In A Nutshell: While the race as a whole was far from perfect, Saturday’s finish was exactly what NASCAR dreams about at Vegas. Jeff Burton, determined not to fade at the finish like he did in California, staged one of the greatest last lap comebacks in recent history to cause a fairy tale ending. Burton held the lead when the race restarted with 10 laps left after a red flag for a Kasey Kahne wreck, but Kyle Busch slipped by with six to go and appeared to have the race all but won. Burton actually lost ground when he slid into the wall and nearly spun out another time trying to reel Busch in, but as the two took the white flag, Burton was making that time up fast. With Busch holding firmly to the bottom, Burton made his move to the high side, and the two bumped several times heading towards the finish line. Coming off turn four, Busch couldn’t hold the inside, hit the side of Burton’s No. 29 Chevrolet and spun out across the line, taking the checkered flag backwards on his way to the wall while Burton took the win. Busch still got second, with Tony Stewart, Kurt Busch, and David Stremme rounding out the Top 5 finishers.
Who Should Have Won: Jeff Burton. Realistically, Burton was only one of the drivers with a good enough car to win this one. Both of the Busch brothers spent some time at the front, among others, and Kyle Busch especially gets an honorable mention for not only leading a large chunk of this race, but also for giving it his all and winding up a pile of wreckage in the end. Burton gets the overall nod from me for the way he ran down Busch in the end even after wrecking (just without hitting much) twice. When you can actually see someone gobbling up car lengths on each lap, you know you have a determined driver that's going to make the finish something to see.
Three Questions You Should Be Asking After the Race Weekend
1) Were the changes to Las Vegas Motor Speedway a mistake?
I'm not sure there are a lot of fans of the reconfigured and resurfaced track after the carnage that happened out there during the race. It would not be an exaggeration to call the Sam's Town 300 a wreckfest, and it bit the experienced as well as the inexperienced. Twelve cars were retired after accidents, ironic considering the speedway went through a track record twelve cautions for 58 laps. Some blamed the tires, some blamed the repaving job, still others blamed their cars…but all agreed there is more work to be done before this track reaches its true potential.
2) Should tires be changed after a different compound has been tested?
Goodyear decided to bring a harder compound tire than the one used in testing this January, so most of what the teams learned in testing was useless for the race in March. Teams were left scrambling to figure out setups this weekend, and the results were evident in the inordinate number of scary loose race cars out there during the event.
3) Could the Busch Series have put on the kind of show they did without the Cup drivers?
There's a fascinating question, as the top finishers and front runners all day were once again Cup drivers, including the two that made it a finish to remember.
Worth Noting/Points Shuffle:
Shane Huffman came home ninth to take the spot as the highest finishing non-Cup driver. Marcos Ambrose continues a nice first season so far with a tenth place result to capture the Raybestos Rookie of the Race award for the second time in three events. Ambrose leads the rookie standings by two points over Juan Pablo Montoya.
As far as the championship is concerned, early favorite Carl Edwards continues to lead the point standings, now ahead by 68 over second place Denny Hamlin. Dave Blaney holds down third spot, 129 points behind the leader, while Kevin Harvick and Marcos Ambrose moved up one spot apiece to round out the Top . Jon Wood moved up three spots to sixth, while Greg Biffle slid back three spots to seventh. Tony Stewart, Mike Wallace, and Kyle Busch complete the Top 10.
Buschwhackers in this race: 26
Starting spots taken by Buschwhackers YTD: 82 of 170
Buschwhackers finishing in Top 10: 8
Buschwhackers finishing in Top 10 YTD: 30 of 40
Races won by Buschwhackers YTD: 4 of 4
Buschwhackers ranked in Top 10 in Busch Series points standings: 7
"That's all skill, man. What are you talking about luck? I hit the pit box trying to park the car after the race, and that's about all I hit. It was loose racing. Those tires are so hard and the track was really slippery. We just fought all day." Marcos Ambrose joking when told he was lucky not to hit anything when he spun out during the race
"It's been a long time since we've had conditions like this. Charlotte was pretty bad, but you could still drive 'em. Here, you can't even drive 'em. I don't have any idea what tomorrow's going to [be] like." Greg Biffle
"The track is slick, super slick. With the hard tires and the heat, it's playing havoc on a lot of people. It's just real slick, you just have to be real careful." David Gilliland
"I knew after the test that this race - the Cup race and this race, in particular - were going to be battles of attrition. So, every time I thought about doing something that you would deem as stupid or something a little on the risky side, in the back of my mind I was thinking, â€˜You did this same stuff the last two years, and at the end of the year you regretted it,' because these are races that you're in, you have a problem and then you look back and say, â€˜Look at how many points I lost by doing that.'" Jon Wood
Next Up: The Busch Series returns to the East coast and Atlanta Motor Speedway for the Nicorette 300. Coverage starts at 3:00 PM ET on ABC on Saturday, March 17th.
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