Phoenix, AZ (Sports Network) - Kyle Busch came on strong in the second half of
the race and won Friday night's Casino Arizona 150 at the Phoenix
International Raceway. The No.51 Chevrolet crossed the finish line 0.479
seconds ahead of Ron Hornaday Jr.
The victory was Busch's second of the season and sixth of his Craftsman Truck
Mike Skinner brought the field to the green flag after winning his record 11th
pole earlier in the afternoon. That was important because it allowed him to
lead the first laps and gain an all-important five-bonus points in his
championship battle with Hornaday Jr.
Hornaday Jr. started ninth and by the first caution flag on lap four was
already up to seventh. The No.33 Kevin Harvick Inc. Chevrolet driver couldn't
sit around and wait for the end of the race with Skinner leading.
Hornaday Jr. was having a problem getting by Todd Bodine for sixth place but
on lap 14 Bodine got loose and spun.
Meanwhile, Skinner was still leading and accumulating laps led.
On the lap 18 restart, Harvick drove around Skinner to take the race lead from
Skinner, who didn't put up much of a fight. Skinner was thinking "big picture"
and didn't want any early race trouble.
Harvick opened about a second-and-a-half lead on Skinner after 30 laps, but on
lap 36 David Starr crashed for the second time in the evening to erase the
The caution flag led everyone down pit lane and there the race changed
drastically. Hornaday Jr. got a great stop from his crew and came out second
of those who pitted, while the No.5 Toyota team struggled and came out 18th.
Skinner's crew blamed it on Harvick, the owner of Hornaday Jr.'s truck,
driving through their pit stall, but it appeared that the jackman had problems
on both sides of the truck.
The leaders who hadn't pitted did so on the next caution flag and it allowed
Hornaday Jr. to inherit the lead and grab the five-point bonus matching
Skinner. With Skinner still stuck in ninth place, it meant the championship
was virtually even.
But there were still 90 laps to run.
Hornaday Jr. amd Harvick were running one-two as the green flag dropped to
restart on lap 61. They stayed just that way until the next caution flag. When
most of the teams pitted, two drivers chose two-tire stops to grab first and
second - Clay Rogers and Jon Wood. Hornaday Jr. chose to change all four tires
and came out third. Five trucks stayed out, but still had one more stop to
Hornaday Jr., Harvick and Skinner were all done for the night on pit stops so
the race seemed to be between the trio for the win. At lap 90 Mike Bliss was
still leading, but Hornaday Jr. was up to fourth and Skinner ninth. Hornaday
Jr. made it to third, before Chris Jones spun to bring out a caution flag on
More caution flags and the yellow-flag laps kept adding up. It was now close
to the point where Bliss might be able to make it to the checkered flag
without another stop.
On the restart with 42 laps to go, Busch flew around Bliss for the lead.
But Hornaday Jr. was still coming on strong. He was the fastest truck on the
track as he closed on Bliss for second place. And he had teammate and owner
Harvick guarding his rear bumper in fourth place.
While Bliss and Hornaday Jr. were locked up in a battle for second, Busch was
expanding his lead trying to break away from the field. However, caution
number 11 slowed the field and set up a short run to the finish.
A hard two-truck crash with 14 laps to go forced a long clean up and when the
race restarted there were just 10 laps remaining. The battle was still
between Busch, Bliss and Hornaday Jr.
But on this night Busch was not to be denied. He charged away at the drop of
the green flag, held of Hornaday Jr., who had gotten around Bliss and won for
the second time in three races.
Hornaday Jr.'s second-place finish combined with an eighth-place result from
Skinner cut the lead from 57 to 29 points with just one race to go. Strangely,
Skinner was passed late in the race by his teammate Johnny Benson which cost
him four points.
"I guess...we're not a team," said Skinner afterwards. "I thought he was
taking care of me...I don't know, I don't want to comment on it. I'll just try
to stay positive, go to Homestead and hammer down."
"We're just going to keep on doing what we're doing and race hard," said
The final race, to determine the champion, is scheduled for Friday night,
November 16th at the 1.5-mile Homestead-Miami Speedway.