Kyle Busch sweeps the weekend and earns the checkered flag in in the TicketGuardian 500 at ISM Raceway in Phoenix, Arizona. The Joe Gibbs Racing driver earned victories in both the Xfinity Series race on Saturday and the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race on Sunday.
Busch passed Ryan Blaney in the closing laps of the race to take the lead for the final time. The driver of the number 18 Skittles Toyota Camry proved strong throughout the weekend. After qualifying fourth, Busch finished fifth in Stage 1, won Stage 2, and led 177 laps enroute to his victory.
Joe Gibbs Racing placed three of the team’s cars in the Top 5, with Martin Truex Jr. finishing second and Denny Hamlin in fifth. Erik Jones had a flat tire early and was unable to recover from his spin.
Blaney ultimately finished third after winning the Busch Pole and Stage 1, while leading 95 laps. After a difficult start in 2019, the Team Penske driver rebounded on Sunday and proved he will be a contender for wins throughout the season.
The TicketGuardian 500 had plenty of action throughout the race. The wide surface at ISM Raceway allows for bold moves to the apron, creating four-wide racing at times during the restarts. The newly configured track presents a unique challenge in finding speed at every end of the racetrack.
Tire wear ended the day early for Alex Bowman, who was a potential sleeper pick after his success at ISM Raceway in 2016. Michael McDowell’s throttle hung open on the backstretch on lap 157, sending him hard into the Turn 4 wall after collecting his Front Row Racing teammate David Ragan. Ryan Preece’s eventful day came to an end when he nosed into the inside wall after contact on the backstretch.
Jimmie Johnson quietly had a great day in the TicketGuardian 500, finishing 8th. While the Hendrick Motorsports driver strives to return to his prior form of contending for wins on a weekly basis, a Top 10 run is a great performance and a step in the right direction early in the season.
After only four weeks into the 2019 season, Busch has earned five victories throughout the top three series in NASCAR. Sunday’s win places him at 199 total wins in his career, only one win behind Richard Petty’s 200 career wins. While it is difficult to compare the two drivers, both achieved great success at the height of their racing careers.
Week after week the crowd cheers louder with each victory. After many years of being the “bad guy” in NASCAR, is Kyle Busch slowly becoming a fan favorite? Another weekend sweep adds to the impressive resume for the 33 year old driver from Las Vegas, Nevada. Through four races in the 2019 season, Busch has an average finish of 3rd, with his worst finish being sixth place at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
Next week the west coast swing continues at Auto Club Speedway for the Auto Club 400. Last year Martin Truex Jr. reached victory lane, while Kyle Busch, Jones and Hamlin all finished inside the Top 10. Look for Joe Gibbs Racing to be strong once again when the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series hits the two-mile racetrack next weekend in Fontana, California.
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