Kyle Busch dominated the race and Sam Hornish Jr. overcame an ill-handling car to gut out a top-five finish to ensure the NASCAR Nationwide Series championship battle will go down to the final race of the season.
Saturday’s ServiceMaster 200 at Phoenix Int’l Raceway started with a quick caution flag on lap two, but from there the race went green until lap 105 with Busch setting the pace.
Busch powered past Justin Allgaier to take the lead on the final restart with 40 laps to go and never looked back. Busch led 168 of the 200 laps and drove his No. 54 Monster Energy Toyota to his 12th Nationwide Series victory of the season.
Austin Dillon and Justin Allgaier battled for second with the pair making contact on the white-flag lap. Allgaier prevailed, but the drivers had words after the checkered flag.
Celebrating his sixth victory at Phoenix Int’l Raceway, Busch thanked his Joe Gibbs Racing team, “It was a dominant performance by these guys. They do a good job for me. It makes my job look a little easier.”
The car owner’s championship took a dramatic turn when Brian Scott got into Brad Keselowski and sent him into the outside wall. Keselwoski returned to the track, but the Penske Racing No. 22 team lost ground to Busch and the No. 54 JGR crew.
“I hate it that they had trouble like that when you are both racing really well, potentially racing for a win there,” Busch said. Last week we had bad luck, wore out a rear tire and got into the fence, the guys truned it around and got us back out there to try to salvage what we could, and that is what they did today. You go into next week, you push hard, you do the best you can and try to come out of there with as many points as you can and you see where it all tallies up at the end.”
The drivers points battle looked like it would widen for much of the day with Hornish struggling throughout the first half of the race, while Dillon ran solidly in the top five. Hornish was running in 13th when crew chief Greg Irwin gambled and made the call to keep him out while the leaders pitted on lap 132.
Multiple ensuing cautions helped Hornish stay up front and he was able to hang on for a fifth-place finish. Dillon leads Hornish by eight points heading into next weekend’s season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
“Eight points is a little more than what I wanted to overcome next week,” said Hornish Jr. . “It’s been a hard-fought weekend for us.”
While Dillon finished third, Regan Smith and Hornish completed the top five.