AVONDALE, Ariz. – With the West Coast Swing coming to an end, one thing is clear; Kyle Busch hasn’t lost his touch.
With the finish of Sunday’s Cup race at Phoenix International Raceway, the Richard Childress Racing driver snagged a top ten after overcoming a couple of pit road violations.
The NASCAR veteran may have started the year with uncertainty after switching over from Joe Gibbs Racing to RCR, but it appears things are starting to take hold and bloom. Daytona wasn’t an ally, with Busch finishing 19th after a wreck-filled season opener. Pushing himself, victory was achieved in Fontana, silencing most who doubted his abilities and sheer talent.
Following the win, Las Vegas wasn’t as grand, as the two-time series champion finished 14th. With Busch’s strong attitude and will, he journeyed onward and honed in on Phoenix like a hawk.
With the new racing package, drivers were given a 50-minute practice session on Friday. It was surprising to see Busch 29th overall, with other Chevy drivers like Kyle Larson and Alex Bowman in the top three spots. The numbers were an elaborate facade though as he pulled through, qualifying ninth overall for Sunday’s United Rentals Work United 500 race.
There was a storm of bad luck brewing for the RCR driver though, after completing the first stage in 10th. On Lap 120, green flag pit stops caught several drivers, including Busch, speeding on pit road. What wasn’t under his control was an uncontrolled tire, sending him even further backwards.
Now running a lap down, it seemed impossible to climb back to the top, but luck was on the No. 8’s side.
Lap 138 rolled in with Aric Almirola hitting the wall in Turn 4, destroying the right front tire. A caution swept into play the following lap, allowing Busch and 13 others to take the wave around. This meant the veteran driver was back on the lead lap, but he had quite the adventure ahead.
Unable to finish in a points scoring position for the second stage, the RCR driver charged ahead and continued to carve through the field while ensuring his No. 8 car remained intact.
Peeking outside the top 10, things heated up within the final 15 laps after two cautions. The field became fevered, battling one another after the overtime restart kicked off. Through determination, patience and keeping a level head, Busch sped away with an eighth place finish.
“We had a good day in our Cheddar’s Scratch Kitchen Chevrolet at Phoenix Raceway,” Busch said in a team press release. “We had no rear lateral grip and a tight-handling Chevy at the beginning of the race, but Randall Burnett and all of the guys made adjustments throughout the race today and it made our Camaro better. We overcame a speeding penalty in Stage 2 and worked our way back into contention.”
Despite dropping to ninth in the championship standings, Busch acknowledged how he and his No. 8 team made the most of their race day at Phoenix.
“On the last pit stop of the race, we pitted for right-side tires and put ourselves in contention for a good finish,” he said. “We’ll take what we learned today and apply it to our notebook for the end of the year.”