This time Kyle Busch wasn’t going to let a mistake ruin his chance for a weekend sweep. Busch, who fell short last week at Las Vegas of winning the Pennzoil 400 after incurring a speeding penalty, made sure he didn’t make any mental mistakes, and actually pulled off a strong move that earned him the victory.
Busch, who was 7/1 and predicted in this column last week to win at the TicketGuardian 500, passed Ryan Blaney with 16 laps remaining, then conserved gas and his tires, while holding off teammate Martin Truex Jr. for his 52nd Cup Series victory.
“We were going to be right on the verge,” Busch said. “You have to go hard first and worry about fuel afterwards. After I got Blaney, I was able to save a little bit and take care of my tires for the rest of the lapped traffic I had to get through.”
The victory was also his 199th among Cup Series, Xfinity Series and Truck Series. He has a chance to tie Richard Petty’s mark of 200 next week at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California.
While all of Petty’s wins were in the top tier stock car series, Busch’s versatility has been impressive, though he has downplayed the achievement.
“It’s not for me to worry about. It’s for everybody else to discuss and talk about and debate over,” Busch said. “But for myself and the view I’ve had, I’ve been fortunate to be around a lot of great people and a lot of great sponsors.”
Penske Streak Thwarted
Brad Keselowski won in Atlanta two weeks ago, Joey Logano last week in Las Vegas, and Blaney was trying to be the third member of Team Penske to win. Blaney, though, was unable to hold off Busch and settled for third.
Still Blaney finished in the top 20 for the first time this year, and while disappointed with the result, he was happy with his effort.
“It definitely was a good weekend after the start of the year we had,” Blaney said. “A good day, the day we needed. We’ve been poised to have days like this and contend for wins, and it just hasn’t happened this year. This is what we deserve.”
Suarez, McDowell Fight
The main race was two days away, but drivers Daniel Suarez and Michael McDowell provided the undercard on Friday. The two got into an altercation after being eliminated while jockeying for position in the qualifying race.
Tempers flare at #BuschPole Qualifying!@Daniel_SuarezG and @Mc_Driver clash on pit road at @ISMRaceway 👀 pic.twitter.com/h9JuuLBsoR
— NASCAR (@NASCAR) March 8, 2019
Suarez said McDowell broke protocol.
“It’s just a lack of respect,” Suárez told reporters. “Everyone here knows the second lap is a good one. You have to try to get out of the way if somebody is coming in your lap. He didn’t.”
Another Race, Another Penalty
It was also the third consecutive week that saw a driver or crew member get penalized by NASCAR. This time it was Chase Elliott, who was dinged for jumping the start. He was forced to pass through pit lane. The penalty dropped Elliott to last in the 36-car field at the time. He finished 14th.
This week’s Odds, Pick
Going into Southern California for the Auto Club 400 in Fontana, Busch and Kevin Harvick are the favorites at 9/2. Joey Logano, Martin Truex Jr., Kyle Larson, and Keselowski are next at 6/1.
We are going to go with the favorite here in Harvick. It is a bit shocking to us that he doesn’t have a victory yet, especially after his hot start in 2018. This is the week he enters victory lane.