Kyle Busch moved to within one victory of Richard Petty’s record of 200 NASCAR wins by claiming his 52nd Cup Series win and 199th overall at Phoenix.
The win, which keeps him unbeaten at Cup level at the track since it was reconfigured, came after a dominant display in which he led 176 of the race’s 312 laps.
Busch was saving fuel in the final stages of the race, which had a 74-lap long green flag period, and had it lasted any longer his Joe Gibbs team mate Martin Truex Jr would have likely taken the win.
Truex finished second after passing polesitter Ryan Blaney late on and was taking chunks out of Busch’s lead in the final two laps, eventually finishing just 1.5 seconds adrift of the winner.
Blaney won the first stage from pole, led 95 laps and was in front for much of the final stage until a combination of fuel saving, tyre degradation, and lapped traffic allowed stage two winner Busch to cut down a lead that had stood at 1.6s.
Aric Almirola finished fourth behind Blaney. He led 26 laps, first taking the lead at the start of the final stage. He led home Denny Hamlin and Kyle Larson.
Kurt Busch was seventh, ahead of Jimmie Johnson who had his strongest run in some time.
Kevin Harvick, who has seven wins at Phoenix, was surprisingly absent from the lead battle throughout the race, and finished ninth, with Joey Logano rounding out the top 10.
Clint Bowyer ran up front for much of the day but had to settle for 11th, with Ryan Newman’s strongest run yet for Roush Fenway Racing ending in a 12th place finish.
Chase Elliott started the race from second on the grid and took the lead at the drop of the green flag, but was later judged to have passed Blaney too soon and was penalised. He rallied back to finish 14th.
Brad Keselowski, who won the second round of the season at Atlanta, managed to finish in the top 20 despite causing the second caution of the race with a crash on lap 63.
That followed a yellow 24 laps earlier for Erik Jones. Those incidents and subsequent further cautions for Alex Bowman, Elliott, and Ryan Preece were all the result of tyres going down.
Tyre supplier Goodyear had warned of the higher speeds caused by the new rules package having an impact on the rubber ahead of the race and insisted teams abide by its pressure recommendations.
Michael McDowell caused the only non-tyre-related caution when his throttle stuck open on lap 160. He was uninjured despite hitting the wall hard at Turn 3.
|1||Kyle Busch||Joe Gibbs Racing||Toyota||312|
|2||Martin Truex Jr.||Joe Gibbs Racing||Toyota||312|
|3||Ryan Blaney||Team Penske||Ford||312|
|4||Aric Almirola||Stewart-Haas Racing||Ford||312|
|5||Denny Hamlin||Joe Gibbs Racing||Toyota||312|
|6||Kyle Larson||Chip Ganassi Racing||Chevrolet||312|
|7||Kurt Busch||Chip Ganassi Racing||Chevrolet||312|
|8||Jimmie Johnson||Hendrick Motorsports||Chevrolet||312|
|9||Kevin Harvick||Stewart-Haas Racing||Ford||312|
|10||Joey Logano||Team Penske||Ford||312|
|11||Clint Bowyer||Stewart-Haas Racing||Ford||312|
|12||Ryan Newman||Roush Fenway Racing||Ford||312|
|13||Ricky Stenhouse Jr.||Roush Fenway Racing||Ford||312|
|14||Chase Elliott||Hendrick Motorsports||Chevrolet||312|
|15||Ty Dillon||Germain Racing||Chevrolet||312|
|16||Chris Buescher||JTG Daugherty Racing||Chevrolet||312|
|17||Paul Menard||Wood Brothers Racing||Ford||311|
|18||Daniel Hemric||Richard Childress Racing||Chevrolet||311|
|19||Brad Keselowski||Team Penske||Ford||311|
|20||Matt Tifft||Front Row Motorsports||Ford||311|
|21||Austin Dillon||Richard Childress Racing||Chevrolet||311|
|22||Darrell Wallace Jr.||Richard Petty Motorsports||Chevrolet||311|
|23||Daniel Suarez||Stewart-Haas Racing||Ford||311|
|24||William Byron||Hendrick Motorsports||Chevrolet||310|
|25||David Ragan||Front Row Motorsports||Ford||310|
|26||Corey LaJoie||Go FAS Racing||Ford||310|
|27||Ross Chastain||Premium Motorsports||Chevrolet||308|
|28||Matt DiBenedetto||Leavine Family Racing||Toyota||308|
|29||Erik Jones||Joe Gibbs Racing||Toyota||304|
|30||Quin Houff||Spire Motorsports||Chevrolet||302|
|31||Bayley Currey||Rick Ware Racing||Ford||301|
|32||Cody Ware||Petty Ware Racing||Chevrolet||300|
|33||Landon Cassill||StarCom Racing||Chevrolet||267|
|34||Ryan Preece||JTG Daugherty Racing||Chevrolet||229|
|35||Alex Bowman||Hendrick Motorsports||Chevrolet||191|
|36||Michael McDowell||Front Row Motorsports||Ford||157|
|5||Martin Truex Jr.||140|
|10||Ricky Stenhouse Jr.||123|
|29||Darrell Wallace Jr.||42|