AVONDALE, Ariz. — Air Titan couldn’t overtake a rare desert deluge, which meant Kevin Harvick never got the chance to overtake Kyle Busch in Saturday’s rain-shortened Nationwide race.
Busch was declared the winner of the Blue Jeans Go Green 200 at about 5:30 Mountain Time. That was 32 laps short of the planned race length at Phoenix International Raceway.
Saturday was a rarity in the Valley of the Sun; heavy rain fell for the first time since December here, just in time to disrupt NASCAR’s race schedule. Though rain was predicted throughout the day, NASCAR got in two Sprint Cup practices and there were no weather interruptions through the first 100 laps of the Nationwide event, giving NASCAR the option to call the race official at any time.
They didn’t lack for trying to get in the full distance. Once the rain came down hard, shortly after a caution involving driver Ryan Reed on the 165th lap, NASCAR red-flagged the event and race teams placed covers on their cars.
The covers never came off. Though Phoenix was equipped with the new “Air Titan” track-drying machines, the showers kept causing setbacks. Finally, just before 5:30 local time, there was a cloud burst with such soaking effect, it was obvious this race was over.
It was Busch’s third consecutive Nationwide victory at Phoenix.
“I felt like we were such a dominant force all day,” said Busch. “I was just trying not to screw up (on restarts) in the first corner with dirty tires. Our car was so good on the long runs I could really hammer it. I didn’t see anyone staying with us more than four laps or so.”
Busch clearly had the strongest car Saturday, leading 155 of 168 laps. Harvick conceded as much post-race.
“We could kind of maintain (closing distance) but we never knew what he had” when pushed, Harvick said. “His car was really fast on restarts and we were really, really loose.
“Kyle had the best car today. We probably finished where we should have.”
Brad Keselowski finished third Saturday with Lyle Larson and Matt Kenseth finishing out the top five.
“Kind of a good and bad day,” said Keselowski, who won the pole for this race Saturday morning. “Probably a little better than we should have. We made some adjustments trying to get better, and had our hands full. Kind of relieved to get it over with here.”
Keselowski took Daryl Harr out of Saturday’s race while trying to work his way through lapped traffic. Keselowski’s Ford sustained some hood damage in that incident.
“I needed to make time as much as possible. I made a move and I think he didn’t know I was there,” Keselowski said. “I feel bad for guys like that in the sense they’re trying to make it in a sport that’s not easy to do.”