Kyle Busch Rallies For Return To Victory Lane At Phoenix International RacewayBy Chris Knight
Despite having the dominate car in the field, Busch had to overcome two miscues, both occurring on pit road to take the checkered flag first, something he has not accomplished in 24 races – including a winless 2012 season. Failing to win a race last year snapped an eight-year streak of winning at least one race in the series dating back to 2004. However, Busch’s 52nd career NASCAR Nationwide Series win now allows a chance to re-build that statistic under the reins of Joe Gibbs Racing.
In his 246th career start, Busch started from the pole for the 27th time in his career, led a race-high 142 laps and propelling from deep in the field to score his fifth win, the most of any driver at the 1.0-mile oval. Little were surprised by the stellar performance, even after the veteran driver was issued a speeding penalty for entering pit road too fast during the first round of pit stops.
That though wasn’t the lone hiccup of the day for Busch, who will start tomorrow’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race from the fourth spot. Under that same yellow, the former Nationwide champion overshot his pit stall adding insult to injury. The circumstances set-up a perfect scenario to potentially divert him from a shot at victory lane. But, this is Kyle Busch we’re talking about. The mistakes only provided ammunition to recapture the lead and claim the checkered flag.
The win though had to be mixed feeling s for the Joe Gibbs Racing driver. Despite several chances to seal the deal and win last season driving for his own Kyle Busch Motorsports (KBM) team, he failed to do so. And it was Kurt Busch, Kyle’s older brother who provided the celebration for the team on the Nationwide side picking up their lone triumph of the year (2012) at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway.
“It’s great to be back, working with (crew chief) Adam (Stevens) and these guys,” said Busch. “It was a bummer deal not to be able to get a win at KBM (Kyle Busch Motorsports) last year, but (owner) Joe (Gibbs) putting me back in his operation and being back with the Joe Gibbs Racing side of things and Mark Cronquist engines, it’s a phenomenal day for us to get back to Victory Lane, to feel the taste of it again.”
A decision was made during the off-season to turn the program over to Gibbs and with Adam Stevens calling the shots – it’s clear that potential dominance by Kyle Busch could be – - as may as well be back.
Reining Sprint Cup Series champion Brad Keselowski finished second in his No. 22 Discount Tire Ford Mustang, 1.943 seconds behind Busch. Justin Allgaier, the leading NASCAR Nationwide Series regular is off to a hot start in 2013 and finished third in his No. 31 Brandt Chevrolet Camaro for Turner Scott Motorsports.
Nationwide regulars Trevor Bayne and Elliott Sadler both rebounded nicely from troubles at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway to close out the top-five.
Austin Dillon, Sam Hornish Jr., Matt Kenseth, Aric Almirola – subbing for the injured Michael Annett and Brian Scott comprised the remainder of the top-10.
Regan Smith led the JR Motorsports train by finishing 11th while Jimmie Johnson in a rare Nationwide start finished 12th in the No. 5 Great Clips Chevrolet Camaro also for JR Motorsports.
Rookie Kyle Larson was 13th followed by Mike Bliss and Nelson Piquet Jr. to wrap up the top-15.
Other notables in the top-20 included Black Koch (16th), Brian Vickers (17th), Parker Kligerman (19th) and Jeffrey Earnhardt (20th). Vickers in the No. 20 Dollar General Toyota Camry had a strong car, but a late race tangle with Mike Harmon (No. 74) resulted in a caution and a restart near the end of the lead lap competitors.
Ryan Sieg substituting for the suspended Jeremy Clements was 21st followed by NASCAR Camping World Truck Series regular Jason White in a second entry for SR2 Motorsports. Dexter Stacey in his ’13 debut driving for his family-owned team recovered from an early race spin to claim 24th.
Mexican driver Juan Carlos Blum was 26th driving an entry fielded by Rick Ware Racing.
After scoring a top-10 finish last weekend at Daytona, Travis Pastrana found hardship at Phoenix after becoming entangled in the first yellow of the day in a multi-car incident. Damage control would cost the rookie precious laps and result in a 28th place finish after starting 12th.
After soaring to a third place finish at Daytona last weekend, RAB Racing’s Alex Bowman was also a victim in the first yellow of the day which sent him to the garage for repairs. He later returned and completing 142 laps and a disappointing 31st place finish.
Pre-race hopeful Kevin Harvick found the wall just after the halfway point in his No. 33 Rheem / Menards Chevrolet Camaro after a tire failure deflated any chances of taking Richard Childress Racing back to victory lane.
After two consecutive weekends of solid qualifying efforts, Jamie Dick running his own deal this season found himself at the wrong place at the wrong time. He was swallowed in the lap three accident, which started when Johanna Long hit the wall causing a chain-reaction melee. Long though, disappointed took responsibility for the incident, but finished shotgun on the field in 40th.
Start-and-parkers were not in short supply in the “Valley of the Sun” with Jeff Green, Chase Miller and Josh Wise all making less than 20 laps.
After two races, Justin Allgaier and Sam Hornish Jr. are tied for the points lead at 79 points apiece. Brian Scott on the heels of two consecutive top-10 finishes is third, just six markers behind. Elliott Sadler is fourth (-10) and Kligerman (-14) fifth.
The race was slowed seven times for 38 laps, with six lead changes among four drivers (Busch, Keselowski, Kenseth and Vickers).
Next up for the NASCAR Nationwide Series is a trip to sin city for the third race of the season at Las Vegas (Nev.) Motor Speedway for the running of the Sam’s Town 300 on Saturday, March 9. The green flag will waive shortly after 4:15 p.m. Eastern on ESPN2.
Follow Chris Knight on Twitter @Knighter01.
Views expressed by the writers are not necessarily the views of Catchfence
Article Tags: Dollar General 200, NASCAR Nationwide Series, NNS, No. 54 Monster Energy Toyota Camry, Phoenix (Ariz.) International Raceway, PIR