Kyle Busch led every lap of the Bashas’ Supermarkets 200 race at Phoenix International Raceway leading most of the race easily with his only threat being Carl Edwards between laps 180 and 190. Busch is the first man to lead every lap of a race since Dale Earnhardt Jr. led 100 laps at Daytona in 2003 and is also in line to win a clean sweep at Phoenix if he wins Sunday’s Sprint Cup Series race, a feat that only he has achieved before, last year at Bristol.
The win also gives him his seventh sweep of wins in both the Camping World Truck Series and Nationwide Series races at the same meeting and brings his total of Nationwide Series wins to forty-four, just four short of record holder, Mark Martin.
At the start of the race Busch just drove away from Carl Edwards and the rest of the field. Edwards had his car set up for long runs and sure enough after a reasonable distance he could reduce the gap to the leader but never seemed to be able to close it. After each of the three caution periods – the first for debris on the track, the second and third for Brad Keselowski and then Trevor Bayne going into the wall following blow-outs – Busch was first off pit road and ran away from the field except for the last restart when Edwards stayed closer to the #18 Interstate Batteries Toyota and then on lap 180 started challenging. In fact for a few brief seconds Edwards’ Ford Mustang was ahead but by the time they crossed the start-finish line Busch was back in the lead.
The only other possible threats to Busch’s victory came in the closing two laps of the race when Shelby Howard was driving round the apron at a ridiculously slow pace – Busch asked that he move over on to the grass – and then on the white flag lap Brian Scott spun but NASCAR wisely resisted throwing the caution flag and let the race run its course.
Busch was lapping many cars at will and for most of the race just fifteen cars were on the lead lap. At the finish that number had reduced to twelve.
After the race Edwards said that Busch had simply done a very good job of driving his race car. Edwards felt he owed Busch a “tap” from last year but decided it was too early in the season to pull a revenge move and so raced cleanly, a fact Busch acknowledged by pointing towards his adversary and bowing before he drove in to victory lane.
Third place finisher, Kevin Harvick, offered no excuses, saying, “We got our butts whipped today, to be honest with you.” He was also keen to emphasise that any failings were from himself and not his crew who did their best to provide him with a competitive car.
The truth is, though, that Busch was his imperious self on the day and there was very little that could be done to catch him, let alone beat him although Edwards tried his best. Busch now has his sights firmly set on making it a clean sweep in Sunday’s Sprint Cup race. Edwards has his sights equally firmly set on preventing Busch doing exactly that and starts from pole position with that aim in mind.
Once again a winner was unable to be given any points and of the top six only fifth placed Reed Sorenson, sandwiched between Ryan Newman and Joey Logano, collected the points for his position. Sorenson now leads the points table with 78 points, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. is five points behind and Jason Leffler a further two in arrears. In fourth and fifth places are Danica Patrick and veteran Joe Nemechek, both on 58 points.
The full race result and points table are available on www.nascar.com
Next week sees both the Nationwide Series and Sprint Cup Series racing at Las Vegas.