Busch has won the last three XFINITY races, with Chase Elliott's win at Daytona serving as the only contest that has eluded Busch
Busch and his No. 18 NOS Energy Drink Toyota led 175 of the race's 200 laps at the 1.022-mile track, first taking the lead on Lap 6. He briefly lost the lead twice: first to Ty Dillon for 11 laps after a caution on Lap 101, and once more when he pitted and Brad Keselowski took the lead on Lap 178 for nine laps.
Erik Jones, the 21 means 21 Pole Award winner, finished second, and XFINITY Series points leader Daniel Suarez finished third.
All three drivers are with Joe Gibbs Racing.
Justin Allgaier finished fourth, and Elliott rounded out the top five.
Jones' pole award was his first of the season, and helped him lead the first five laps of the race before his teammate Busch made his move to the front.
The race featured three cautions and four different leaders.
The series heads to Auto Club Speedway for the NASCAR XFINITY Series 300 on Sat., March 19th at 4 p.m. ET (FS1).
KYLE BUSCH, No. 18 NOS Energy Drink Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing
Finishing Position: 1st
What is it about Phoenix that you’ve been so successful in the XFINITY Series?
“I don’t know. It’s just a knack for this place I guess. You know, we’ve been off a little bit on the Cup side for years but here we seem to be a lot better. Last year we improved a lot. But, the XFINITY program it’s always been. I’m not sure why. I can’t say enough about Chris Gayle (crew chief) and everyone at Joe Gibbs Racing. Obviously, did a great job for me giving me the car that I needed and prepared everything for today’s race. We didn’t sit on the pole but our teammates did. They were obviously really fast and they made me run hard all day long. I mean, there was nothing left in this car. It’s all used up. Instead of having to go back to the shop and freshen her a little bit they’re going to have to rebuild it. NOS Energy Drink, appreciate their support, and JGR engines, Toyota, TRD (Toyota Racing Development), XFINITY. It’s fun to come here and participate. I learn a lot and I do that for a reason in order to try and make myself better on Sundays and hopefully it helps."
What did you take away from the race today that can help you tomorrow?
“Yeah, the tire – this tire is a lot different than what last year’s tire was so there’s a lot of different characteristics and things that are happening throughout a run. To toss this car around and to run it as hard as I had to run it all day I really felt the tire fall off that you got so that’s going to be interesting for tomorrow especially with less downforce and more horsepower on the Cup cars. It’s going to be a fun day. It’s going to be a lot of slipping and sliding and trying to figure out what groove your car will work in. Trying to find some speed if those guys in front of you hold you up. We were able to do some of that today. Lap cars were quite interesting at moments but we were able to make it all work. Again, I can’t say enough about NOS Energy Drink and Chris Gayle and all of these guys so thanks to them."
Can you talk about being able to win today at Phoenix?
“Yeah, it certainly never does get old but I know there was a lot of good things that had come of this weekend and just having the opportunity to work with Chris Gayle (crew chief) and of course to get a chance to be out there on the race track with this tire than what we’ve run here the past couple of times, which is the same tire that we’re going to run tomorrow on the Cup side. Lots of things to learn and a good day obviously being able to have a good race car and run upfront. We may not have qualified on the pole, but we did have a good race car. Real proud of the effort by Chris and everybody on this NOS Energy Drink team. The guys did a great job. Our Toyota was fast. Not much to complain about really besides my teammates probably ran me too hard and gave me a fit there upfront. It may not have seemed like it or looked like it but I had to run as hard as I could all day long so there was no break in that car. It was just full out loud all of the time."
Is it fair to say that the decisive moment of the race was the last pit stop and you gained time over Erik Jones?
“Yeah, I think that was a moment in the race that you can either gain a lot or lose a lot in a very short period of time. We had a really good short run car I guess because I could kind of get out for a little ways and then in that long, long run that we had there – what was that 80 laps or so? And, a couple moves that I had to make in order to get past some of the lap cars that were running side-by-side I just burnt my front tires up and I couldn’t ever get them back underneath me and (Erik) Jones had been pressuring me for 10 laps there and finally he was close. He was probably about another lap or two from going by me and we needed to pit. I just wore my stuff out too much. Fortunately it was time to hit pit road anyways and when I did I waved real late just to make sure that he knew I was coming and wouldn’t run me over and it was soon enough where he made his way to pit road as well behind me. And, with the way that everything happened on pit road I’m not sure how his stop was compared to ours or anything like that but obviously we got a bit of a gap after the stop and I just ran as hard as I could to make sure that I maintain that gap and didn’t let him close on me in case he had another good 20 lap run car or whatever and gain on me. So, all in all it was a fun race I thought. It was pretty interesting and I enjoyed NASCAR letting us go long like that because it gives an opportunity to see some of that action that plays back and forth a little bit. Having green flag stops, that’s something that I don’t think that these guys get a whole lot of and it’s nice to see that Erik Jones was as successful as he was at it."
What is it like when you don’t win these races that everyone just expects you to win?
“Some people say I’m a failure for even joining in this field so I get plenty of criticism, it doesn’t matter how it comes. Whether I’m winning or losing or whether I’m participating. So, for me I don’t really pay attention to any of it. I do what I need to do to help support my team, the guys at Joe Gibbs Racing, my crew chief Chris Gayle and we work as hard as we can to be successful and whether we are or aren’t if we got beat by Erik Jones then I’d go up to him and shake his hand and tell him way to go. Obviously he did a really good job and it’s no different than what Chris said, there was times when I was coming up through the ranks when I was an XFINITY Series driver that I was beating Mark Martin or I was beating Kevin Harvick or I was beating those Cup Series guys and I would get a lot of accolades for that and we’re going to see some of that stuff I’m sure this year. I’m sure I’m going to get beat and whether it’s by Erik Jones or Ty Dillon a couple of years ago at the Brickyard or Daniel Suarez it’s certainly going to be a big day for those guys."
Do you sense any vibe at Joe Gibbs Racing with such success in qualifying in both series and now your win today?
“Yeah, the XFINITY shop is different than the Cup shop but as far as the XFINITY shop I think it shows a lot of comradery between the guys – crew chiefs in general – and the team guys as well. I think that everyone is on a high right now and they feel good about what they’re doing, the cars they’re building and the preparation and the things that they’re doing. So, as long as all of that continues and we don’t falter we’ll continue to shine and look good. I think it’s just high marks for everybody right now at the XFINITY shop and hopefully the Cup race goes the same way. We’ll see and if not then hopefully we all have a good day and maybe one of us can have a win."
|12||6||Darrell Wallace Jr||9||199||0||Running|
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|29||78||B J McLeod||35||194||0||Running|