NSCS Shelby 427 Recap: Kyle Busch Rallies For Hometown Las Vegas Win
By Reid Spencer
Sporting News NASCAR Wire Service
PHOTO: CIA STOCK PHOTO
For biblical scholars, that was Matthew 20:16. For NASCAR fans, it was Sunday’s Shelby 427 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Starting from the rear of the field because of an engine change during Friday’s practice session, pole winner and Las Vegas native Kyle Busch worked his way to the front throughout a race punctuated with a record 14 caution periods and streaked to a .411-second victory, his first of the season and his first at Las Vegas.
Matt Kenseth, first in the series standings entering the race, finished last, after his engine blew six laps into the race. That ended Kenseth’s bid to become the first driver to win the first three races in a Cup season.
“This is pretty cool,” Busch said after his celebratory burnout on the frontstretch. “I didn’t know exactly what it would mean, but when I was coming to the checkered flag, there were knots in my stomach.”
Clint Bowyer regained a lap he lost early and finished second, thanks to crew chief Shane Wilson’s decision to keep him on the track while the other front-runners pitted under caution on Lap 260 of the 285-lap race. Bowyer surrendered the lead to Busch off Turn 2 on Lap 269.
Jeff Burton, Bowyer’s teammate at Richard Childress Racing, took third, followed by David Reutimann and Bobby Labonte. Jeff Gordon (who assumed the series points lead by 18 over Bowyer), Greg Biffle, Brian Vickers, Jamie McMurray and Dale Earnhardt Jr. completed the top 10.
Three-time defending Cup champion Jimmie Johnson, who led a race-high 92 laps, spun in Turn 2 to cause the final caution on Lap 280 and finished 24th.
“I’m sorry, guys,” said Johnson, who also had a tough day on pit road.
“It wasn’t meant to be today,” crew chief Chad Knaus responded over the team’s radio.
The race restarted with three laps left, and Busch pulled away from Bowyer and Burton.
Even though Busch started at the rear of the field, he still is credited for starting from the pole, making him the first to win from that position at Las Vegas. But that also meant Busch had to contend with traffic until he took the lead for the first time (other than during an early cycle of green-flag pit stops) on Lap 228.
“We just had to battle hard,” said Busch, 23, who won his 13th series race. “We didn’t have the best car today, but we had a car that we could keep working on and keep making it better.”
Bowyer credited Wilson, his new crew chief this season, for the call that gained him the runner-up finish.
“That’s where he shines,” Bowyer said. “He studies pit strategy real hard and really works on it. And that’s an area where I felt I could improve. I’m proud of him, proud of his call and glad it worked out.”
Notes: Busch has won nine of 39 NASCAR Sprint Cup races since moving to Joe Gibbs Racing to start the 2008 season. He won his first race for the new team last March at Atlanta, site of next week’s race. … Kenseth fell to third in points, tied with teammate Greg Biffle at 40 behind Gordon. … Johnson remained 19th in points, 145 behind the leader. … The only three drivers to score top-10 finishes in the first two races of the season — Kenseth, Kurt Busch and Tony Stewart — all had those short streaks broken. Kenseth was 43rd, Stewart 26th and Busch 23rd. … Rookie Joey Logano stayed on the lead lap and posted his best Cup finish to date: 13th. … For the second straight race, Mark Martin’s engine failed. He finished 40th and dropped to 34th in the Cup standings.