For most of the Bashas’ Supermarkets 200 NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Phoenix International Raceway on Saturday, Kyle Busch’s Interstate Batteries Toyota was a rocket taking off into the sunset. Busch led every lap from the pole, building as large as a 3.6-second lead over second place finisher Carl Edwards.
But, over the closing 20 laps, according to Busch, Edwards “really made me sweat out there.” Taking advantage of Busch’s loose-handling race car, Edwards nosed his No. 60 Ford under the No. 18 Toyota on several occasions. But, Busch was faster in turns one and two – and ever since PIR opened in 1964 a good line off turn two has been the key to racing fast on the track configuration that will change after Sunday’s SUBWAY Fresh Fit 500™ NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race. So, Busch was able to hold off his toughest competitor on every circuit at PIR on Saturday and won by slightly more than a half-second.
Busch’s victory gave him 44 wins in his relatively-short Nationwide Series career, only four fewer than Mark Martin’s all-time record. His leading every lap marked the first time any NASCAR national touring series event has produced a single leader since Dale Earnhardt, Jr., turned the trick in winning the July 2003 Cup race at Daytona International Speedway.
Busch was excellent on restarts, taking advantage of the inside lane and pulling away on laps 58, 113, and 170, when the green flag waved after caution periods. But, it was after the last restart when Edwards came back to pressure Busch. Edwards looked under Busch on lap 180 and battled side-by-side on the front-stretch over the next five circuits until Busch began to pull away over the closing 16 laps.
Afterward, Edwards said, “I did everything but move him out of the way, and I thought about that. He had a loose race car and did a good job of hanging on to it. He could work me over pretty good in (turns) one and two.”
From victory lane, Busch thanked Edwards for “racing me clean” but lamented that he directed his crew to make chassis changes that hurt his ability to cling perfectly to the bottom of the track.
Although they never were serious factors in today’s race, Kevin Harvick finished third, Ryan Newman, fourth, and Reed Sorenson fifth.
Tickets remain available for tomorrow’s Cup event, and the two young NASCAR stars will likely do battle again at the front of the field. Edwards will start from the pole in his SUBWAY Ford, while Busch will start fourth, right behind his older brother Kurt, who will take the green flag from outside-pole in his Shell/Pennzoil Dodge.
Tickets to the exciting Feb. 24-27 SUBWAY Fresh Fit 500™ NASCAR event weekend are still available with prices starting at just $25. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit www.PhoenixRaceway.com/tickets or call 866-408-RACE (7223).