Kyle Busch wins Phoenix Xfinity Race
How did Kyle Busch win Saturday’s IK9 Service Dog 200 at ISM Raceway?
Poof! His closest pursuers in the NASCAR Xfinity Series race disappeared in a cloud of smoke.
Busch was out front on Lap 130 when the engine in the No. 01 Chevrolet of Stephen Leicht exploded in front of Justin Allgaier and pole winner Christopher Bell, who were running second and third at the time.
Enveloped in a “Days of Thunder”-style cloud of smoke, Allgaier spun in the fluid from Leicht’s car, hitting the outside wall and damaging the rear of his car. Bell, the series leader entering the race, fared far worse.
His No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota backed into the outside wall, crumpling the rear of the car beyond repair. Bell exited the race in 30th place.
With his two most formidable challengers out of the picture, Busch led the field to the subsequent restart on Lap 143 and stayed out front the rest of the way, beating runner-up Ryan Truex to the finish line by 3.025 seconds.
The victory was Busch’s 11th at ISM Raceway, tying him with NASCAR Hall of Famer Mark Martin for most Xfinity wins at a single track. Martin accomplished the feat at Rockingham.
Three races remain before NASCAR heads back east to Martinsville (Va.) Speedway. Busch will compete in Sunday’s TicketGuardian 500 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series event at ISM Raceway (3:30 p.m. ET on FOX, MRN, SiriusXM) before running both the Cup and Xfinity races next weekend at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif.
“Christopher was certainly going to give me a run for my money today,” Busch said of his JGR teammate. “I can’t say enough about the guys at Joe Gibbs Racing. Obviously, they build really fast Supras … Christopher, I hate he got caught up in that mess. Obviously, it was going to be a really fun run to the end there.”
Busch deflected the notion that he’s toying with the competition in the lower series.
“There’s a lot of talk and that sort of stuff, but if I’m allowed to enter a race, I’m going to enter the race and go out there and try to win it,” said Busch, who led 116 of the 200 laps. “If I win, I win. If not, we’ve got to go again the next time.”
Bell led 68 laps and won the second stage but fell to third soon after a restart on Lap 101 and couldn’t advance. Then came Leicht’s engine explosion and the end of Bell’s race.
“As soon as I entered the smoke wall, I couldn’t see anything,” Bell said. “I lost my bearings of where I was and the next thing you know, I was in the wall. Frustrating and very disappointing, because our Rheem Supra was extremely strong.
“I don’t know, it was weird. My car didn’t really feel that much worse that run, but once I got back behind those guys, I just really couldn’t pass them.”
Truex started ninth, fell back early but worked his way back through the field in his first run in the No. 8 JR Motorsports Chevrolet. After Bell and Allgaier crashed, Truex restarted second on Lap 143 and kept reigning series champion and eventual third-place finisher Tyler Reddick behind him.
“I guess it’s good when you lose to Kyle Busch,” Truex said. “I just got us behind there at the start. I was too free, and I couldn’t run anywhere on the track, so I lost a lot of track position early. We worked hard all day to get it back.
“I got that restart behind Kyle and was able to get a huge run in (Turns) 1 and 2. Our car was just so good on the long runs that I was able to hold Reddick off.”
For his part, Reddick inherited the series lead from Bell.
“I’m not very good at this race track,” said Reddick, who leads Bell by four points. “But hats off to RCR (Richard Childress Racing), they brought a fantastic Chevrolet. Our Camaro was great through most of this race. I honestly couldn’t give us a good sense of direction, so we just kind of threw in here what Daniel (Hemric) ran last year.
“Had a pretty good setup under this thing. Hopefully, I can figure out what I need to break through and contend with the 18 (Busch) in the end. All in all, it’s better than what I’ve run in the past. I’m just not very good at this race track.”
Cole Custer ran fourth, followed by fellow Ford drivers Austin Cindric (the Stage 1 winner) and Chase Briscoe, who fought his way forward after a pit road speeding penalty with an impressive closing drive. Brandon Jones was seventh, ahead of Daytona winner Michael Annett, John Hunter Nemechek and Ryan Sieg, who recorded his third top-10 finish in four starts.
