Kyle Busch is finally back in victory lane in a NASCAR Nationwide Series car.
Busch returned to victory lane in his second race back with Joe Gibbs Racing, after a failed effort with his self-owned Kyle Busch Motorsports last season. It’s Busch’s third win from the pole at the Phoenix International Speedway, and his 52nd Nationwide Series win in 245 career races.
Brad Keselowski stayed out under the final caution and held in to finish second for the second consecutive year. Justin Allgaier finished third as he ran inside of the top five throughout the day. Allgaier is now tied for the points lead with Sam Hornish Jr., who finished seventh after an eventful day.
Hornish was involved in a wreck on the second lap when Johnanna Long spun out, as Jamie Dick, Travis Pastrana and Alex Bowman were each involved in the incident. After receiving heavy damage to the front end of his No. 12 machine, Hornish came back and forth into pit road as his Penske Racing crew worked as hard as they could to fix the car. He also spun out on lap 109, which could’ve been the end of his day, but was able to battle his beaten car to a top-10 finish.
The Dollar General 200 Fueled By Amerigas was dominated by Joe Gibbs Racing throughout the day. Besides Busch leading nearly three-quarters of the event, his teammates, Matt Kenseth and Brian Vickers, combined to lead an additional 48 laps.
However, Kenseth experienced issues late in the going, as did Vickers, when he spun out and hit Mike Harmon with 28 laps to go in the race. The fourth Joe Gibbs Racing car, Elliott Sadler, had handling trouble throughout the race. Sadler was able to fight the handling issues and earned his first top-five finish for the team.
Tires played an important role throughout the race. Besides having the new track surface and configuration at Phoenix, NASCAR brought along some new Goodyear Eagle tires this weekend. The new combination was a challenge for drivers. Though the tires didn’t lose too much time during long green flag runs, they seemed to wear out without much warning.
Kenseth felt like he had tire trouble late in the race, and Kevin Harvick’s car slammed into the wall exiting turn two when he blew a right front tire while he was racing in the top-five.
Overall, the race went rather well. Brian Scott earned a top-10 in his new Richard Childress Racing ride. Jimmie Johnson, who made his first NASCAR Nationwide Series start in quite some time, finished 12th after struggling throughout the day. Mike Bliss had an impressive run in his No. 19 Toyota, finishing in the 14th position. Blake Koch, who start-and-parked at Daytona last weekend, ended the day as the last car on the lead lap in 16th.
It may be a warning sign that only 16 cars finished on the lead lap at Phoenix. However, it’s nothing to worry about, considering there were some races where only 10 cars finished on the lead lap last season.
The competition appears to be strengthening in the NASCAR Nationwide Series. Kyle Busch’s dominance has continued, and should do so for the remaining 22 or so races that he’ll be running this year.
Joseph Wolkin can be followed on Twitter at @JosephNASCAR.