A Desert Scorcher
Kyle Busch mashed the accelerator on his No. 18 Kyle Busch Motorsports truck at Phoenix International Raceway on a NASCAR Camping World Truck Series restart with two laps remaining and sailed away to his 25th career series victory by leaving Clint Bowyer and his No. 2 Kevin Harvick, Inc. truck in the desert dust.
Bowyer, who led the opening 43 circuits of the 150-lap tilt, closed on Busch's four-truck-length lead during the final trip around the one-mile oval, but the charge fell .0291 of a second short when the checkered flag waved.
Busch took over the lead with a stellar pit stop under caution on Lap 44 and led a race-best 107 laps.
"We had a good truck. I was scared there in the beginning. I was like, 'Man, it's going to come down to like last fall and Clint (Bowyer) is going to walk the dog on this one.' But, (KBM General Manager) Rick (Ren) and (Crew Chief) Eric (Phillips) made some changes to this thing and really brought it to life. It was just phenomenal. It's great fun to come out here and race with these guys," Busch said.
He took his second top-five NCWTS finish of the season and has emerged victorious from two of his last three along with seven of his last 10 series battles dating back to his Aug. 18 triumph at Bristol Motor Speedway. He is the fastest driver to reach 25 career series victories by accomplishing the feat in his 87th start.
"That's a brand new chassis, No. 007, we rolled out today. It's really cool to get its first win in its first race. We put a push on doing some stuff to it, the guys really put their minds together and the chassis department did a great job. I thank those guys for getting it turned up and putting the heat on them (the truck field) this weekend.
"All in all, it's a good day and a good night. We were good in practice, qualified decent and we ran real well. That's all you can ask for. I'm a west coast boy so this is neat for me," said Busch, who now holds as many career NASCAR race victories as four-time Sprint Cup Series champion Jeff Gordon with 87.
Bowyer earned his first top-five NCWTS finish of the season in his first series appearance of the year after leading a series field to the green flag the second time through nine all-time starts. He owns an all-time total of four top-five and five top-10 NCWTS finishes.
He cited poor efforts on the six restarts in closing 50 laps as the difference in the race.
"Whichever one of us had clean air, our truck was about a 10th (of a second) to a 10th-and-a-half better. I was screwing up big-time on the restarts. I'm just not used to not having any power and I was hitting the rev (limiter) on what sounded like about 5,000 less rpm than it should have been. It's the difference between a Corvette and an Impala or maybe a Volt, that's that electric car," Bowyer said.
Bowyer's race teammate and four-time series champ Ron Hornaday, Jr. rebounded from his 28th-place Daytona finish and crossed the Phoenix finish line third. ThorSport Racing's Johnny Sauter, who finished third in the final series standings last season, banked his first top-five finish of the campaign by taking fourth while Richard Childress Racing's Austin Dillon claimed fifth and picked up his first top-five finish of the season.
Sauter's teammate and seventh-place PIR finisher Matt Crafton scored his second top-10 finish of the season and will hold a one-point lead over 16th-place Phoenix racer Clay Rogers in the standings when the series arrives at Darlington Raceway for its next event March 12. Radio coverage is set for a 4:45 p.m., start on MRN and Sirius XM 128. SPEED Channel waves the green flag for its coverage at 5:00 p.m.
Fans can enjoy 225-mile NCWTS races on July 7 and Oct. 1 at Kentucky Speedway this season.
Story by Mike Schmaltz