Kyle Busch has become very familiar with ISM Raceway’s new Gatorade Victory Lane, returning to it on Sunday following his victory in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series TicketGuardian 500, his second win in as many days.
“I knew going back before we went green with however many to go that we were going to be right on the verge,” said Busch. “You’ve got to go race hard first, then you can worry about fuel afterwards. Once I got to Blaney, I was able to kind of save a little bit and try to take care of my tires because I needed them for the rest of the traffic we had to get through, and make sure I had enough fuel to make it to the end.”
The battle for the lead heated up with less than 20 laps to go between Busch and pole sitter Ryan Blaney, who had two tires to Busch’s four. Blaney held off Busch as long as he could, but with fuel mileage a concern for the Team Penske driver, he couldn’t stay in front and finished third.
“Honestly, we hung on better there on two tires than I thought we would,” said Blaney. “I was kind of riding, trying to save tires and save gas anywhere. They were telling me we were really close, just short two. I think he was kind of riding back there too. I think they knew what situation I was in, but I started to get really tight, then I got the lapped cars and I was done. When we got passed for the lead, it was just full on fuel save mode. But a good recovery. We had to come in for a wheel that was going to be loose, and two tires was the right call. I don’t think we would’ve run third if not for that.”
Blaney is credited for leading the first 35 laps, although Chase Elliott was in front at the drop of the green flag. Because he beat Blaney, the pole sitter, to the line, Elliott had to serve a pass-through penalty. He had recovered and was running in the top ten, but he brought out a caution on lap 218 with a spin and finished 14th.
Martin Truex Jr., who did not have any fuel concerns in the final run, finished second, possibly a few laps short from catching Busch. Aric Almirola, who led 26 laps, was fourth, and Denny Hamlin was fifth. Kyle Larson rallied from a 31st starting position to finish sixth.
Both drivers in the field with local ties, Glendale native Michael McDowell and Tucson native Alex Bowman, had issues that took them out of the race. On lap 159, contact with his Front Row Racing teammate David Ragan caused McDowell to make contact with the wall. Bowman suffered from multiple tire issues which eventually sent his team to the garage.
NASCAR will return to ISM Raceway in November for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cups Series Semifinal Weekend. The weekend, Nov. 8-10, will feature the semifinal race in the three NASCAR national series, as well as the championship race of the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West. Tickets and INfield access for all days are on sale now and available online at ISMRaceway.com, by phone at 1-866-408-RACE (7223) or in-person at the ISM Raceway ticket office.