It wasn’t a great weekend for Chip Ganassi Racing at the Phoenix Raceway, but it sure was a solid one. Kyle Larson and Kurt Busch would leave Sunday’s FanShield 500 on the 1-mile Arizona oval with a top six finish for each.
Larson, battled all day in scoring a 13th place finish in Stage 1 and ninth in Stage 2 as he scored great track position late in the race to challenge for the win in his No. 42 Chevrolet.
The California native found himself in the top five in the closing laps and would settle for a fourth place result. It was his fourth top six finish in-a-row at Phoenix as his Spring race finishes since 2015 have been – 10th, 12th, 2nd, 18th, 6th and now 4th.
“I was just hoping that I could do something and maybe they’d mess up,” Larson said of the trio in front of him on the late race restarts. The 18 (Kyle Busch) went really low and I was just trying to run the bottom, and didn’t make up much ground. If they were to get bottled up at the top, I would have enough momentum I could drive in front of them. But it didn’t work out that way, obviously. We still got a top five, so it was a nice day for us. We fought back from a really bad car from the first run and tuned on it to come away with a top five, so that was good.”
Busch, didn’t have much in either of the first two stages either. He was 15th and 16th at the finish in both of those. But, he steadily inched his way closer and closer to the front and came away with a sixth place effort in his No. 1 Chevrolet.
“I feel like we battled the best that we could have,” Busch said after scoring his second top six finish in as many weeks to go along with his third top 10 in his last 5 Phoenix starts. “We didn’t have much for any kind of spectacular stat, other than perseverance. We didn’t have good short-run speed or long-run speed. Sixth is better than we ran all day, so we’ll take that. We really have to look hard at what we believe led to all of this. But at one point we were running 17th without a scratch on the car.
“With Larson fourth and us sixth, that’s better than what we ran all day. I feel like we struggled quite a bit, so we’ll take that. Any time you can finish better than where you run, you have to cash those points. We survived all those last restarts, we just weren’t on offense. We just couldn’t attack. I was just kind of slip-sliding around a bit too much today.”
Still, for CGR to be 4-6, it was a great day overall.
“We were just inches away from another top five,” Busch continued. “There are things that we have to face ourselves with on what led to the lack of speed today. Even though we finished sixth, we’ll cash that in. But we have to learn from. Chip (Ganassi) has two really good drivers getting everything out of those two cars that we can. It’s fun. Larson and I have a really good read on each other on-track and we just have to get a better read communicated to the engineer staff to help our handling.”
“It was good,” Larson said of CGR’s dual top 10’s. “The first handful of laps, I thought we weren’t as bad as I thought we would be. I just continued to get tight. I was thankful the cautions came out to allow us to work on it. We got it closer, but it still wasn’t where we needed to be. But we were close enough that we could race.”