AVONDALE, Ariz. – It’s not proven that three is a charm, but Kyle Busch and Joe Gibbs Racing were definitely charmed in Saturday’s Axalta 200 at Phoenix Int’l Raceway.
Busch sped to his third consecutive NASCAR XFINITY Series victory in a dominant performance that saw the Joe Gibbs Racing driver lead a JGR 1-2-3 finish with Erik Jones and Daniel Suarez in tow. It’s been a wild weekend for Busch, who also anchored a 1-2-3 for JGR in Sprint Cup qualifying on Friday.
Busch led a race-high 175 of 200 laps en route to his 79th career XFINITY triumph. It wasn’t without challenges, though. While Jones led only five laps, he hounded Busch on several occasions throughout the afternoon. Only two drivers led a lap other than Busch and Jones: Ty Dillon, who used early pit strategy to assume the lead – an advantage he held for 11 circuits before ending up sixth – and Brad Keselowski, who stayed out on old tires and led nine laps.
Jones gave Busch a battle before the final green-flag stop, but clearly not one he couldn’t win. Busch saw a sizable advantage evaporate as Jones ran him down. Once the two leaders pitted, though, Jones never got any closer.
“We had a really good short run car but when we had a long run for 80 laps or so, there were a couple moves I had to make through traffic that burned up my right-front tire,” Busch said. “(Jones) was close … with the way everything happened on pit road, we obviously got a bit of a gap and I was able to push it to the finish.
“All in all it was a good race, I thought, and I was glad NASCAR let it go green that long.”
As has often been the theme in both Sprint Cup and XFINITY this season, no one had anything for JGR’s Toyotas – which also started 1-2-3.
The closest challengers were JR Motorsports’ Chevrolets, which rounded out the top five with Justin Allgaier in fourth and Chase Elliott fifth.
Ty and Austin Dillon were sixth and seventh, with JRM’s Elliott Sadler, Keselowski and Brennan Poole completing the top 10.