Kyle Busch dominates Phoenix as Championship 4 is set
Kyle Busch dominated in the desert for his 10th win at Phoenix International Raceway.
Busch started the Ticket Galaxy 200 from the pole and led 190 laps before earning his 86th Xfinity Series victory.
“Thank you, way to close out the year,” Busch told the No. 18 team and crew chief Chris Gale.
Austin Dillon finished second followed by Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Justin Allgaier and Ryan Reed. Ty Dillon, Blake Koch, Brad Keselowski and Erik Jones rounded out the top 10.
“It was a tough night – tougher than we wanted it to be obviously, but we made it,” Jones said. "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 honestly my fault, so brought that on myself – need to get better for Homestead, so the Hisense Camry was fast, you know? You pop us down in second there on that restart – I think we run second. That’s just really tough here – traffic when you get back. Overall we just need to execute or I need to execute a little bit better at Homestead and hopefully have a flawless day and finish as well as we can.”
The final four
Based on finishing positions, Suarez, Jones and Allgaier transferred to the Champion’s 4 Round at Homestead-Miami Speedway to decide the Xfinity Series title. Elliott Sadler, who finished 13th, was the fourth driver in on points but NASCAR held the No. 1 Chevy following the race after two loose lug nuts were discovered on the car.
Thirty minutes after the event ended, NASCAR cleared Sadler’s car allowing him to advance to the final four.
The Ticket Galaxy 200 was slowed by six cautions. On Lap 49, the first yellow flew for debris. Tucson native Alex Bowman wrecked in Turn 3 on Lap 54 after the valve stem broke on his right front tire. He finished 38th.
The third caution was triggered by former series champion Jeff Green after he melted a bead on the right front tire of the No. 99.
As the leaders came to pit, Erik Jones, who was running second, slid through his stall and then killed his engine as he exited. Jones restarted 18th and had to battle his way through the field to score his 19th top-10 finish in 2016.
Chaser Brendan Gaughan watched his title hopes go up in flames after he slammed into the Turn 1 wall after blowing a right front tire on Lap 137. Gaughan, who was running 20th at the time, ignited the fifth caution. The driver of the No. 62 Chevy was scored 35th.
“I had about 40-seconds to think about how much that was going to hurt,” Gaughan said. “I thought I was in Bizarro world. We didn’t want to be the caution, we didn’t want to hit that hard.”
Emotional Darrell Wallace Jr. gets knocked out of the Chase
The race returned to green on Lap 147 but coming out of Turn 4, Koch came down into fellow Chaser Bubba Wallace and sent the No. 6 Leidos Ford into the SAFER barrier on the front stretch, just past the start-finish line. For Wallace, it was an emotional defeat, particularly after losing his grandmother earlier in the week.
“My grandmother was giving me the ride of my life,” said Wallace, who put his grandmother’s name over his driver’s door. “That was the most fun I have had all year. Just circumstances took us out. It is just hard. Thanks granny, I love you. We will go on to Homestead and let her ride again.”
Corey LaJoie, Garrett Smithley, Jeremy Clements and Alex Labbe, who was making his series debut, were all collected in the wreck. NASCAR red-flagged the race for 10:34 to clean the track.
Busch led the field to green on Lap 154, but Allgaier moved to the point on the restart and led one lap. Busch powered pass the No. 7 Chevy on Lap 155 and extended his advantage over the field by 6.115-seconds at the finish line.
“These guys deserve to have all the fun,” Busch said of the 18 team. “It’s cool to be here in Victory Lane tonight. I can’t say enough about Chris Gale and these guys — everyone at Joe Gibbs Racing. They continue to impress. They’ve done a great job. We’ve got two cars going for the championship next week with Daniel and Erik.
“As far as our race goes, it was kind of uneventful. Justin got a really good restart on me. He got to my outside. I didn’t want to press the issue there, get loose under him. I didn’t want to do anything stupid there so I let him go and tried to regroup and re-attack. He closed the door on me a little bit too soon in (turn) 1 there, but great race for us and this Camry. I was so pumped to bring it home for all these guys and go out on top in my last Xfinity Series race of the year. Now, on to bigger and better things.”
NASCAR Xfinity Chase is wide open entering Phoenix
Loose lug nuts will cost Sadler his crew chief for championship finale