Takeaways from Phoenix: Brace yourself, Kyle Busch is a win away from 200 wins

Yahoo Sports

What a time to be alive.

Kyle Busch’s next NASCAR race win will be No. 200 and tie him with Richard Petty for the most all-time in NASCAR.

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Of course, Petty’s wins all came in what’s now known as the Cup Series, the top level of NASCAR. Busch has 52 Cup Series wins and 147 wins split through the Xfinity Series and the Truck Series. As we wrote last fall, it’s not a direct comparison and will never be.

And now more than ever it’s worth warning NASCAR traditionalists that Busch is about to become the all-time winningest driver in series history whether they like it or not.

[Kyle Busch wins at Phoenix]

Petty will always be the gold standard in NASCAR. But Busch’s accomplishment is approaching the silver status at the very least. And maybe gold if you believe that Truck and Xfinity fields in modern NASCAR are more stout than the fields that Petty raced against 50 years ago.

When Busch retires he’ll likely have 250 or more NASCAR wins under his belt. After all, he turns 34 in May. He’s got a long career ahead of him.

Will 250 or 275 or even 300 NASCAR wins over three series be enough to trump Petty’s 200 in Cup? Maybe. But that’s a discussion for another time. Right now, the discussion — if you want to have it — is between Busch’s soon-to-be 200 and Petty’s 200. And both sides have a defensible position.

Chase Elliott had a bad day, still finishes 14th

Chase Elliott became the latest driver at ISM Raceway to jump the start of the race. And Elliott became the first driver to do it on ISM’s new layout.

NASCAR rules prohibit the driver starting in second to reach the start/finish line ahead of the pole winner. Elliott did that on Sunday and took the lead ahead of Ryan Blaney in the first two turns of the race. That was a penalty, and Elliott was forced to serve a pass-through on pit road as a result.

In 2015, Kurt Busch was penalized for the same thing in the fall race at Phoenix. It’s a clear-cut rules violation, though Joey Logano wasn’t penalized for doing the same thing in the spring race that season. As we’ve seen with pit road penalties at Phoenix, NASCAR isn’t great at consistently enforcing its own rules.

But Elliott can’t blame inconsistency on Sunday. He screwed the start up.

And then he spun in the final stage of the race.

While Elliott had a bad day, his ultimate result wasn’t bad. He ended up 14th. That’s pretty good when you jump the start of the race and then spin later on.

Kevin Harvick offers some food for thought

Kevin Harvick has been the most successful driver at Phoenix ever since the track was repaved in 2011. He finished ninth on Sunday.

Speeds at Phoenix were extremely high in 2019 thanks to NASCAR’s move to add downforce to Cup Series cars. Here’s what Harvick had to say after the race and we’ll let you take his comments where you want to go with them.

“The worst race that we see at Phoenix is the IndyCar race and they’re the fastest cars and they don’t pass each other one bit,” Harvick said. “I don’t know that faster is the answer to more passing, but obviously we can make our car better, but I think Kyle [Busch] made it through. It sounds like [Ryan] Blaney was leading and saving gas. I don’t know if that’s right or wrong, but he was able to manage traffic.”

Fox inadvertently disparages Jimmie Johnson

Jimmie Johnson finished eighth. And he ran well on Sunday. It was a good finish. But man, did it ever feel like Fox’s post-race show was pandering to him. Is an eighth-place finish for a seven-time champion really worth a congratulations?

By saying everyone was rooting for Johnson in the waning laps, Jamie McMurray is inadvertently making Johnson a sympathetic figure. Given how much of a competitor Johnson is, we doubt that he wants to be a sympathetic figure at this point in his career. He wants to win races and an eighth title.

Johnson gets kudos when he claps back at random people on Twitter who call him washed up. He should take more offense to what Fox said about him Sunday.

What was up with the Phoenix attendance?

Did no one want to go to the race on Sunday? ISM Raceway’s capacity is 42,000, one of the smallest capacities in NASCAR. But the stands were not close to full.

Here’s what they looked like on lap 25:

(via Fox)
(via Fox)

And here’s what a shot of the stands looked like close to the end of the first stage:

(via Fox)
(via Fox)

Were people crammed in the infield bars that are at ISM Raceway now? Why wouldn’t they want to watch the race if they were? And the number of the people in the infield wouldn’t explain all of the empty grandstand seats, right? It seems that an actual attendance of 30,000 would have been a good thing.

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Nick Bromberg is a writer for Yahoo Sports.

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