after Busch took the lead, the yellow flag waved again. The three JGR teammates got off pit road first through third to reclaim their top-three spots, with Busch in the lead, Vickers in second and Kenseth in third. Kenseth began losing spots soon after the restart, dropping to the back of the top-five.
"We may have a flat. I don't know," Kenseth reported to his crew over the radio.
Keselowski got to the lead by staying out when other front-runners pitted during another caution with about 50 laps remaining. Other drivers including Trevor Bayne in the No. 6 Roush Fenway Racing Ford, Aric Almirola in the No. 43 Richard Petty Motorsports Ford and Sam Hornish Jr. in the No. 12 Penske Racing Ford also stayed out for track position. As a result, Busch restarted fifth despite getting off pit road first.
With 37 laps to go, though, Busch was back in the lead. Vickers also continued to run near the front until he got sandwiched between a lap car and Bayne's No. 6 to bring out another caution with 30 laps to go.
That left Busch as the only JGR representative near the front of the running order. Busch restarted in the lead on the final restart of the race with 24 laps remaining. Keselowski was beside him on the front row in second, with Bayne and the No. 31 Turner Scott Motorsports Chevrolet in third and fourth.
Busch and Keselowski maintained their positions in first and second for the remainder of the race, while Allgaier got by Bayne in the final laps to finish third. Bayne wound up fourth. Another Joe Gibbs Racing driver, Elliott Sadler in the No. 11 Toyota, finished fifth. Austin Dillon was sixth in the No. 3 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet.
Hornish, the series points leader heading into the race, had an eventful journey to a seventh-place finish. He was caught up in a wreck on lap two that also involved the No. 70 ML Motorsports Chevrolet of Johanna Long, the No. 99 RAB Racing Toyota of Alex Bowman and the No. 60 Roush Fenway Racing Ford of Travis Pastrana.
"I got in a little too hot," Long said. "Didn't mean to get into him (Hornish)."
After repairs, Hornish restarted the race in the back and got back up to sixth by taking only two tires on a pit stop during a caution with 98 laps to go. But soon after the race went back to green, he spun and wound up in the back again.
Again, Hornish used pit strategy to get back up front. He stayed out during the caution with 50 laps to go to restart fourth. His damaged race car lost a few positions in the closing laps, but Hornish was able to minimize the damage with a top-10 finish.
Kenseth finished eighth, Almirola was ninth and Brian Scott rounded out the top-10 in the No. 2 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet.