Kyle Busch, Harvick in fight for title
Busch’s win at Phoenix is eighth victory; ties Harvick
Kyle Busch won for the eighth time this season to tie Kevin Harvick for the most Cup victories and set up a head-to-head battle for the championship.
Busch’s victory at ISM Raceway outside of Phoenix was the final qualifying event for next week’s finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway, where it will be winner-take-all between NASCAR’s so-called Big Three and the driver once called “Sliced Bread.”
Busch, Harvick and reigning series champion Martin Truex Jr., coined The Big Three because of how they dominated the regular season, advanced into the championship round as expected. Joey Logano, nicknamed “Sliced Bread” before his NASCAR debut at age 18 because he was predicted to be “the best thing since ...,” has the fourth spot.
The field is two Ford drivers, two Toyota drivers and represents four different organizations. Chevrolet was shut out of the finale.
Busch and Harvick have gone win-for-win all year, and Busch could have controlled Harvick’s fate late in the race when he was lined up against Harvick teammate Aric Almirola on a restart. An Almirola victory would have eliminated Harvick from the playoffs, which Busch acknowledged considering.
“I did think about it,” Busch said. “But I’m here to win the race. They always want it to play out naturally.”
Now Busch might just have the momentum to take the title.
“I’d like to think it gives us a lot (of momentum) but I don’t know, talk is cheap,” Busch said. “We’ve got to be able to go out there and perform and just do what we need to do. Being able to do what we did here today was certainly beneficial. I didn’t think we were the best car, but we survived and we did what we needed to do. It’s just about getting to next week and once we were locked in, it was ‘All bets are off and it’s time to go.”’
Harvick was the favorite to win Sunday and started from the pole but an early flat tire made Sunday’s race more eventful than Harvick expected.
He found himself racing late against Stewart-Haas Racing teammates Kurt Busch and Aric Almirola for the fourth transfer spot to Homestead, but Busch was wrecked late and Almirola had to win the race to snatch the berth away from Harvick.
Brad Keselowski and Kyle Larson, both already eliminated from the playoffs, finished second and third. Almirola was fourth and Harvick fifth.
The season finale and championship race Sunday at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Truex won the race and the Cup title last season.