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Kyle Busch Blooms In The Arizona Desert

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Monday, March 11 2019
Kyle Busch added another checkered flag to his collection Sunday in Arizona. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Garry Eller)

By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor
RacinToday.com

Kyle Busch didn’t do anything stupid on Sunday. On the contrary. His drive to victory in the NASCAR Cup Series race at ISM Raceway in Avondale, Ariz. was brilliant.

A week after the Joe Gibbs Racing driver cost himself a shot at a win in his hometown of Las Vegas, he led a race-best 177 of 312 laps in winning the TicketGuardian 500 — a race that began with Busch being the only driver in Cup to have notched top-10 finishes in the previous three events.

The victory was his 52nd in Cup and it gave him a weekend sweep at ISM as he won Saturday’s Xfinity Series race. It also gave him 199 victories over NASCAR’s top three series and two straight wins in Arizona as he won at the one-mile oval last November.

After the race, Busch was asked about the significance of winning 200 times in NASCAR.

“Not for me to worry about,” he said. “It’s for everybody else to discuss and talk about and argue over and debate.”

As happy as Busch was with the win, he was also gave himself some grief because it could easily have given him a second straight weekend sweep.

“Man,” Busch who had to settle for finishing third last week in his hometown of Las Vegas because of being penalized for speeding, said. “God this makes last weekend feel so much stupider. Man, I wish we could have swept last week, too. It would have been awesome to start out this year two weekend sweeps in a row. But we’ll just take what we got here today.”

With the win, Busch joins teammate Denny Hamlin and Penske drivers Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano as drivers having won races and securing berths in the season-ending Playoffs.

Martin Truex Jr. of Joe Gibbs Racing finished second and Ryan Blaney third.

Aric Almirola of Stewart-Haas Racing and Hamlin rounded out the top five.

To get the victory, Busch had to track down Blaney of Team Penske — who led 95 laps — over the final 50 laps. He made the pass for the lead with 16 laps to go, adeptly managed his depleded fuel cell and then drove to the victory.

“You’ve got to race hard first and then you got to worry about fuel afterwards,” he said of the final laps. “Once I got to Blaney, I  was able to kind of save a little bit and try to take care of my tires for the rest of the traffic I had to get through.”

At the end, Truex had moved past Blaney into second place and finished 1.2-seconds back.

Team Penske’s run of two straight victories came to an end at ISM. Brad Keselowski, who won at Atlanta two weeks ago, suffered a couple of scrapes with walls and finished 19th. Last week’s winner at Las Vegas, Joey Logano, finished 10th.

Blaney said hopes to him to give Penske three straight wins came up a couple gallons short.

“I was kind of riding trying to save tires and save gas and they were telling me we were really close on gas,” he said. “I think he was kind of riding back there, too. I think they knew what kind of situation I was in. I started to get real tight and I got to lapped cars and I was done. After we got passed for the lead it was just full on fuel saving mode.”

Pole-sitter Blaney started from the pole and led 46 of the first 75 laps to win Stage 1. Busch led all 75 laps in winning Stage 2.

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Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Race – 15th Annual TicketGuardian 500
ISM Raceway

Avondale, Arizona

Sunday, March 10, 2019

               1. (4)  Kyle Busch, Toyota, 312.

               2. (9)  Martin Truex Jr., Toyota, 312.

               3. (1)  Ryan Blaney, Ford, 312.

               4. (14)  Aric Almirola, Ford, 312.

               5. (3)  Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 312.

               6. (31)  Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, 312.

               7. (16)  Kurt Busch, Chevrolet, 312.

               8. (15)  Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, 312.

               9. (8)  Kevin Harvick, Ford, 312.

               10. (12)  Joey Logano, Ford, 312.

               11. (26)  Clint Bowyer, Ford, 312.

               12. (18)  Ryan Newman, Ford, 312.

               13. (19)  Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Ford, 312.

               14. (2)  Chase Elliott, Chevrolet, 312.

               15. (20)  Ty Dillon, Chevrolet, 312.

               16. (22)  Chris Buescher, Chevrolet, 312.

               17. (17)  Paul Menard, Ford, 311.

               18. (11)  Daniel Hemric #, Chevrolet, 311.

               19. (5)  Brad Keselowski, Ford, 311.

               20. (30)  Matt Tifft #, Ford, 311.

               21. (13)  Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 311.

               22. (23)  Bubba Wallace, Chevrolet, 311.

               23. (28)  Daniel Suarez, Ford, 311.

               24. (7)  William Byron, Chevrolet, 310.

               25. (29)  David Ragan, Ford, 310.

               26. (24)  Corey LaJoie, Ford, 310.

               27. (33)  Ross Chastain(i), Chevrolet, 308.

              28. (25)  Matt DiBenedetto, Toyota, 308.

               29. (10)  Erik Jones, Toyota, 304.

               30. (35)  Quin Houff, Chevrolet, 302.

               31. (36)  Bayley Currey(i), Ford, 301.

               32. (34)  Cody Ware #, Chevrolet, 300.

               33. (32)  Landon Cassill, Chevrolet, 267.

               34. (21)  Ryan Preece #, Chevrolet, Accident, 229.

               35. (6)  Alex Bowman, Chevrolet, Accident, 191.

               36. (27)  Michael McDowell, Ford, Accident, 157.

Average Speed of Race Winner:  101.693 mph.

Time of Race:  3 Hrs, 4 Mins, 5 Secs. Margin of Victory:  1.259 Seconds.

Caution Flags:  9 for 57 laps.

Lead Changes:  17 among 6 drivers.

Lap Leaders:   R. Blaney 1-35;K. Busch 36-40;R. Blaney 41;D. Hamlin 42-45;K. Busch 46-65;D. Hamlin 66;R. Blaney 67-79;K. Busch 80-152;D. Hamlin 153;K. Busch 154-195;R. Blaney 196;J. Johnson 197-200;K. Busch 201-220;D. Hamlin 221;D. Hemric # 222-225;A. Almirola 226-251;R. Blaney 252-295;K. Busch 296-312.

Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led):  Kyle Busch 6 times for 177 laps; Ryan Blaney 5 times for 94 laps; Aric Almirola 1 time for 26 laps; Denny Hamlin 4 times for 7 laps; Jimmie Johnson 1 time for 4 laps; Daniel Hemric # 1 time for 4 laps.

Stage #1 Top Ten: 12,10,22,88,18,42,3,24,9,4

Stage #2 Top Ten: 18,14,4,19,11,6,48,22,9,1

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Monday, March 11 2019
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