Race Winner: Kyle Busch of Joe Gibbs Racing (Toyota)
Stage 1 Winner: Ryan Blaney of Team Penske (Ford)
Stage 2 Winner: Kyle Busch of Joe Gibbs Racing (Toyota)
Stage 1 Recap (Laps 1-75):
● Started fourth and finished fifth.
● Kyle Busch started the TicketGuardian 500k from fourth place and quickly set to work trying to get to the lead. He was in second place by lap two and took the lead for the first time on lap 36. He reported that the car was pretty good.
● Caution waved for the first time on lap 39 for the No. 20 car. Busch brought the No. 18 Skittles Toyota to pit road for four tires and fuel. Three drivers beat him off pit road after taking only two tires. Green-flag racing resumed on lap 44 with Busch in fourth place. Two laps later he was back in the lead.
● Caution waved for the second time on lap 63. The team elected to pit for four tires and be able to stay out to start Stage 2. A number of cars stayed out during the caution, which resulted in Busch restarting the race in 12th place on lap 70. He raced his way to fifth place with three laps remaining in Stage 1.
Stage 2 Recap (Laps 76-150):
● Started first and finished first.
● The Las Vegas native stayed out during the stage break, which placed him in the lead for the restart. He quietly logged laps during the next several circuits around the 1-mile oval.
● As Stage 2 drew to a close Busch reported that the car had lost a little bit of grip but overall was handling well.
● Caution was displayed on lap 148, with just two laps remaining in the stage, and it concluded under caution with Busch in first place.
● Busch made a stop for four tires and fuel and returned to the track with the lead to start the third and final stage.
Stage 3 Recap (Laps 151-312):
● Started first and finished first.
● The 2015 NASCAR Cup Series champion picked up where he left off in Stage 2, jumping out to a comfortable lead to kick off Stage 3.
● Caution was displayed on lap 193. Busch reported that the car was a little tight through the center of the turns. The team used the break as an opportunity to make a slight air-pressure adjustment, change four tires and add fuel. A handful of teams elected to take only two tires. That resulted in Busch restarting the race in second place.
● Green-flag racing resumed on lap 200, and Busch jumped to the lead one lap later.
● Caution was displayed on lap 218. The team elected to pit, taking four tires and fuel. A number of teams took two tires, which resulted in Busch restarting the race in eighth place.
● Green-flag racing resumed on lap 225. Busch picked up three spots on the restart before another yellow. He then restarted fifth on lap 232.
● Busch was in fourth place one lap later when caution was once again displayed for another accident. Green-flag racing resumed on lap 238.
● He moved into second behind race leader Ryan Blaney on lap 257 and stalked him for the next 39 laps.
● Busch got around Blaney on lap 296 and held on for the victory, crossing the finish line 1.259 seconds ahead of Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Martin Truex Jr.
● This was Busch’s 52nd career NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series victory, his third overall and second in a row in 27 career starts at Phoenix.
● It also was his 199th career victory across NASCAR’s top three touring series – Cup Series, NASCAR Xfinity Series and Gander Outdoors Truck Series.
● Busch won Saturday’s Xfinity Series race for the second weekend in a row, and his win Sunday gave him 12 two-victory weekends in his career.
● With this win, Busch has now won at least Cup Series race for 15 consecutive seasons.
● Busch led six times for 177 laps.
Kyle Busch, driver of the No. 18 Skittles Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing:
“Just an awesome day for us here at ISM Raceway, to come out here and celebrate with another win – back-to-back races here. I’d love to be able to come back and do it again next time. It was really good. This Skittles Camry was awesome today. The guys did a great job – Adam (Stevens, crew chief) and the boys. All through practice, we worked on this thing each and every time and never gave up on it. Just kept trying to fine-tune it and make it better and better each and every time. We knew the 12 (Ryan Blaney) was really, really fast. He was probably the best car here this weekend. I don’t know if he just got too tight in that long run. That’s what it looked like all of us were doing. Just seemed like I could get through there a little bit better. I tried to search around and find something that could help me to get me going a little bit better and get around to his outside and get the lead. These Skittles guys are the best in the business. I’ve got the best guys on pit road. I’ve got the best guys in the garage and the best crew chief out there. I think all those combinations go together with a pretty good driver, and we can go out there and get the job done. Now we’ve just got to keep doing that. The Skittles Camry was awesome. Certainly want to give thanks to the fans and everybody’s support here at ISM Raceway and coming out here and enjoying some NASCAR action on this beautiful Sunday.
(Regarding 199 career wins across NASCAR’s top-three touring series:) “It’s not for me to worry about. It’s for everybody else to discuss and talk about and argue over and debate. But for myself and the career that I’ve had, I’ve been fortunate to be with a lot of great people, a lot of great sponsors, those that stick around me – like Joe Gibbs, M&M’S, Skittles, Snickers, Interstate Batteries – who have always been behind me, is what it’s all about for me. To work with my guys, take them to victory lane, is what it’s all about.”
Next Up: The next event on the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series schedule is the Auto Club 400 on Sunday, March 17 at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California. The race starts at 3:30 p.m. EDT with live coverage provided by FOX.