In a Nutshell: The Arizona Travel 200 was another Busch Series crash-fest. The race saw the caution flag fly 11 times for 46 laps, almost one quarter of the race, and was also stopped under the red twice. Clint Bowyer was strong early in the event, leading 28 of the first 30 laps. (He would have led all 30 if not for an orchestrated lead change allowing teammate Scott Wimmer the opportunity to get out front to secure five bonus points toward the owners’ championship for the No. 29 team.) Greg Biffle also showed some strength during the first half of the race, leading from lap 46-66. At lap 85, Kyle Busch asserted himself, leading until lap 117 when Matt Kenseth stuck his nose in front. Busch regained the lead on the following lap and never looked back, winning the Arizona Travel 200 in dominating fashion.
Behind Busch, Kenseth, Bowyer, Wimmer and Kevin Harvick rounded out the top-five finishers. The remainder of the top 10 was comprised of Kasey Kahne, Carl Edwards, Jason Leffler, Jamie McMurray and Ron Hornaday Jr.
Who Should Have Won: Kyle Busch. Busch was, without a doubt, the dominant car of the day. Busch led more than half of the race’s 203 laps and made several outstanding passes during the event. However, Kenseth hounded Busch, and might have had a shot at passing him for the win if it were not for a power steering failure during the race.
Three Questions You Should Be Asking After the Race This Weekend
1) Is Sam Hornish Jr. that bad?
Hornish seems like a fish out of water when it comes to racing in fendered racecars. He has finally qualified for his first Cup race after six failed attempts, and he has been very unimpressive in the Busch Series, with a best finish of 15th and the rest of his finishes 25th or worse. It is hard to believe that a IRL and Indianapolis 500 champion is that poor of a driver. In 2008, it is going to be a very high-pressure season for Hornish to prove that he belongs in full-bodied stock cars.
2) Is starting races during “primetime” worth risking driver safety?
Once again, the late laps of a race were marred by all sorts of carnage because the setting sun blinded the drivers. Races used to start in the middle of the day and it was rare that the sun would have such an impact on the drivers’ vision. Now, the races start late in the day to try and garner that elusive casual fan demographic, and, as a result, the setting sun is endangering the safety of drivers. The sanctioning body needs to look into bumping up the start times again to keep drivers from being hurt.
3) Has NASCAR become a little too liberal with the red flag?
The Busch Series race was stopped twice for red flags to clean up accidents. The Truck Series race was also stopped to clean up a messy wreck and repair the inside wall on the track. Fortunately, NASCAR has realized that the red flag is in the stand for a reason. This was the fifth time in the last nine Busch races that the race was stopped under the red flag at the end of the race. The fans do not want to watch the cars parade around at caution speed, and it is refreshing to see that NASCAR is now willing to use the red flag in order to get the track cleaned up and to make sure that the fans get their money’s worth out of the races.
Worth Noting/Points Shuffle
Edwards already secured the drivers’ championship last weekend at Texas, but the owners’ championship was still up in the air heading into Phoenix. Denny Hamlin did not have a good race and finished the Arizona Travel 200 four laps down in 28th place. Wimmer was able to finish in fourth place, which was enough to secure the owners’ title for Richard Childress Racing once again.
After winning Saturday’s Busch race and Friday night’s truck race at Phoenix, Busch has a chance to go down in history. If he is able to win the Cup race, he will be the first driver to win all three major touring division races in a single weekend.
Leffler had another very quiet top 10, further solidifying his position as the best “Busch only” driver in the series. Leffler is third in points, 350 ahead of Bobby Hamilton Jr., the next highest Busch only driver in the point standings.
Michael McDowell, who will be driving for Michael Waltrip Racing in some Cup races next season, continued his development with a solid 14th-place finish in only his second ever Busch Series start.
Buschwhackers in the race: 16
Starting spots taken by Buschwhackers YTD: 600 of 1,455
Buschwhackers finishing in the top 10: 7
Buschwhackers finishing in the top 10 YTD: 244 of 340
Races won by Buschwhackers YTD: 31 of 34
Buschwhackers ranked in the top 10 in Busch Series points standings: 6
“I needed to learn more, but that is where we are at right now. We’ll just keep working away at it and see what happens.” – Sam Hornish Jr., finished 39th, on what he learned about the car for his first Cup race on Sunday
“We just got tight, right in the middle of the corner. We thought we had it fixed but it came back here at the end. We never give up so we’ll see what happens. You never know what might happen in front of us.” – Kevin Harvick during the red flag with three laps to go in the race
“To go out winning a race means an awful lot, it’s all these guys here. They work their guts out, they work their hearts out in the shop in order to prepare us and get us ready for the racetrack.” – Kyle Busch, his voice choked with emotion, after his final Busch Series race for Hendrick Motorsports
Next up: The Busch Series heads to Homestead-Miami Speedway next weekend for the season finale Ford 300. With the championships already decided, the race will be all about winning and making impressions for next season. Casey Mears holds the qualifying record, set in 2004 with a speed of 177.936 mph, and Kenseth is the defending race winner. You can catch the race broadcast on ESPN2 and MRN radio at 4:00 p.m. on Saturday, November 17th.