By Reid Spencer, NASCAR Wire Service
AVONDALE, Ariz. – Kyle Busch calls it a “knack.”
His rivals might refer to the continuing saga of Kyle Busch at Phoenix International Raceway as absolute dominance.
But the record books will show Saturday’s result in the Axalta Faster. Tougher. Brighter. 200 as yet another NASCAR XFINITY Series victory for the Busch juggernaut.
Leading 175 of 200 laps at the one-mile race track, Busch notched his ninth victory in 20 starts at PIR. That’s the highest total number of wins by a single driver at an active XFINITY Series venue. (Mark Martin holds the all-time single track record with 11 victories at Rockingham.)
In winning for the third-straight time this season and the 79th time in his career—extending his own series record—Busch has now led 493 of a possible 563 laps in his three 2016 starts.
“It’s just a knack for this place, I guess,” Busch said. “We’ve been off a little bit on the (Sprint) Cup side for years, but this year we seem to be a lot better, and last year we improved a lot. But the XFINITY program has always been good.”
In fact, it was good for the entire Joe Gibbs Racing organization, which started 1-2-3, with pole winner Erik Jones and Daniel Suárez leading Busch in qualifying, and finished 1-2-3, with Jones and Suárez trailing Busch to the finish line by 2.285 and 9.980 seconds, respectively.
Busch, Suárez and Jones also ran 1-2-3 in that order a week earlier at Las Vegas, a further indication of just how much JGR has gapped the competition.
Justin Allgaier was a distant fourth in Saturday’s race, more than 14 seconds behind the winner.
“I can’t say enough about (crew chief) Chris Gayle and everyone at Joe Gibbs Racing,” Busch said. “Obviously, (they) 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 up a little bit, they’re going to have to rebuild it.”
The race ran without caution for the final 99 laps, and on Lap 172, Jones caught Busch in traffic and pulled alongside. But Busch regained control of the top spot and led Jones to pit road for a two-tire green-flag stop on Lap 177.
That stop proved crucial, with Busch gaining more than three seconds in the exchange.
“I knew we were in a little bit of trouble when he rolled by, right when we were just trying to leave the box,” Jones said. “I didn’t know how much time that was going to equal to, but by the time we got up to speed, he was four or five seconds ahead. It was too much to run back down in that amount of time.”
Suárez expanded his series lead to eight points over Elliott Sadler, who finished eighth. Chase Elliott followed JR Motorsports teammate Allgaier in fifth, with the Dillon brothers, Ty and Austin, running sixth and seventh.
Brad Keselowski and Brennan Poole completed the top 10. With three victories to its credit, the No. 18 JGR Camry leads the owners’ standings by seven points over the No. 88 JR Motorsports all-star car driven by Elliott on Saturday.
Note: In post-race inspection, Jones’ No. 20 was cited for rear toe outside of tolerance when measured by the laser inspection station. NASCAR will address possible sanctions at next week’s competition meeting.
NASCAR XFINITY Series Race – Axalta Faster. Tougher. Brighter. 200
1. (3) Kyle Busch(i), Toyota, 200.
2. (1) Erik Jones #, Toyota, 200.
3. (2) Daniel Suárez, Toyota, 200.
4. (10) Justin Allgaier, Chevrolet, 200.
5. (5) Chase Elliott(i), Chevrolet, 200.
6. (4) Ty Dillon, Chevrolet, 200.
7. (6) Austin Dillon(i), Chevrolet, 200.
8. (16) Elliott Sadler, Chevrolet, 200.
9. (7) Brad Keselowski(i), Ford, 200.
10. (17) Brennan Poole #, Chevrolet, 200.
11. (8) Brandon Jones #, Chevrolet, 200.
12. (9) Darrell Wallace Jr., Ford, 199.
13. (11) Brendan Gaughan, Chevrolet, 199.
14. (13) Ryan Reed, Ford, 199.
15. (14) Justin Marks, Chevrolet, 199.
16. (12) Blake Koch, Chevrolet, 199.
17. (15) Jeb Burton, Ford, 199.
18. (26) Dakoda Armstrong, Toyota, 198.
19. (28) Dylan Lupton, Chevrolet, 198.
20. (23) JJ Yeley, Toyota, 198.
21. (24) Ryan Preece #, Chevrolet, 197.
22. (22) David Starr, Toyota, 197.
23. (18) Spencer Gallagher(i), Chevrolet, 196.
24. (19) Ross Chastain, Chevrolet, 196.
25. (25) Ray Black Jr. #, Chevrolet, 196.
26. (27) TJ Bell Jr., Toyota, 196.
27. (21) Ryan Sieg, Chevrolet, 195.
28. (20) Jeremy Clements, Chevrolet, 195.
29. (35) BJ McLeod #, Ford, 194.
30. (38) Harrison Rhodes, Chevrolet, 194.
31. (34) Garrett Smithley #, Chevrolet, 194.
32. (31) Timmy Hill(i), Chevrolet, 193.
33. (36) Joey Gase, Chevrolet, 191.
34. (37) Derrike Cope, Chevrolet, 191.
35. (32) Mario Gosselin, Chevrolet, 190.
36. (33) DJ Kennington, Dodge, 190.
37. (40) Todd Peck, Ford, 188.
38. (39) Mike Harmon, Dodge, 182.
39. (30) Morgan Shepherd, Chevrolet, Overheating, 11.
40. (29) Jeff Green, Toyota, Vibration, 5.
Image: Robert Laberge/NASCAR via Getty Images