The NASCAR Nationwide Series (NNS) returned to Phoenix (Ariz.) International Raceway Saturday for the second time of the 2012 season, to compete again on the 1.0-mile track nestled in the Arizona Mountains. The Kyle Busch Motorsports (KBM) team looked forward to the late-season event, as they continued the effort to secure a second victory from its inaugural run as a new team in the Nationwide Series. Although the win wasn’t in the No. 54′s wheelhouse this week, the result did not disappoint, as 27 year-old owner-driver Kyle Busch registered a second-place qualifying spot and a fourth-place finish.
The race got off to a slow start for the No. 54 Monster Energy crew when their driver reported, “no front grip – it’s going to be a long day.” Many teams were experiencing the same type of loose car handling that continued over the 200 miles amidst both sunny/warm and cloudy/cool conditions. Busch fluctuated between the top-15 positions most of the event, driving often within the top five competitors.
The KBM team brought their leader down pit road three times, changing four tires only once, leaving the other pit road visits to two-tire stops. Each time, making car adjustments using wedge and air pressure changes. While they hoped the Monster Energy Camry would start feeling more secure to Busch, he continued to give feedback about chattering tires and a difficult car to control.
Driving hard to the end, Busch and team were sitting comfortably in the third position, until an accident occurred on lap 199 of 200, pushing the race to an eventual green-white-checkered finish. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. passed the No. 54 upon completion of the final lap, posting the KBM Toyota in fourth place.
The finish was the 14th top-five and 20th top-10 for the first-year team. When asked about the day, post race, Busch commented, “We had a decent car. We fought hard and worked as best as we could to come home with a fourth-place finish. The way the first couple of laps went and started, I didn’t think that we were going to be able to finish in the top eight, but Mike (Beam, crew chief) made some good calls on pit road. Just keep coming up short. It seems like we were in the second to fifth class, but can’t get to the winner class.”
Joey Logano recorded his first NASCAR Nationwide Series victory at Phoenix International Raceway. It was his ninth win of the 2012 season and18th of his career, followed in the second-finishing spot by Brian Vickers. Series points lead Stenhouse Jr., Busch and Kasey Kahne completed the top-five finishers. There were 10 caution periods for 40 laps of the race along with six lead changes across four drivers.
The No. 54 Monster Energy team remained eighth in the Owner’s Point standings, 167 points from the leading team owner Joe Gibbs.
The next event on the NNS schedule is the Nov. 17 Ford 300 with the television broadcast starting at 4 pm EST on ESPN2 and on the MRN radio broadcast. Kyle Busch will make his 22nd start of the season behind the wheel of the KBM No. 54 Monster Energy Camry, hoping to continue the positive momentum built with his team over the last three races, and finish the Nationwide Series season with a long-awaited win as an owner-driver.