Busch drives from the back to win on home track

Kyle Busch makes a pit stop during the NASCAR Shelby 427 auto race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in Las Vegas on Sunday, March 1, 2009. Busch won the race. <br><i>AP Photo

LAS VEGAS - There were no NASCAR opportunities when Kurt and Kyle Busch were growing up in Las Vegas. Back then, the .375-mile paved Bullring was all they had.

Then ground was broken in the mid 1990s for Las Vegas Motor Speedway, and the Busch brothers watched an empty dirt lot transform into one of the glitziest facilities in NASCAR.

There are more hallowed tracks in NASCAR, but Las Vegas is the one place where the brothers dreamed of winning. They finally made their first trip to Victory Lane on Sunday, when Kyle Busch drove from the back of the field to win his first NASCAR race on his home track.

"This was actually part of the parking lot, I think, for that Bullring racetrack," Busch said. "I remember sitting up in the grandstands when I was younger and when Kurt and my dad were racing, turning around and looking out there and watching it ... watched the grandstands go up, the banking be put in, the outside retaining wall, the garages be built.

"Every weekend we were over at the Bullring and saw what was happening."

So it was an emotional family affair following Busch's win.

Older brother Kurt started second and finished a disappointing 23rd, but still gave his brother a heartfelt hug in Victory Lane. Their mother, Gaye, had tears streaming down her face.

It was the biggest win of his young career, and he proved it with an elaborate victory celebration that ended with him on his knees, kissing the finish line.

"I tell you what, this is pretty cool," Busch said. "I didn't know exactly what it would mean, but coming to the checkered flag, there were knots in my stomach. It's bigger than winning the Daytona 500. I said it wasn't going to be, but it is."

Busch struggled in his first visit to Vegas, wrecking 11 laps into his Cup debut race and finishing 41st.

He bounced back to compete for the wins the next to seasons, but settled for second- and third-place finishes to then-teammate Jimmie Johnson. His best chance might have been last year, when he returned home leading the points chase for the first time in his career and won the pole. But he struggled with the handling on his JGR Toyota, and wound up 11th.

This year, he wouldn't be denied.

Busch came prepared at the start of the weekend, beating big brother Kurt for the pole to put brothers on the front row for the first time since 2000. But an engine change in his Toyota meant he had to drop to the back of the field at the start of the race, and Busch had to power his way through the field over 285 laps.

In a brief address to the crowd before the start of the race, he promised to get to the front.

"I just said, 'Hey, you know what? We're going to the back so get ready for a show. Here it comes,"' he recalled. "Even if I got up to 20th and then backed it in, it was still going to be a show."

Busch took the lead with 57 laps to go, then lost it during a late round of pit stops. Busch was third on a restart with 22 to go, then chased down Jeff Burton and leader Clint Bowyer to move out front again.

But there were two more cautions, and Busch had to hold off the competition over two final restarts for his first victory of the season. It was his first win at Las Vegas in six career Cup Series starts, 13 total spanning NASCAR's top three series.

He celebrated with thick burnouts through the grass, then apparently blew his engine again. Enveloped in thick white plumes of smoke, he emerged from the clouds to make his trademark bow to the crowd.

He then collected the checkered flag from NASCAR before stealing that finish line kiss.

Bowyer finished second and Burton was third, bouncing back from a horrible run last week at California.

David Reutimann, one of the five Toyota drivers who had to change a motor this weekend, finished fourth and was followed by Bobby Labonte and Jeff Gordon, who missed pit road late in the race and blew his tire on the subsequent trip around the track.

Greg Biffle was seventh and Brian Vickers, another Toyota driver with an engine change, was eighth. Jamie McMurray and Dale Earnhardt Jr. rounded out the top 10.

Jimmie Johnson, strong all afternoon, wrecked with six laps to go to finish 24th.

Carl Edwards' motor blew with two laps to go while he was running fourth. He finished 17th.

Matt Kenseth, trying to become the first driver in NASCAR history to win the first three races of the season, lost his engine six laps into the race and finished last. In all, Roush Fenway Racing lost three of five motors.


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