KYLE BUSCH DOMINATES TO WIN AXALTA FASTER. TOUGHER. BRIGHTER. 200
Joe Gibbs Racing continued to dominate Spring Break at Phoenix International Raceway on Saturday. Erik Jones, driver of the No. 20 Reser's Fine Foods Toyota and teammate Daniel Suarez, driver of the No. 19 Juniper Networks Toyota, both put up a good fight, but in the end it was JGR teammate Kyle Busch, driver of the No. 18 NOS Energy Drink Toyota, who drove to victory lane in the AXALTA Faster. Tougher. Brighter. 200.
"I can’t say enough about [crew chief] Chris Gayle, and everyone at Joe Gibbs Racing," Busch said. "Obviously, it was Chris Gayle that did a great job for me and for giving me the car that I needed to prepare for today’s race. We didn’t sit on the pole, but our teammates did. They were obviously really fast, and they made me run hard all day long. There’s nothing left in this car. It’s all used up."
Just before final pit stops with less than 30 laps to go, Jones got up to Busch's bumper, narrowly avoiding contact. But that would be the closest he got to the lead, as Busch pulled away in the final laps to win by just over two seconds (about eight car lengths).
"He was really fast, and we had a shot at him down that long run," Jones said. "Started to get to him, started working. And if it would have stayed green, I feel like we could’ve got him. It stayed green, but we had to pit. Unfortunately on the pit stop we lost a lot of ground to him, and just got too tight after that and he ran away…. we’re getting closer. First time we really got a fair shot at the race against Kyle this year."
This is Busch's ninth NASCAR XFINITY Series win at Phoenix International Raceway - the most of any driver in any professional series at the track. He is now tied with Kevin Harvick for second-most professional series wins at PIR with 12. The all-time leader is Ken Schrader with 16 wins. Busch is also the lap leader in professional races held at the track, and became the first driver to lead over 2,500 laps in the Valley of the Sun. After Saturday's race, his total laps led at PIR sits at 2,639.
At the start, Jones led from the pole, but Busch took over on a Lap 6 restart. The Las Vegas driver stayed on point until pit stops around Lap 97. Ty Dillon, driver of the No. 3 Bass Pro Shops/Tracker Boats Chevrolet, won the race off pit road with a two-tire stop. But it only took 10 laps for the reigning Sprint Cup Champion to retake the lead.
Daniel Suarez, current XFINITY series points leader, finished third to complete the Joe Gibbs Racing sweep. Rounding out the top five were Justin Allgaier, driver of the No. 7 BRANDT Chevrolet, and Chase Elliott, driver of the No. 88 TaxSlayer.com Chevrolet.
There were three cautions for a total of 16 laps. On lap 2, Ray Black Jr., the driver of the No. 07 Scuba Life Chevrolet, made contact with David Starr, driver of the No. 44 Zachry Toyota, sending the No. 44 into the Turn 4 wall. On Lap 58, Jeremy Clements, driver of the No. 51 RepairableVehicles.com Chevrolet, had an accident in Turn 3. The final caution occurred on Lap 97 for an incident involving J.J. Yeley, driver of the No. 14 Toyota.
Busch will look to sweep the weekend as he competes in the Good Sam 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race on Sunday at 12:30 p.m.