KYLE BUSCH + PHOENIX WINNING 'COMBO' Combos Driver Leads Three Times for Race-High 126 Laps En Route to Nationwide Series Win Kyle Busch did what he does best Friday night at Phoenix International Raceway -- win. The driver of the No. 18 Combos...
KYLE BUSCH + PHOENIX WINNING 'COMBO'
Combos Driver Leads Three Times for Race-High 126 Laps En Route to Nationwide Series Win
Kyle Busch did what he does best Friday night at Phoenix International Raceway -- win. The driver of the No. 18 Combos Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) dominated the Bashas' Supermarkets 200 NASCAR Nationwide Series race by leading three times for a race-high 126 laps en route to his 32nd career Nationwide Series victory, his third at Phoenix and his second this season.
"What an awesome racecar," said Busch, who qualified on the outside pole and immediately took the lead in the 200-lap race. "This Combos Camry was just phenomenal. I can't thank the guys enough. Jason (Ratcliff, crew chief) and all these guys worked their butts off today and we got a pretty fast piece, so I'm happy that we finally found out something that works here at Phoenix.
"We were fast. We had a good car. We just had to make sure we didn't make any mistakes, and there was plenty made tonight. It was just a hard-fought battle. I don't know what all transpired, but we made it through and made it to victory lane."
As Busch alluded, getting the win was anything but easy, for he had to overcome two setbacks -- one on lap 18 and another on lap 144.
When the first of the night's seven caution flags waved at lap 17, Busch came to pit road for fresh tires and fuel. But when none of the leaders followed him down pit road, Busch found himself 21st when the race restarted on lap 21. It proved of little matter, for the Las Vegas-native sliced his way through traffic and was sixth when the next caution came out on lap 31, and at that point, the cars ahead of Busch had to pit. But since the No. 18 Combos Toyota already had fresh tires from its lap-18 pit stop, a second stop so soon wasn't necessary. Busch inherited the lead on lap 33 and checked out, holding the point for the next 104 circuits around the 1-mile oval.
But on a lap-144 restart where Busch was second to leader Brad Keselowski, NASCAR officials ruled that Busch jumped the start and promptly black-flagged him. From the head of the pack to 19th Busch went, as he had to come down pit road at the mandatory 45 mph speed limit to serve the penalty before returning to the racetrack.
That Busch could even crack the top-10 with little more than 50 laps remaining seemed a long shot, but the 24-year-old took a tenacious hold of his steering wheel and again drove through the field. When the race's final caution came out on lap 189, Busch was 11th. And in the final restart, he quickly passed the cars ahead of him and then put an exclamation point on his incredible drive by passing Keselowski for the lead on lap 196. The orange No. 18 Combos Toyota opened up a 1.550-second advantage that held to the finish.
"I knew if we could get a caution that we might have something that we could go after him with," said Busch, whose victory tally across NASCAR's top-three divisions -- Sprint Cup, Nationwide and Camping World Truck -- now stands at 65. "I didn't know how far we could come back up. I figured maybe we could get to fifth, maybe fourth, but that was about it. Just a great effort by the team. Jason (Ratcliff) had some awesome race calls there to get the car a little bit better. It all started back in practice. We made a lot of big changes to it and it seemed to pay off. We were pretty good."
Finishing behind Busch in the runner-up slot was Kevin Harvick. Keselowski finished third, while Brendan Gaughan and Greg Biffle rounded out the top-five. Carl Edwards, Paul Menard, Scott Lagasse Jr., Ricky Stenhouse Jr., and Busch's JGR teammate Joey Logano comprised the remainder of the top-10.
The race featured seven caution periods for 37 laps, with 10 drivers failing to finish.
While Busch is not running the full Nationwide Series schedule, JGR's No. 18 Toyota is competing for the owner's title. Thanks to Busch's win, the No. 18 picked up two positions to climb to third in points after round six of 35, where it is just 15 markers behind the leading No. 22 car of Penske Racing. JGR has won the past two Nationwide Series owner's championships.