Roundup: Kyle Busch continues to dominate Xfinity Series

Kyle Busch celebrates in Victory Lane after winning Saturday’s NASCAR XFINITY Series Axalta Faster. Tougher. Brighter. 200 at Phoenix International Raceway.
Kyle Busch celebrates in Victory Lane after winning Saturday’s NASCAR XFINITY Series Axalta Faster. Tougher. Brighter. 200 at Phoenix International Raceway. Getty Images

Kyle Busch made it 3-for-3 in the Xfinity Series this season, cruising to another victory Saturday at Phoenix International Raceway.

A week after leading all but one lap at Las Vegas, Busch led 175 of 200 laps on the mile oval to win for a record 79th time in NASCAR’s second-tier series.

Busch also posted a dominating win at Atlanta. He didn’t race in the opener at Daytona.

During the past three weeks, Busch has led 493 of 563 laps.

“Some people will say I’m a failure for just joining this field,” the reigning Sprint Cup champion said. “I get plenty of criticism, whether I’m winning, losing or participating. For me, I don’t really pay attention to any of that. I do what I need to do to help support my team.”

Busch’s biggest obstacle was lapped traffic and the lone competition his Joe Gibbs Racing teammates. Busch and series rookie Erik Jones raced side-by-side for several laps before their green-flag pit stops with 24 laps left. Busch beat Jones to the line and built as much as a three-second edge.

When Brad Keselowski finally pitted with 13 laps left, Busch took the lead for good and secured his ninth series win in 20 races at Phoenix.

“A knack for this place, I guess,” Busch said. “We’ve been off a little bit on the Cup side for years, but this year we seem to be a lot better. … The Xfinity Series program has always been good. I’m not sure why.”

Jones finished second, 2.3 seconds back. Daniel Suarez, whose car scraped the wall early, was third. It gave JGR a top-three sweep for a second straight week.

“That pit stop we lost a lot of ground to him,” Jones said about Busch. “It just got too tight after that and he ran away.”

Busch started third behind Jones and Suarez on a sunny and breezy day and shot to the lead on the sixth lap. He worked his way from fourth to first after three drivers took only two tires on a mid-race pit stop.

Justin Allgaier finished fourth and Chase Elliott fifth.

With Elliott winning at Daytona, a Sprint Cup regular has won every Xfinity race this season.

The series switched to a playoff format similar to the Sprint Cup this season. But Jones and Suarez haven’t been able to take advantage of the win-and-you’re-in format, not with their teammate dominating.

“They made me run hard all day long,” Busch said about his teammates. “There’s nothing left in this car.”

Suarez opened an eight-point lead over Elliott Sadler in the season standings. Sadler finished eighth.

IndyCar: Team Penske swept the top four spots in qualifying for the season opener in St. Petersburg, Fla., with Will Power taking the pole in a record time.

Power broke his track record three times. His best time around the streets of St. Petersburg was during the second session, but he won the pole in the third session at 1 minute, 0.2450 seconds. The record set in his second session was 1:00.0658.

It was Power’s sixth pole at St. Pete in nine races. He has won 43 career poles.

Simon Pagenaud was second and followed by Helio Castroneves and Juan Pablo Montoya, the defending race winner.

James Hinchcliffe, who nearly bled to death after a near-fatal accident last May during a practice for the Indianapolis 500, will start ninth in his return to racing.

Associated Press