Kyle Busch easily could have laid claim to being the top Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series driver not driving a Team Penske Ford through the first three races of the 2019 season. Following Sunday’s victory at ISM Raceway near Phoenix, Busch can now lay claim to be the series’ top driver. Period.
The Joe Gibbs Racing driver dominated in Arizona, leading 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.
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 and then drove to the victory.
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.
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.
—Field Level Media