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Rain helps Busch to Phoenix Nationwide win

Even the weather was on Kyle Busch's side on Saturday in the second Nationwide Series race of the year at Phoenix, which saw a dominant run by the #54.
Full race results, plus qualifying and practice speeds and full Nationwide Series championship standings.

Kyle Busch and Nationwide Series racing at Phoenix International Raceway are clearly made for each other. Even before rain moved in and stopped play early on Saturday, Busch had led for 155 of the 168 laps of the Blue Jeans Go Green 200 and was well on course for securing his seventh win in the Arizona desert, and his third in a row at the venue; the only man who could claim better was his own crew chief Adam Stevens, who had now chalked up four on the bounce after also winning with Joey Logano in 2012.

Remarkably for someone with 64 wins in the Nationwide Series alone after 272 starts, this was actually Busch's first victory in a rain-shortened race. Yet while anything could technically have happened in the remaining 32 laps had the rain not chosen that moment to roll in, the fact was that Busch had dominated the race and looked unbeatable well before the victory was handed to him on a plate by the weather.

"I think just the pure dominance we've shown here the last few times that we've come here and the amount of laps we've led with how fast our cars are is pretty phenomenal," said Busch after sitting out a two-hour rain delay. "It's fun to win them anyway. This is my first time winning a rain-shortened one. Welcome to the tent. I don't know that it really made a whole lot of difference - we were really good, [but] I would have loved to gone back out there."

Having already claimed pole position for Sunday's Sprint Cup race, Brad Keselowski had earlier once again proved himself the king of the new 'group elimination' qualifying format to take the top spot again for the Nationwide Series race as well. His lap of 26.855s (134.053mph) was just two thousandths of a second faster than Brian Scott who succeeded in clinching the remaining front row grid spot after narrowly holding off the two Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Kyle Busch and Matt Kenseth

At the green flag, Keselowski converted pole to an early lead but it took Busch just five laps before he cruised past the #22 to assume control of the race. The leaders were soon catching the backmarkers on this tight one mile short track, and while Busch was able to dance his way past seemingly without a care in the world the same couldn't be said for Keselowski, who got caught out running into the back of the #87 of Daryl Harr to bring out the first caution on lap 20.

Keselowski needed only light repairs, but that put him onto pit road along with a cluster of other drivers opting for an early pit stop. Most of the leaders opted to stay out, however: they had another 60 laps or more before they needed to come in for fuel, setting up a potential split strategy scenario for the remainder of the race.

Busch continued to lead at the restart, and despite setting the pace he had still managed to save so much fuel that he was the last of the lead cars to pit on lap 88 - just before the second caution of the afternoon, triggered by the #70 of Derrike Cope running into the wall in turn 4 after blowing a tyre. That negated the split pit strategy, with Keselowski and the early stoppers coming in for their stops and Busch and the others coming in as well to take the opportunity of a quick top-up, just so that they didn't get caught out in the event that the forecast storms actually did materialise later in the day.

Busch saw off Kevin Harvick for the lead once again when the race went greet again on lap 97, and the halfway point of the 200-lap race soon followed meaning that the race would be called on Saturday regardless of what the weather did from here on in. Busch had built up a lead of over two seconds by the time the third caution on lap 134 for Jamie Dick's engine letting go, and everyone was back onto pit lane one last time knowing that they would be good to the finish on fuel from this point.

Busch won the race off pit road, but almost lost the battle for the lead to a fierce battle with Keselowski when the green flag came out again. It was the most serious challenge Busch faced all afternoon, but the #54 finally came good and Keselowski eventually had to concede and drop back, soon also losing second place to Harvick as the cloud cover built up and the skies started to look very gloomy. NASCAR officials were just debating whether there was rain coming down onto the track when Ryan Reed got loose and spun into the inside wall on lap 165 to bring out the fourth caution of the afternoon.

"I think the combination of a little bit of a damp race track, and I was being super aggressive," conceded Reed afterwards. "On the replay we could see drops on the windshield. It was a perfect situation for me to get myself into trouble. I got a little loose and any other time I think I would have gathered it up but it got a little too far stepped out on me and the damp race track just got out from underneath me. I tried to save it and then chased it down into the inside wall."

Even as the track workers attended to the wreck of the #16, the rain started in earnest and race control was forced to order all cars to pit road where they were covered up to wait out what everyone hoped would be a short, sharp shower - ironically the arid area's first rain in 70 days. Unfortunately the downpour intensified and soon completely soaked the track, but then blue skies returned and the Air Titans were then deployed with remarkable results. The race looked just minutes away from possibly restarting when a new line of showers charged into the area, this time using thunder and lightning to make their point most effectively: NASCAR finally had to bow to Mother Nature and declare the race officially over.

That meant Kyle Busch was the inexorable winner over a parade of fellow Cup regulars comprised of Harvick, Keselowski, Kyle Larson and Kenseth - perhaps giving extra impetus to current ongoing discussions about whether there should be restrictions over the number of races Cup drivers can run in the other championships. Elliott Sadler was the highest-placed of the Nationwide Series regulars in sixth place ahead of Trevor Bayne, but Daytona winner Regan Smith continues to hold on to the championship points lead over the pair after finishing in eighth place at Phoenix.

