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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)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Jimmie John`s/Budweiser Chevrolet, suffers a mechanical issue during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on February 28, 2015 in Hampton, Georgia.  (Photo Credit: Rainier Ehrhardt/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #88 Bad Boy Buggies Chevrolet, celebrates with a burnout after winning the NASCAR XFINITY Series Hisense 250 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on February 28, 2015 in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo Credit: Jonathan Moore/Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #88 Bad Boy Buggies Chevrolet, celebrates in victory lane after winning the NASCAR XFINITY Series Hisense 250 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on February 28, 2015 in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo Credit: Jerry Markland/Getty Images for NASCAR)
David Ragan, driver of the #18 M&M`s Crispy Toyota, drives in the garage area during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on February 27, 2015 in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo Credit: Kevin C. Cox/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Jimmie John`s/Budweiser Chevrolet, prepares to drive during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on February 27, 2015 in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo Credit: Sarah Glenn/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Jimmy John’s/Budweiser Chevrolet SS qualifies in second position Friday, February 27, 2015 for a front row position start in Sunday`s NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo by Rusty Jarrett/HHP for Chevy Racing)
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Gene Stefanyshyn, NASCAR Vice President of Innovation and Racing Development, speaks to members of the media after a testing session at Atlanta Motor Speedway on February 26, 2015 in Hampton, Georgia.  (Photo Credit: Kevin C. Cox/NASCAR via Getty Images)
David Ragan, driver of the #18 M&M`s Crispy Toyota, stands in the garage during a testing session at Atlanta Motor Speedway on February 26, 2015 in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo Credit: Kevin C. Cox/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Clint Bowyer drives the #15 5-Hour Energy Toyota during a testing session at Atlanta Motor Speedway on February 26, 2015 in Hampton, Georgia.  (Photo Credit: Kevin C. Cox/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Dale Earnhardt, Jr., driver of the #88 Nationwide Chevrolet SS races to a third place finish with Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet SS who finishes in fifth place in the Daytona 500 Sunday, February 22, 2015 at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo by HHP/Alan Marler for Chevy Racing)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser/Jimmy John’s Chevrolet SS pulls into his pit on his way to a second place finish in the Daytona 500 Sunday, February 22, 2015 at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo by HHP/Harold Hinson for Chevy Racing)
Smoke pours from the #2 Miller Lite Ford, driven by Brad Keselowski, during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series 57th Annual Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway on February 22, 2015 in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo Credit: Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
Chris Buescher, driver of the #60 Kellogg/Cheez-It Ford, races Brad Keselowski, driver of the #22 Discount Tire Ford, Kyle Larson, driver of the #42 ENEOS Chevrolet, and Ryan Reed, driver of the #16 Lilly/American Diabetes Association Ford, during the NASCAR XFINITY Series Alert Today Florida 300 at Daytona International Speedway on February 21, 2015 in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo Credit: Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Kyle Larson, driver of the #42 Target Chevrolet, is interviewed in the garage area during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series 57th Annual Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway on February 19, 2015 in Daytona Beach, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Jeff Zelevansky/NASCAR via Getty Images)

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