Busch Rises in Phoenix; Z-Line Designs Driver Rallies from Two Laps Down to Finish 10th Kyle Busch certainly made his 10th-place drive in Friday night's NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Phoenix International Speedway an interesting one to watch.
Busch Rises in Phoenix; Z-Line Designs Driver Rallies from Two Laps Down to Finish 10th
Kyle Busch certainly made his 10th-place drive in Friday night's NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Phoenix International Speedway an interesting one to watch. The pilot of the No. 18 Z-Line Designs Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) came from two laps down in the Bashas' Supermarkets 200 to score his sixth top-10 of the 2009 season, and in doing so, took the lead in the Nationwide Series point standings.
"It was an eventful night, that's for sure," said Busch, who won last year's Bashas' Supermarkets 200. "We had a tire issue and got two laps down, but the guys never gave up and kept on digging."
The 23-year-old Las Vegas native now holds a 47-point advantage over second-place Carl Edwards in the championship standings, as Busch is running the entire 35-race schedule with the sole purpose of claiming the series title.
His performance in round seven of the Nationwide Series schedule was championship-esque, for after leading eight laps early in the 203-lap race, he was forced to make an unscheduled, green flag pit stop on lap 50 to replace a flat right-front tire. The flat tire appeared to mask a deeper handling issue, as the car suddenly developed a tight-handling condition on lap 36 which quickly dropped Busch down the leaderboard. Complicating matters even further was that upon entering pit road, the transmission in the No. 18 Toyota hung in fourth gear. It all added up to a very long pit stop, which put Busch two laps down.
"Something just wasn't quite right with the car tonight," Busch said. "I think maybe we had a broken shim, but we just aren't quite sure until Jason (Ratcliff, crew chief) and the guys take a look at it."
While other teams might have thrown in the towel, the Z-Line Designs team dug deep. Busch got up on the wheel to earn one of his laps back on lap 96, and then nabbed the "lucky dog" -- the designation given to the first driver a lap down when the caution flag comes out -- on lap 107. That put Busch back on the lead lap and in contention to earn another strong finish.
Aiding Busch's championship aspirations was the trouble faced by Edwards, the Nationwide Series point leader entering Phoenix. Edwards' No. 60 Ford experienced engine problems midway through the race, and he was forced to the garage area for extended repairs. Edwards eventually returned to the race, albeit 25 laps down.
After being mired as deep as 32nd in the 43-car field, Busch survived three restarts -- including a green-white-checkered dash to the finish -- to bring his No. 18 Z-Line Designs Toyota home in 10th.
"All the guys on the Z-Line Designs team made the most of what could've been a really bad night," said Busch, who has two wins and only one finish outside the top-10 in the seven Nationwide Series races run this season. "The 60 (Edwards) had some trouble tonight, so we were fortunate to be able to gain all those spots back and get the points lead."
The race featured nine caution periods for 43 laps, with 10 drivers failing to finish the race.