How the TicketGuardian 500 played out Sunday at ISM Raceway in Avondale, Ariz.:
WINNER: Kyle Busch passed Ryan Blaney with 15 laps to go then held off Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Martin Truex Jr. in the closing laps to score his first victory of 2019.
It was Busch’s 52nd victory in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series and his 199th overall in NASCAR’s top three series. Busch won the Xfnity Series race on Saturday.
“Man, that makes last week feel so much stupider (after Busch lost the chance at a sweep at his hometown of Las Vegas when he was penalized for speeding on pit road). I wish we could have swept last week too. That would have been pretty awesome to start this season with two sweeps in a row,” said Busch, who led a race-high 177 of 312 laps on Sunday.
Blaney finished third, followed by Aric Almirola and Denny Hamlin. Kyle Larson came home sixth with Kurt Busch, Jimmie Johnson, Kevin Harvick and last week’s winner Joey Logano rounding out the top 10.
For Busch it was his second consecutive Cup Series win at Phoenix after winning last year’s playoff race to vault him into the finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Busch will have a chance to score win No. 200 next weekend at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif., as he will race in both the Cup and Xfinity races. Only Hall of Famer and seven-time champion Richard Petty has amassed 200 wins, but Petty’s all came in NASCAR’s premier series.
“It’s not for me to worry about. It’s for everyone else to discuss and argue about and debate,” the 2015 Cup Series champion said about approaching 200 wins.
CAUTIONS 9 AND 10: Ryan Preece brought out back-to-back cautions. On caution No. 9, Preece’s No. 47 JTG Daugherty Racing Chevrolet spun and hit the inside retaining wall, bringing out the yellow. Preece then spun again on the subsequent restart.
YOU SPIN ME ROUND: Chase Elliott, who had been complaining about a vibration and a loose wheel, went for a spin on lap 219 but avoided hitting the wall. The Hendrick Motorsports driver told his No. 9 team over the radio: “Felt like it was about to come off. … Glad it didn’t do that about 10 feet sooner — we would have been wrecked,” he says.
BOWMAN PART II: For the second time Sunday, Alex Bowman slams into the wall between Turn 2 and Turn 3 after his right front tire goes down. This time, the No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports team could not fix the No. 88 on pit road, and Bowman was forced to take his car to the garage.
“We were just too tight and these tires are pretty finicky, when you are tight like that it creates a lot of heat and it’s easy to pop one,” Bowman said after he climbed out of his car.
TEAMMATE TROUBLES: Michael McDowell was rear-ended by Front Row Motorsports teammate David Ragan on lap 160. McDowell got extremely loose in Turn 2 and tried to check up entering Turn 3, but Ragan could not slow down enough to avoid contact and sent the No. 34 Ford into the wall. McDowell exited his car, ending his race.
STAGE 2: Kyle Busch won the second segment for his second stage win of the season and his second playoff point. Clint Bowyer took second, followed by Harvick, Truex and Hamlin. Ryan Newman, Johnson, Logano, Elliott and Kurt Busch rounded out the top 10.
WALL BANGER: Bowman slams into the wall in Turn 2 with three laps remaining in the second stage with a cut tire. The second stage finished under caution. Bowman restarted the final stage one lap down.
STAGE 1: Pole winner Blaney captured the opening stage for his second stage-win of the year and his second playoff point. Almirola came home second, followed by Logano, Bowman and Kyle Busch. Larson finished sixth, and Austin Dillon, William Byron, Elliott and Harvick rounded out the top 10.
KESELOWSKI SWAYS: The Team Penske driver hit the wall on lap 63, telling his team over the radio: “Blew a tire. Something broke. Something broke big.” Keselowski, who won two weeks ago at Atlanta, was able to drive his car to pit road but was told by crew chief Paul Wolfe that his sway bar was broken.
Keselowski managed to finish the stage as the first car one lap down and got the free pass. NASCAR told Keselowski’s team that they can fix the sway bar in the No. 2 Ford in his pit stall, but the repair time spent on pit road left him one lap down again.
FIRST YELLOW: Erik Jones brought out the first caution when he spun out after his right rear tire blew on lap 38. The No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing team was forced to make extensive repairs on the Toyota, and Jones fell three laps down.
GREEN FLAG: Elliott jumped in front of pole winner Blaney to lead the opening lap, but NASCAR ruled that Elliott jumped the start — a car cannot pass the leader on the initial start ahead of the start-finish line — and penalized the Hendrick Motorsports driver with a pit-road pass-thru penalty. Elliott was able to remain on the lead lap but was extremely deep in the field.
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