PHOENIX, Ariz.—Kyle Busch was unstoppable at ISM Raceway on Saturday.
When his top challengers, Christopher Bell and Justin Allgaier, were eliminated from contention on Lap 129, it was smooth sailing for the driver of the No. 18 Toyota who led 116 laps en route to his 11th win in 22 starts at the one-mile track.
Busch collected his second Xfinity Series win of 2019 and the 94th of his career. He extended his career totals across NASCAR’s top 3 tours to 198 feature wins.
“Super thankful for them for the opportunity to come out here and run a few races each year and to be able to put on a good show,” Busch said. “Christopher, I hate it he got caught up in that mess, but it was obviously really going to be a fun run to the end there. Certainly, want to give thanks to Mark Cronquist (engine builder). These JGR engines were strong.
“It’s always cool to come out with Rowdy Nation and having their support and everybody that backs us and what we’re able to do and what we’re able to accomplish. Obviously, we’re doing a lot of those things these days. There’s a lot of talk and all that sort of stuff, but hey, if I’m allowed to enter a race, I’m going to enter a race. I’m going to go out there and race and I’m going to go out there and try to win. If I win, we win. If not, we’ve got to go again the next time.”
Ryan Truex, Tyler Reddick, Cole Custer, Austin Cindric, Chase Briscoe, Brandon Jones, Michael Annett, John Hunter Nemechek and Ryan Sieg rounded out the top 10.
Cindric won the first stage with Bell in tow. Bell battled with Busch in the second stage and exchanged the lead three times before the No. 20 Toyota cruised to the second stage win—his third of the season.
Bell won the race off of pit road for the Lap 100 restart followed by Busch, Reddick, Justin Allgaier, Custer, Ryan Sieg, Truex, Justin Haley, Michael Annett and Jeremy Clements.
Busch regained the lead on the restart. Five laps later, Allgaier passed Bell for second place.
On Lap 129, Stephen Leicht engine blew sending a cloud of smoke into the air and a trail of oil through Turn 3. Bell was blinded by the smoke and couldn’t slow in time. He hit the wall, ending his day.
“I saw him blow up going into one and I figured it was going to be slick,” Bell said. “I saw the 7 (Justin Allgaier) car start sliding and I started sliding and as soon as I entered the smoke wall, I couldn’t see anything. I lost my bearings of where I was and the next thing you know, I was in the wall.
“Frustrating and very disappointing because our Rheem Supra was extremely strong. I don’t know, it was weird. My car didn’t really feel that much worse that run, but once I got back behind those guys, I just really couldn’t pass them.”
The leaders pitted with Busch maintaining the point followed by Reddick, Custer, Truex, Cindric, Nemechek, Annett, Sieg, Briscoe and Ross Chastain. After multiple pit stops, Allgaier returned to the track in 12th. He soldiered on to finish 14th, the first car one lap down.
Busch held onto the point and extended his lead to 3.025-seconds over Truex over the final 70 laps.
For Truex, it was his first start of the season—one of five that he’s scheduled to make with JR Motorsports. The 27-year-old posted the top result of the season in the No. 8 Chevrolet and tied his career-top finish of second in the Xfinity Series.
“I just got us behind at the start there,” said Truex who started ninth. “I couldn’t run anywhere on the track. I lost a lot of track position early. We worked hard all day to get caught up and get it back, then we had that weird deal with the ignition, where it stopped working. I don’t know what was going on there.
“But Taylor (Moyer, crew chief) and the guys worked really hard. They made the right changes, did everything they needed to do to give me a good car. I got that restart behind Kyle on the restart and got a huge run in turns 1 and 2. Our car was just so good on the long runs that I was able to hold Reddick off and finish P2.
“I never gave up on it. Proud of the day, and proud of what I was able to do with this race car.”
Reddick gained a four-point lead over Bell in the standings with his third-place finish—his first top-five at the track.
“I’m not very good at this race track,” Reddick said. “But hats off to RCR, they brought a fantastic Chevrolet. Our Camaro was great through most of this race. I honestly couldn’t give us a good sense of direction so we just kind of threw in here what Daniel ran last year. Had a pretty good set up under this thing, hopefully, I can figure out what I need to break through and contend with the 18 in the end.
“All in all it’s better than what I’ve run in the past. I’m just not very good at this race track.