Kyle Busch became the winningest NASCAR driver in the history of Phoenix International Raceway Saturday, scoring his tenth career victory in the Blue Jeans Go Green 200 Nationwide Series race. Despite dire weather reports that questioned whether the race would even start, the 39-car starting field completed 168 of the scheduled 200 laps before a downpour ended racing for the day.
It is doubtful that the additional 32 laps would have changed the outcome. Busch, who averaged 102.665 mph for the race, led 155 laps and was 5.584 seconds ahead of runner-up Kevin Harvick before the red flag came out to halt the event.
“I felt like we were such a dominant force all day,” said Busch, who has been particularly successful in Nationwide Series races at the Desert Jewel; he has won seven of them – including the last three in a row. “I’ve loved coming here to Phoenix. Overall, it’s been a really good place for me, and I enjoy running here.
"I think just the pure dominance we’ve shown here the last few times that we’ve come here and the amount of laps we’ve led with how fast our cars are is pretty phenomenal. All the credit goes to Adam Stevens (crew chief) and everybody back at the shop. It’s fun to win them anyway. This is my first time winning a rain-shortened one. Welcome to the tent. I don’t know that it really made a whole lot of difference. We were really good. I would have loved to gone back out there after (drying the track), but the weather wasn’t on our side today."
Pole winner Brad Keselowski took the lead at the start, but Busch forced his way ahead on Lap 6 with an inside pass going into Turn 1. Busch set the pace the rest of the way, losing the lead only during pit stops and on a restart when Kevin Harvick made a brilliant start. It took Busch just two laps to find his way back to front and he slowly pulled out an advantage until the skies opened.
“I think Kyle [Busch] had the best car today,” said Harvick, who has nine career NASCAR wins at PIR. “I think we finished where we should have.”
The race was slowed by four caution flags for 24 laps. The first came on Lap 21 when Keselowski bumped the lapped car of Daryl Harr in Turn 1, sending Harr spinning into the wall. Was injured in the wreck but his car was done for the day. Keselowski damaged the nose of his car, but after repairs he returned to finish third; he will also start from the pole in Sunday’s The Profit on CNBC 500, which is set to take the green flag at 1 pm.
Former Daytona 500 winner Derrike Cope cut a tire and hit the wall exiting Turn 4 on Lap 91 and Jamie Dick broke an oil line and coated the track with slippery liquid on Lap 135 to bring out the next two caution flags. The final caution flag came out on Lap 167 when rookie Ryan Reed slid coming out of Turn 2 and hit the inside wall as the rain began. No drivers were seriously injured in the incidents.