The Xfinity Series’ next race is the Production Alliance Group 300, scheduled next Saturday (5 p.m. ET, FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) at Auto Club Speedway. The 300-miler is the fifth of 33 races for the circuit this season.
Notes: Busch’s winning No. 18 Toyota was all clear in post-race inspection. The only post-race issues were one lug nut not safe and secure for each the No. 8 Chevrolet of runner-up Ryan Truex and the No. 74 Chevrolet of 25th-place finisher Mike Harmon. … Busch, who competes for championship points in the Monster Energy Series, has won all four races he has entered this season in the Xfinity and Gander Outdoors Truck Series.
KYLE BUSCH, No. 18 Extreme Concepts iK9 Toyota Supra, Joe Gibbs Racing
Finishing Position: 1st
How does it feel to get your second-consecutive win?
“Kind of like last week. Christopher (Bell) was certainly going to give me a run for my money today. Can’t say enough about our guys at Joe Gibbs Racing. Obviously they build really fast Supras. I want to say thanks to iK9. This is the iK9 Service Dog 200, so certainly really really cool to be able to win for them again and to be able to put them in victory lane back to back and in their race here at ISM Raceway. Super thankful for them for the opportunity to come out here and run a few races each year and to be able to put on a good show. Christopher, I hate it he got caught up in that mess, but it was obviously really going to be a fun run to the end there. Certainly want to give thanks to Mark Cronquist. These JGR engines were strong. Monster Energy, Cessna, Adidas, DVX Eyewear, Black Clover and the fans. It’s always cool to come out with Rowdy Nation and having their support and everybody that backs us and what we’re able to do and what we’re able to accomplish. Obviously we’re doing a lot of those things these days. There’s a lot of talk and all that sort of stuff, but hey, if I’m allowed to enter a race, I’m going to enter a race. I’m going to go out there and race and I’m going to go out there and try to win. If I win, we win. If not, we’ve got to go again the next time. These guys here, they’re great. Congrats to all these guys that works so hard to get me where I’m at.”
When Christopher Bell and Justin Allgaier fell out of the race, was it just a matter of doing everything right?
“Sure. It looked that way and sure, you could assume that, but our main competition was the 20 (Christopher Bell) and a little bit of the 7 (Justin Allgaier), but mainly the 20 and obviously when he had his issues, that was definitely a change for the race and what was going to happen there after.”
How would you assess your chances of hitting 200 at Auto Club Speedway?
“I’d assess it pretty good I guess. It would certainly be nice to get it done on the west coast swing, but it’s not a necessity. It will happen when it happens and you can’t push too hard and do stupid things or make mistakes in order to think too much about that number. You just have to let the race kind of play out and let it come to you and that’s what we did a majority of the day. It was not looking pretty there early on with Christopher (Bell) as good as he was and us not being so great and then we just kept working on it and making adjustments to it, just kept getting our car better and getting closer to Christopher and was actually able to hold him off there the second-to-last restart. Then from there, the last run of the race was really good for us too.”
With all the debate over 200 wins, are you just looking forward to hitting that mark?
“I think it’s a pretty cool accomplishment. There’s so many different ways you can argue it or debate it or whatever and it has nothing to do with Richard (Petty), it’s just solely a number. I think it’s an accomplishment of its own. With Richard’s accomplishment and what he’s been able to do and what he’s done for the sport, that’s huge. I feel as though I’ve been in this position to win as many races as I have due to a lot of great people and being able to go out there and celebrate 200 wins, I don’t know that it will happen again, but if it does, that person should certainly cherish that moment. I hate that you get beat up so much about an accomplishment, but I guess that’s part of life. Haters gonna hate.”
What’s next after you achieve 200 wins?
“I don’t know. 250 I guess – the race to 250. Certainly as I get older here, it’s going to start slowing down and with the restrictions that I’m under, it already has slowed down. I would have been to 200 a hell of a long time ago if I could have run as many races as I wanted to in truck and Xfinity and what-not. It’s about being able to win on Sundays and I feel like I’ve won a bunch of races on Sundays – I’ve got 51 of them and the race there is going to be the race to 100 on that side. I think that’s kind of what the next goal will be is to try to get 100 Cup wins.”
