Kyle Busch Wins at Phoenix, Solidifies Spot in 2018 NASCAR Cup Series Championship Round
Kyle Busch's win of the Can-Am 500 was his eighth of the season, tying him with Kevin Harvick for most NASCAR Cup victories in 2018.
Kyle Busch matched Kevin Harvick in 2018 NASCAR Cup Series wins with eight when he took the checkered flag in the Can-Am 500 at ISM Raceway near Phoenix on Sunday. The win also cemented his entry into the championship four battle in the Nov. 18 season-finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
“It’s an awesome team and awesome group of guys,” Busch said. “Can’t say enough about everybody at Joe Gibbs Racing. All the men and women there that work so hard to prepare such great race cars that I get to drive. M&Ms and Toyota—and it’s Veteran’s Day. I want to say thank you to all the veterans out there for everything that you all have sacrificed for us and done for our freedom in this country. Cool to race on Veteran’s Day. This is a sport that everybody loves to come out and participate in and be a part of, whether it’s the military, whether it’s the fans that support the military; it’s awesome to have all that here in NASCAR.”
Busch will battle Martinsville race winner Joey Logano, Texas Motor Speedway winner Kevin Harvick, and Martin Truex Jr. who advanced to the final on points after finishing the race in 14th.
Eight drivers were in the playoffs entering the ISM Raceway event, but only four left the track still in contention for the title. Aric Almirola was eliminated despite finishing fourth Sunday. Also eliminated were Clint Bowyer, Kurt Busch, and Chase Elliott.
Bowyer, Kurt Busch, and Elliott all were caught up in on-track incidents. Bowyer’s race ended on Lap 133 when he spun and hit the wall. Kurt Busch and Elliott were involved in a multi-car wreck on a restart with under 50 laps remaining. Kurt Busch’s car sustained enough damage to force his retirement from the race while Elliott finished 23rd
“Erik Jones was on my inside when we restarted, and I just wanted to make sure I didn’t slip through the new one and two,” Kurt Busch said. “If I could have been to somebody’s outside off two, then I thought we had a good shot of maintaining the lead, and I just got cleaned out. I flat out got cleaned out. I thought it was the right decision on staying out. I’m not gonna look back on it.”
Kyle Busch took his race-winning lead, going from eighth to first on the same restart.
Already locked into the championship four, Logano’s race also ended early when he hit the wall on Lap 95.
“The left-rear tire went flat,” Logano said. ”I don’t really know why. It just kind of came out of nowhere. We may have run something over. I don’t know. I went down on the flat a couple laps earlier to make a pass, and I don’t know if it hit a little bit hard; maybe it knocked the fender into it. Who knows what happened there, but she just went out. I tried to save it. I thought I had it saved, but by the time I got it straightened back out, the rest of the tires were flat, because I had them flat-spotted. That’s what it is. We’ll move on. We’re locked into Miami, so it doesn’t really matter, so we’ll keep our heads high.”
The caution that resulted from Logano’s wreck benefitted Harvick.
Harvick started on the pole and led the first 72 laps of the race before falling off the pace and pitting with a flat right-front tire on Lap 73. As a result, he went a lap down. He got back on the lead lap during Logano’s caution.
Elliott inherited the lead from Harvick’s trouble and was the winner of the opening stage that ended a couple of laps later on Lap 75.
After running second to Harvick through most of the opening stage, Elliott raced behind one of Harvick’s teammates, Kurt Busch, early in the second stage. Kurt Busch got out of the pits ahead of Elliott after the opening stage but went from the lead to off the lead lap when he was penalized for passing the pace car as he ducked to pit road during Bowyer’s caution.
“If the rule earlier in the race on the pit road of passing the pace car is black and white, I just need to get brushed up on my rulebook,” Kurt Busch said. ”I didn’t gain anything by doing what I did other than just digging from behind all day. It was a really good year for our Haas Automation Ford. Thanks to Monster Energy and everybody that put their talent into that 41 car. I just didn’t get the job done to get us to Homestead.”
Kurt Busch got back on the lead lap when Tanner Berryhill spun and brought out the fifth caution of the race on Lap 228.
Kyle Busch was the winner of the second stage that ended on Lap 150 after taking his first lead of the race six laps earlier. He would then drop to eighth in the final stage before climbing back to first, a move which he made on the restart following the incident involving Kurt Busch and Elliott. He retained that position until the checkered flag where he clinched his championship round berth.
The 2018 season will conclude at Homestead-Miami Speedway, with the final race weekend of the year culminating in the NASCAR Cup Series race there on Nov. 18. The highest race finisher among the championship four drivers—Joey Logano, Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick, and Martin Truex Jr.—will be crowned king. Reigning Cup Series champion Martin Truex Jr. won the HMS race last year. Since the implementation of the playoff elimination format in 2014, each year’s championship has been claimed by winning the race at Homestead.