Busch claims third straight at PIR
By JOHN MARSHALL
AP Sports Writer
AVONDALE, Ariz. — Kyle Busch didn’t mind the rain that ended the race early.
He would have been fine with continuing, though — his car was that good.
Busch became the first driver to win three straight NASCAR Nationwide races at Phoenix International Raceway, dominating his way through a rain-shortened race Saturday.
“We’ve been very dominant here in the past and led a lot of laps today,” Busch said. “I felt like we could have won it if it was rain-shortened or whether we went the whole distance.”
Busch took an early lead and was still out front when the race was halted with 32 laps left in the 200-mile race around Phoenix’s odd-shaped mile oval. After a delay of more than two hours, the race was called, giving Busch his series-record 64th Nationwide victory.
Busch led 155 laps for his 10th overall victory — seven in Nationwide — at PIR and the fourth straight Nationwide win for Joe Gibbs Racing at the track. It also was the fourth straight win at PIR for Busch’s crew chief Adam Stevens, who was at the helm when Joey Logano won for JGR in the 2012 fall race.
Kevin Harvick finished second and pole sitter Brad Keselowski was third, followed by Kyle Larson and Matt Kenseth.
“Kyle had the best car today; we probably finished where we should have,” Harvick said. “You never know and you always want to finish it out, but all in all it was a good start.”
Busch swept the two Nationwide races at Phoenix in 2013, overcoming a pit-road speeding penalty to end a 24-race winless streak in the series in the spring and leading 169 laps in the fall for his 12th Nationwide victory of the season.
He had the dominant car at PIR on Saturday, moving into the lead on the sixth lap after starting third. Busch led 83 laps after that, retook the top spot on a restart after a pit stop midway through and stayed there another with about 60 laps left.
“Another dominant day at Phoenix,” Busch said. “Those days don’t come around that often, so you try to enjoy them when you can.”
Rain put a slight damper on Busch’s run to the checkers and certainly delayed it.
PIR dodged the heavy downpours that spread across the Phoenix area for most of the day, but rain sent the fans scrambling and halted the race with 32 laps left.
NASCAR sent out the blowers in an effort to get the track dry, but another round of storms moved across the area, soaking the track and ending the race.
“I just had my hands full, for whatever reason, and felt kind of relieved to get it over with here,” said Keselowski, who will start from the pole for Sunday’s Sprint Cup race without crew chief Paul Wolfe, who left the team for the birth of his first child.
“Third was probably the best I have done, I was holding on pretty good there.”
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