What kind of adjustments did you make on the car in the race?
“I don’t know what they were doing. I think some of it was track bar because I was really free and really loose and typically track bar is a good adjustment here because the track is so flat and it gives you that lateral grip that you’re looking for. Then some air pressure adjustments and air pressure changes to keep the car turning in the long haul. I would guess that those were the things that Ben (Beshore, crew chief) was doing.”
Does it matter to you which series your 200th win comes in?
“It kind of does, I think it would certainly mean more if it came in a Cup car than if it did in an Xfinity race or truck, but it is what it is. It’s going to happen eventually and like I said, the opportunity is there and I get to go to Texas and run a triple and Martinsville and run two races and so there’s a lot of double up races or triple up races here in the beginning part of the season so it could happen in a truck at Martinsville. If it does, it does and so be it. We’ll still celebrate win number 200 and we’ll go tackle some more Cup wins as we keep going.”
Do you have the celebration planned yet?
“What are you going to do, right? I don’t know, I don’t know what the game plan is. Hopefully NASCAR has something figured out because it’s their sandbox and whether or not they want to blow it up and make it special for someone who’s won 200 races or not, then so be it. You can’t have a self-promotion party, right? Woo-hoo, look at me (laughter)!”
Did you ever watch Richard Petty race or is your only view what you’ve seen on tape?
“Pretty much, I don’t recall very much of Richard (Petty) at all when I was a kid. I do remember Jeff Gordon’s first race was Richard Petty’s last race, I do remember that and I think Richard crashed out and I know he had damage for much of that race. When was Richard’s last win? Was it 1984? That was before I was born. Dude won an awful lot of races, but it was all before my time. That’s just kind of the way that it was. Even Darrell (Waltrip) for instance, I remember watching Darrell later on in his career and that was kind of the days when Gordon was coming up and Bobby (Labonte) was becoming better – Rusty (Wallace) was there and obviously (Dale) Earnhardt was there, Mark (Martin) was there, all those – Dale Jarrett, all those guys were big names in the mid to late 90s was my time.”
Is it fair to compare what was harder between your wins and Richard Petty’s wins?
“It’s not my job to compare or tell you whether or not what I did was harder or easier, that’s not my job. There’s other people out there that can argue that fact that have seen Richard Petty race races back at the Fairgrounds when he ran 50 lappers and it was a Cup race. There were 16 cars in the field. It’s not for me to argue, I don’t care. Again, what I said from the beginning of all this is it’s not a comparison to Richard Petty’s 200 wins, it is not. It is my own and an accomplishment for myself that should stand alone separate from Richard. Hell, I could say right now that I’m the winningest driver on pavement in NASCAR ever in the top-three series because Richard doesn’t have 200 pavement wins, right. So booyah (laugher), again self-promotion.”
BEN BESHORE, crew chief, No. 18 Extreme Concepts iK9 Toyota Supra, Joe Gibbs Racing
What changes did you make from stage two to stage three with the race car?
“We made minor adjustments at that stage, but I think what we were fighting mostly was at the start of the race we were on the qualifying tires or scuffs and for the majority of segment two, we pitted five or seven laps before the stage break, again on scuff tires there and that was the first time we were on sticker tires for the length of a run. For some reason our car just did not handle well all weekend on scuff tires. Sticker tires were what our car wanted and it fit the handling characteristics of the chassis setup there and kind of gave Kyle (Busch) was he was looking for.”
What is it like to be Kyle Busch’s crew chief at this point in his career?
“It’s obviously high expectations – anything less than wins is a pretty big disappointment to be honest with you. Kyle (Busch) expects to go out there and just stomp everybody to be blunt about it. We have to be on our game and give him a car capable of doing that and not make any mistakes and not letting the team beat itself and just let Kyle go out there and do what he’s best at.”
Are you hoping to be the crew chief that helps him go for number 200?
“The 200 number, I don’t care about it, but I’m sure he does. Getting him to 100 Xfinity wins is what we care about at the Joe Gibbs Xfinity shop. We’re just trying to give him fast cars every week and try to take advantage of the opportunities that we have.”
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