AVONDALE, Ariz. — Saturday marked yet another win for Kyle Busch, both in the NASCAR XFINITY Series and at Phoenix Int’l Raceway, as he dominated the desert oval to win the Ticket Galaxy 200.
Busch started from the pole and faced little challenge frm anyone, leading 190 of the race’s 200 laps en route to his 86th career series win, 10th of the season and 10th in XFINITY competition at Phoenix.
The result gives the No. 18 Toyota an 11-point lead over the No. 22 Team Penske Ford in the race for the owner’s championship, as Joe Gibbs Racing vies for its fifth career owner’s title and first since 2012.
Saturday was also Busch’s last race with crew chief Chris Gayle, who will move up to the Cup level in 2017 with Erik Jones at Furniture Row Racing.
“Chris Gayle and all these guys do such a great job each and every week preparing these things,” said Busch. “This NOS Energy Drink Camry was awesome tonight. I just can’t say enough. We adjusted on it on some pit stops and just tried to make it a little better there, but this Toyota Camry was really, really fast, so we didn’t have to do much to it.”
While Busch lost the lead off the initial start to teammate Erik Jones, he resumed the top spot by the fourth circuit and only gave up that position due to other teams’ pit strategy the remainder of the distance.
Fellow Cup regulars Austin Dillon and Ricky Stenhouse Jr., making his first XFINITY Series start since 2013, finished second and third.
Behind Busch, the championship contenders were set, as Daniel Suarez, Elliott Sadler, Erik Jones and Justin Allgaier secured Chase berths on points for next Saturday’s season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
As the race neared its conclusion, drama unfolded for Allgaier, who was running on fumes in the closing moments but held on to secure the fourth and final points position, four markers ahead of near-Cinderella story Blake Koch.
The JR Motorsports driver finished fourth in the race, highest among the series regulars.
“When he (crew chief Jason Burdett) said save (fuel), I was kind of a little bit disappointed,” Allgaier said. “I was like, ‘Man, I am staying (up front).’ He said ‘No, you don’t understand, I need you to save a lot.'”
“So we were a little bit shorter on fuel than we’d like to be. Ultimately we had to give up second and third, but still a solid night. We’ve got a shot at the championship and that’s all we can ask for.”
Suarez’s top-five effort was enough to leave the NASCAR Next alumni and former NASCAR PEAK Mexico Series champion atop the Chase standings and with a shot at his first NASCAR national series title.
“One day I had a dream about this, but I didn’t know how fast it was going to come,” Suarez said of the opportunity to contend for an XFINITY championship. “The only thing I know is I’ve been working super hard to make it happen. Right now we’re in the position to do it. I’m very grateful to be in this position.”
Jones struggled throughout the race, but came home 10th to move on to Homestead and give JGR two shots at their first XFINITY driver’s title since 2009 with Busch.
“It was a tough night, tougher than we wanted it to be, obviously,” Jones said. “We made it, though, and that’s what we needed to do. We did what we needed to do to advance. Wish we could have had a little bit more solid of a night, but a lot of it was my fault. Brought that on myself. I need to get better for Homestead.”