AVONDALE, Ariz. — Kyle Busch became the first driver in a national NASCAR race to win wire to wire in nearly eight years.
It wasn’t as easy as it looked, not with his car getting loose and Carl Edwards bearing down over the final few laps.
Busch dominated from the pole early and held off Edwards late, maintaining the lead the entire way in the Nationwide Series race Saturday to set up the chance for a perfect weekend at Phoenix International Raceway.
“It came down to the end of the race and Carl was alongside of me and we were racing really hard trying to beat each other, and I was like, ‘Man, just beat him back to the start-finish line, man, just beat back to the start-finish line,’ ” the Las Vegas native said. “I was just trying to hold on for as long as I could.”
The Nationwide opener last weekend was a nail-biter, with Tony Stewart nipping Clint Bowyer by .007 seconds for the series’ closest finish ever at Daytona. Busch had race No. 2 looking like a walkover until Edwards pulled beside him three times in the final 20 laps.
Busch never let him get around, though, fighting a car that had lost handling after the final pit stop to lead all 200 laps around Phoenix’s bumpy mile oval. He’s the first green-to-checkered winner in any NASCAR series national race since Dale Earnhardt Jr. did it during a Nationwide race at Daytona in 2003.
The trucks winner Friday, Busch can make it three straight in today’s 500-mile Sprint Cup race, where he’ll start fourth.
Kevin Harvick, Ryan Newman and Reed Sorenson followed Edwards in the top five Saturday.
“We made a run,” Edwards said. “I did everything but move him out of the way, and I thought about that, but he did a great job. Those guys did well. He drove that car. It was loose, and he did a good job of hanging onto it.”
Busch won the trucks race in a dominating performance and was fast in his Nationwide car, too, setting a track record of 134.298 mph to secure the pole.
Records have been falling everywhere this weekend.
Bowyer set the trucks qualifying record Friday, and Edwards qualified on the pole for today’s Sprint Cup race with a track-record speed, one of 15 drivers to eclipse the record he set on the way to winning at Phoenix last fall.
The weather changed for the Nationwide race, as wind from an incoming storm whipped flags atop the grandstands and wobbled pit signs like giant fishing poles with marlins on the ends.
None of it slowed Busch.
He pulled away from Edwards from the opening green flag and did the same on a couple of restarts, lapping more than half the field by the race’s midpoint.
Edwards was the only driver who stayed in Busch’s mirror, lingering a few seconds back while the rest of the field was 10 or more on green-flag racing for the last 60 laps. He was close to Busch after a restart with about 30 laps left and pulled beside him three times in about a 10-lap span but never made the pass.
Despite a final pit adjustment that made his car hard to handle, Busch kept a few car lengths ahead after that to win for the fourth time in 12 Nationwide starts at Phoenix.
Daytona 500 winner Trevor Bayne had a solid day going before being bitten by a blown tire.
He had to go to a backup Sprint Cup car after a blown tire sent him into the wall on the first lap of practice Friday, and the same thing happen with 35 laps left in the Nationwide race. Bayne started seventh and was steady in the top 10 before the accident, finishing 31st.
■ NHRA — At Pomona, Calif., Larry Dixon put together a record pass of 3.770 seconds at 324.98 mph to take the top qualifying spot in Top Fuel at the NHRA Winternationals.
Cruz Pedregon was the top qualifier in Funny Car, and Erica Enders was fastest in Pro Stock.
Dixon, the defending series champion, had the 49th top qualifying mark of his career, moving within three of Don Prudhomme for No. 8 on the NHRA’s career list.