Larson finished fourth, while Busch finished sixth on the one-mile oval. That was a far cry from how they finished in the first three races together:
Daytona: Larson finished 10th, Busch 33rd.
Las Vegas: Larson finished 9th, Busch 25th.
Fontana: Busch finished 3rd, Larson 21st.
With their joint Phoenix effort, Larson now has three top-10 finishes in the first four races while Busch has two. But added together, the No. 42 and No. 1 are starting to jell more productively as a pair.
“With Larson fourth and us sixth, that’s better than what we ran all day,” Busch, who recorded the 300th top-10 finish of his Cup career, said afterward. “I feel like we struggled quite a bit, so we’ll take that.
“Any time you can finish better than where you run, you have to cash those points. We survived all those last restarts, we just weren’t on offense. We just couldn’t attack. I was just kind of slip-sliding around a bit too much today.”
With the next three races on 1.5-mile tracks (Atlanta, Homestead and Texas), followed by three of the following five races on short tracks (Bristol, Richmond and Martinsville), Sunday’s end result should help the two Ganassi drivers going forward.
“You just still have to find that right balance and I think we at Ganassi had some things that weren’t quite set right for anything,” Busch said. “I didn’t have short run speed, I didn’t have long run speed, but we finished sixth.
“So, I can’t complain. We have to put that in the bank, learn from it and then head to the short tracks later on at Bristol, Martinsville and Richmond coming up. We were just inches away from another top five.”
Still, while the two teammates were happy with their respective finishes, they weren’t completely satisfied, either.
“I was just hoping that I could do something and maybe (race winner Joey Logano and runner-up Kevin Harvick would) mess up,” Larson said of the closing laps. “The 18 (Kyle Busch) went really low and I was just trying to run the bottom, and didn’t make up much ground.
“If they were to get bottled up at the top, I would have enough momentum I could drive in front of them. But it didn’t work out that way, obviously. We still got a top five, so it was a nice day for us. We fought back from a really bad car from the first run and tuned on it to come away with a top five, so that was good.”
Added Busch, “I feel like we battled the best that we could have. We didn’t have much for any kind of spectacular stat, other than perseverance. We didn’t have good short-run speed or long-run speed. Sixth is better than we ran all day, so we’ll take that. We really have to look hard at what we believe led to all of this. But at one point we were running 17th without a scratch on the car.”
Having gone in the first four races from a 2.5-mile track to a 1.5-mile track, back to a 2-mile track and then Sunday at a 1-mile track, returning to a 1.5-mile track over the next three races could potentially help both drivers make significant moves upward in the standings.
Larson leaves Phoenix tied with Aric Almirola for seventh in the standings – both drivers 43 points behind points leader Kevin Harvick – while Busch moves up to 16th, 74 points out of first place,
“Even though we finished sixth, we’ll cash that in,” Busch said. “But we have to learn from (it). Chip (Ganassi) has two really good drivers getting everything out of those two cars that we can.
“It’s fun. Larson and I have a really good read on each other on-track and we just have to get a better read communicated to the engineer staff to help our handling.”
— Kurt Busch (@KurtBusch) March 9, 2020