Full race results, plus qualifying and practice speeds and full Nationwide Series championship standings.



Related Pictures

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Kyle Busch, driver of the #54 Monster Energy Toyota, celebrates in Victory Lane with the trophy after winning the NASCAR Nationwide Series Blue Jeans Go Green 200 at Phoenix International Raceway on March 1, 2014 in Avondale, Arizona.  (Photo Credit: Jeff Zelevansky/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #54 Monster Energy Toyota, makes a pit stop during the NASCAR Nationwide Series Blue Jeans Go Green 200 at Phoenix International Raceway on March 1, 2014 in Avondale, Arizona.  (Photo Credit: Chris Trotman/Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #54 Monster Energy Toyota, leads Brad Keselowski, driver of the #22 Discount Tire Ford, during the NASCAR Nationwide Series Blue Jeans Go Green 200 at Phoenix International Raceway on March 1, 2014 in Avondale, Arizona. (Photo Credit: Chris Trotman/Getty Images)
Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Axalta Chevrolet SS, races to win Sunday, August 17, 2014 in the Pure Michigan 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn, Michigan. Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Jimmy Johns Chevrolet SS finished second. This was Gordon`s third win of the season. (Photo by Alan Marler/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Chris Buescher, driver of the #60 Nationwide Children`s Hospital Ford Mustang Ford takes the chequered flag to win the Nationwide Children`s 200 at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course on August 16, 2014 in Lexington, Ohio.  (Photo Credit: Nick Laham/Getty Images)
Chris Buescher, drives the #60 Nationwide Children`s Hospital Ford Mustang Ford during the Nationwide Children`s 200 at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course on August 16, 2014 in Lexington, Ohio.  (Photo Credit: Nick Laham/Getty Images)
Chris Buescher, driver of the #60 Nationwide Children`s Hospital Ford Mustang Ford, celebrates in victory lane after winning the Nationwide Children`s Hospital 200 at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course on August 16, 2014 in Lexington, Ohio.  (Photo Credit: Sarah Glenn/Getty Images)
Chris Buescher, driver of the #60 Nationwide Children`s Hospital Ford Mustang Ford, celebrates in victory lane after winning the Nationwide Children`s Hospital 200 at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course on August 16, 2014 in Lexington, Ohio.  (Photo Credit: Sarah Glenn/Getty Images)
Sam Hornish Jr., driver of the #54 Monster Energy Toyota, leads the field at the start of the Nationwide Childrens`s Hospital 200 at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course on August 16, 2014 in Lexington, Ohio.  (Photo Credit: Matt Sullivan/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Jimmy Johns Chevrolet SS, qualified sixth Friday, August 15, 2014 for Sunday`s Pure Michigan 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn, Michigan. Harvick is 8th in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings. (Photo by Alan Marler/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Marcos Ambrose, driver of the #09 Stanley Ford, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Nationwide Zippo 200 at Watkins Glen International on August 9, 2014 in Watkins Glen, New York. (Photo Credit: Chris Graythen/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Marcos Ambrose, driver of the #09 Stanley Ford, takes the chequered flag to win the NASCAR Nationwide Zippo 200 at Watkins Glen International on August 9, 2014 in Watkins Glen, New York.  (Photo Credit: Robert Laberge/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Marcos Ambrose, driver of the #09 Stanley Ford, leads a pack of cars during the NASCAR Nationwide Zippo 200 at Watkins Glen International on August 9, 2014 in Watkins Glen, New York. (Photo Credit: Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
The #28 Texas 28 Spirits Stage Dodge, driven by JJ Yeley, is seen after an on-track incident during the NASCAR Nationwide Zippo 200 at Watkins Glen International on August 9, 2014 in Watkins Glen, New York.  (Photo Credit: Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
Brad Keselowski, driver of the #22 Hertz Ford, and Joey Logano, driver of the #12 Snap-On Ford, lead the field to the green flag for the running of the NASCAR Nationwide Zippo 200 at Watkins Glen International on August 9, 2014 in Watkins Glen, New York. (Photo Credit: Robert Laberge/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Brad Keselowski, driver of the #22 Discount Tire Ford, celebrates with a burn out after winning the NASCAR Nationwide Series U.S. Cellular 250 Presented by New Holland at Iowa Speedway on August 2, 2014 in Newton, Iowa.  (Photo Credit: Sean Gardner/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Trevor Bayne, driver of the #6 AdvoCare Ford, leads the field during the start of the Nationwide Series U.S. Cellular 250 at Iowa Speedway on August 2, 2014 in Newton, Iowa (Photo Credit: Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images)
Brad Keselowski, driver of the #22 Discount Tire Ford, leads a pack of cars during the NASCAR Nationwide Series U.S. Cellular 250 at Iowa Speedway on August 2, 2014 in Newton, Iowa. (Photo Credit: Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images)

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