Kyle Busch headed into Saturday's Dollar General 200 NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Phoenix International Raceway with the reputation of being the dominator of series racing at PIR. He lived up to that by first claiming the pole for the race and then going on to dominate the 200-lap event, en route to his fifth Nationwide Series win at the track.
"It feels awesome," Busch said in victory lane. "I wish we could've gotten it done with my guys at Kyle Busch Motorsports."
Busch did win Saturday's race from behind the wheel of the No. 54 Toyota, the same No. 54 that raced under the Kyle Busch Motorsports banner a year ago. But Busch's Nationwide efforts have been reunited with Joe Gibbs Racing and the No. 54 is now a JGR Toyota.
In the final rundown, Brad Keselowski finished second for Penske Racing, Justin Allgaier was third in a Turner Scott Motorsports entry, and Trevor Bayne was fourth for Roush Fenway Racing, but a trio of JGR drivers, including Busch, dominated much of the race.
“I thought off of practice that we were gonna have a miserable day, but it was a pleasant surprise we were able to find a little bit of speed and get our car to where we could at least have a respectable day," Keselowski said. "I thought we might even have a little bit more there if we would have caught the right breaks, but we did catch some good breaks to get a second, but we didn’t have anywhere near the speed that the 54 car did."
JGR teammate Brian Vickers started the race on the front row next to Busch, with Matt Kenseth, in another Joe Gibbs Racing entry in third.
The three drivers ran one-two-three for the first 40 laps of the race until Busch overshot his pit stall and got caught speeding on pit road, resulting in 23rd-place restart. As he was working his way back toward the front, teammates Vickers and Kenseth continued to run in the top-two.
"We did the best we needed to do (getting back up through the field). "I put the car in a couple spots that I felt like I should take right then and there -- just to get up towards the front so I didn't get stuck or behind in traffic. The car was phenomenal."
Keselowski crashed the JGR party when he moved into second on a restart after a lap 50 caution, but on lap 81, Busch got by Keselowski to take second. By lap 89, Busch was back in the lead.
Busch maintained his position up front until the yellow flag waved with 50 laps to go. He gave up the lead to head down pit road, along with most of the other cars in the race. But Keselowski, Bayne, Aric Almirola and Sam Hornish Jr. stayed out for track position and restarted in the top-four spots.
Busch moved back to the front to retake the lead for good with 37 laps to go. Meanwhile, Kenseth began to lose positions and Vickers got sandwiched between the No. 6 of Bayne and a lap car. After multiple pit stops for repairs and a NASCAR penalty for pitting too soon, Vickers was sent back to 18th for the restart.
That left Busch, Keselowski, Bayne and Allgaier in the top-four. Busch and Keselowski maintained their positions for the remainder of the race, while Bayne and Allgaier swapped spots, giving Allgaier third and Bayne fourth.
A fourth Joe Gibbs Racing driver, Elliott Sadler, moved into the top-five by the closing laps of the race to finish fifth. Austin Dillon was sixth, and Sam Hornish Jr. finished seventh in a race that saw him get caught up in a wreck on lap two and then spin later in the race. Kenseth finished eighth. Almirola ninth and Brian Scott finished 10th.