Kyle Busch had the fastest Nationwide car Saturday from qualifying to practice to race.
So even when NASCAR penalized him for speeding on pit road, dropping him back to 23rd, it was a flea on a bull’s back. Busch’s Toyota blew away the competition at the Dollar General 200 at Phoenix International Raceway.
“We were the fastest I can ever remember compared to the field,” said Busch’s crew chief, Adam Stevens. “So when he had that hiccup on pit road, he just plowed right through the field.”
Busch led 142 of 200 laps. This was his fifth Phoenix victory over 15 starts in the Nationwide Series, the most by any driver.
Brad Keselowski finished second and Justin Algaier third.
Busch’s mistake – he overshot his pit stall and was caught speeding while backing up – was little more than a nuisance to overcome.
This was a race with an abundance of cautions – seven, eating up 38 laps. On the sixth caution, with just under 50 laps to go, Keselowski and three other drivers elected not to pit, hoping their fuel and tires would hold up.
After pitting, Busch overtook all four of those cars within a few laps, holding a comfortable lead on Keselowski the rest of the way.
“I knew I had a shot if something happened to Kyle. (But) I probably could have had four (fresh) tires and he had none, and he still would have won,” Keselowski said. “When you’re that fast, you’re pretty much immune to strategy.”
As well as Busch has raced in Nationwide – this was his 52nd career victory – it’s been a long time between wins. He last won in September 2011 in Richmond, meaning he went 24 races without reaching Victory Lane.
And as well as Busch has raced in the past in Phoenix, this is like a new track due to repaving and Goodyear changing the tires. Busch is convinced the extra time behind the wheel will have benefits Sunday in the Sprint Cup race.
“Winning today means a lot for tomorrow,” Busch said. “We made all the adjustments I like and we learned the (new) tires.”