Seeking his eighth NASCAR Nationwide Series win of the year (and his fifth win in his last seven NNS starts), Kyle Busch topped today’s opening NNS practice session at Phoenix International Raceway.
The Sprint Cup star turned in a lap of 132.861 mph in the No. 54 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, enough to eclipse Ty Dillon (132.421), Erik Jones (132.193), Regan Smith (131.999), and Alex Bowman (131.796).
Busch’s NNS victory last Saturday at Texas helped the 54 camp draw closer to Team Penske’s No. 22 in their duel for the series’ owner’s championship.
The No. 22 currenly holds a 26-point lead in that fight, and in the 22 car this week is Brad Keselowski, who was sixth-fastest in this first session at Phoenix. Elliott Sadler, NNS points leader Chase Elliott, Brian Scott, and Chris Buescher completed the Top 10 speeds.
Elliott can clinch the Nationwide title if he can maintain his current 48-point lead over JR Motorsports teammate Smith through Saturday’s DAV 200.
A 44-point lead over Smith post-Phoenix means that he’d just have to start next weekend’s season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway to clinch.
The weekend did not get off to a good start for rookie driver Dylan Kwasniewski, who logged the 11th-fastest time in practice but also hit the wall hard enough to force his No. 31 Turner Scott Motorsports team to bring out the backup car.
A second, 70-minute NNS practice session will take place later today at 3:10 p.m. ET.