Kyle Busch was the obvious favorite for Saturday’s LS Tractor 200 at the Phoenix Raceway. Busch, earned his 10th career NASCAR Xfinity Series pole on the 1-mile oval earlier in the day then headed to the race this weekend with four wins in his last five tries on the Arizona oval.
Busch, would lead a race-high 79 of 200 laps in the event, but was passed instead by a Joe Gibbs Racing teammate towards the end. The Las Vegas native’s No. 54 Toyota just missed the setup a little bit and would fall to a third place finish on Saturday afternoon in the desert.
It was Busch’s 11th straight top four overall in Phoenix during NXS competition as he led 75 or more laps in nine of his last 10 starts there in general. Eight of those nine saw him lead at least 100 laps in total.
But, it was Brandon Jones’ day. Jones, led the final 20 laps as he passed Busch on Lap 180 and would never look back en route to his second career series victory. It was also JGR’s third Phoenix win in the Xfinity Series in their last four tries — all but different drivers.
Jones, becomes the sixth straight different winner at Phoenix with William Byron (Nov. 2017) getting it started while Brad Keselowski/Christopher Bell (2018) and Kyle Busch/Justin Allgaier (2019) won.
Also, we now have four straight different winners to start the season – Noah Gragson (Daytona), Chase Briscoe (Las Vegas), Harrison Burton (Fontana) and now Jones (Phoenix) with all being series regulars too.
Last week’s winner in Burton finished runner-up in his No. 20 Toyota to earn his third top two finish in four tries this season. He was also fifth in the second race at Vegas.
Brad Keselowski finished fourth in his No. 12 Ford for his seventh consecutive top 10 finish in NXS competition at Phoenix to go along with 11 in his last 12 while Justin Haley rounded out the top five in his No. 11 Chevrolet.
Haley, has three top six finishes in four tries this season.
JR Motorsports Shines, But Can’t Finish
JRM had to be feeling really good for most of Saturday’s race. Phoenix in Xfinity Series competition is JGR’s playground. But, here JRM was dominating the first 138 laps.
They swept both stages with Justin Allgaier winning Stage 1 and Noah Gragson Stage 2. They’d end up 1-6-11-21 in the first 45 laps and 1-5-14-15 in the second 45 laps run.
Through 138 laps, Allgaier and Gragson combined to lead 78 of them. They were looking like legitimate contenders to win.
Then, Allgaier got on the wrong end of strategy and would finish a disappointing 13th — his third finish of 13th or worse in his last four Phoenix starts. He’s also only finished 30th, eighth, 12th and 13th in four tries this year.
Gragson, would finish seventh as he now has three top seven finishes in four starts in 2020.
Michael Annett wound up 17th for the second consecutive week while Daniel Hemric was caught up in the Lap 142 crash and was a DNF in 30th. Hemric, was also 35th in Vegas too.
Parity Early On But A Handful Still The Favorites
We may have four different winners by series regulars in the first four races run this season, but there are a handful of drivers that are shining in general.
Harrison Burton has to be the favorite for the championship despite being a rookie. He’s yet to finish worse than fifth this season with three of his four results being in the top two.
Brandon Jones has three top six finishes in four tries including sweeping both stages last weekend in Fontana and now winning in Phoenix.
Chase Briscoe also has won this year and like Jones, has three top six finishes in four tries.
Justin Haley and his Kaulig Racing teammate of Ross Chastain have been top 10 machines. Haley, like Briscoe and Jones has three top six finishes in four tries himself while Chastain was 10th, eighth and ninth respectively on this west coast swing.
You can’t count out Austin Cindric. He’s scored three top eight finishes in each of the last three weeks with two of them being second (Vegas) and third (Fontana).
Noah Gragson has finished first, fourth, 26th and seventh in four tries in his No. 9 Chevrolet.
Riley Herbst, gives JGR a three man fight with three straight top 10’s in his No. 18 Toyota. He was ninth in Vegas, second in Fontana and 10th in Phoenix.
Ryan Sieg is a sleeper in all of this with three straight top 10 finishes (9th, 3th, 4th) to start the season and 11th on Saturday in Phoenix.
That’s nine drivers there and I didn’t even mention veteran Justin Allgaier. He’s off to a slow start but is very capable of turning it on at any moment.
Strange But True
We’ve been in the stage era for four years now. Since 2017, the start of this era, the spring race winners at Phoenix have never won either stage in their respective race. Jones, was 10th and seventh in the two stages on Saturday but won the race outright.
LS Tractor 200 Results
- 19 Jones
- 20 Burton R
- 54 Busch
- 12 Keselowski
- 11 Haley
- 98 Briscoe
- 9 Gragson
- 22 Cindric
- 10 Chastain
- 18 Herbst R
- 39 Sieg
- 68 Brown
- 7 Allgaier
- 21 Snider
- 93 Green
- 92 Williams
- 1 Annett
- 90 Bassett -1
- 02 Moffitt -1
- 0 McLeod -1
- 4 Little R -1
- 36 Labbe -1
- 61 Hill -2
- 13 Finchum -4
- 07 Black Jr. -4
- 6 Starr -4
- 78 Miller -4
- 44 Martins -6
- 52 Vanderwal R -23
- 8 Hemric OUT
- 08 Graf Jr. R OUT
- 47 Nemechek OUT
- 66 Leicht OUT
- 15 Howard OUT
- 89 Cassill OUT
- 51 Clements OUT