When Kyle Busch is really confident about his racecar late in an event, that typically equals serious trouble for his competitors.
When Busch passed Jeff Burton for the lead late in the going, he cued his radio and said “Goodnight, Gracie” to his crew, a signal that it was all over and that no one was going to defeat him.
Those words from Kyle held true.
From that point on, Busch held off a final charge from Burton and Clint Bowyer to win the Shelby 427 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
After the race, Busch was happy with his performance.
“Today was very, very cool,” the winner said in the post-race press conference. “The last 25, 30 laps, I was just as nervous as could be. Wasn’t really all that great at hitting my marks. I was hitting them good enough, I guess.”
In second behind the winner was Bowyer, who despite being on older tires, re-passed his teammate Burton in the waning laps to finish right behind Busch. Bowyer may have been even more happy to finish second than Busch was with winning the 427-mile race.
“After last week, you know, it feels almost like a win,” Bowyer said. “Got to hand it off to Shane (Wilson, Bowyer’s crew chief). I mean, that’s where he shines. He studies his pit strategy and works hard on it.”
Jeff Gordon, despite suffering significant damage when he blew out the left-front tire during a round of green-flag pit stops, finished a strong sixth, followed closely by Greg Biffle and Brian Vickers, who had his second consecutive top-10 finish. Jamie McMurray and Dale Earnhardt Jr. rounded out the top 10.
This race will be remembered for the high number of yellows (a track record 14), and the number of teams that suffered mechanical problems. Three Roush Fenway Racing Fords blew engines, along with the No. 5 of Mark Martin (who blew up for the second week in a row) and the No. 64 of Todd Bodine. There were also a couple of teams who dropped back late with engine issues and a couple more teams that had issues with vibrations. There were no major issues that were caused by tires, though.
Points Standings (Top 12)
Despite a tire blowout on lap 223 caused by missing pit road during a sequence of green-flag pit stops, Gordon brought his somewhat bruised No. 24 Chevrolet home in the sixth position. This allowed the four-time Sprint Cup champion to move up to the top of the points standings. Gordon’s lead is 18 points over Bowyer. Bowyer’s strategic move to stay out when everyone else pitted under the caution at lap 258 paid great dividends. Matt Kenseth fell two places this week to third after blowing his engine after only six laps and finishing last. Biffle is now fourth after finishing seventh on Sunday. That finish could have been much better if engine problems hadn’t crept up in the final laps.
In fifth this week is Reutimann, fresh off a career-best fourth-place finish. This finish came despite having to start at the rear of the field after an engine change. Sunday’s race winner Busch is up 12 spots to sixth and is just three points behind Reutimann. Kyle’s older brother Kurt Busch is down four spots to seventh this week after a strong run was dampened by engine issues towards the end of the race, which dropped him to a 23rd-place finish, one lap down. Tony Stewart is down four spots this week to eighth after suffering from a vibration late in the race. This dropped him from a sure top-10 finish to 26th at the end of the event, two laps down.
Carl Edwards remains in ninth place this week, two points behind Stewart after an invisible, but consistent day. However, Edwards’s engine died with roughly two miles to go in the race. This forced Edwards to coast to a 16th-place finish, the last car on the lead lap. Labonte is up 12 spots to 10th this week after a strong fifth-place finish, his first top five since 2006. Kevin Harvick is up five spots to 11th after a struggle to a 12th-place finish on Sunday, and Michael Waltrip, who crashed on lap 162, rounds out the top 12.
Around the Top 35 Cutoff
The best run put in by the teams hovering around the Top 35 cutoff was by the No. 71 Chevrolet fielded by The Racers’ Group (TRG Motorsports) and driven by David Gilliland. Gilliland, after qualifying 30th on Friday, slowly worked his way up through the field, avoiding the wrecks along the way. Staying out long enough during the final round of green-flag pit stops to earn the lucky dog when Gordon blew his left-front tire was crucial for the team. From there, Gilliland held his ground and came home with a 14th-place finish. This finish moves the No. 71 to 36th in owner points, just two points out of 35th, despite missing the Daytona 500.
The part time No. 78 for Furniture Row Motorsports had another solid run on Sunday. Regan Smith qualified the flat black car 18th for the race and held his ground during the race to finish one lap down in 19th. This finish pushes the No. 78 into the 35th spot in owner points despite skipping Fontana.
Smith was followed to the line by the No. 47 of Marcos Ambrose in 20th. Ambrose’s race was not as easy as Smith’s was, though. The No. 19 of Elliott Sadler ran into the back of Ambrose less than 10 laps into the race while trying to avoid a spinning Bodine. The resulting pit stops put the No. 47 a lap down nine laps into the 285-lap race.
After three races, the full time teams outside the Top 35 include the No. 28 of Travis Kvapil, No. 41 of Jeremy Mayfield, No. 82 of Scott Speed and No. 98 of Paul Menard. Teams that were outside the Top 35 that are currently in are the No. 14 of Stewart (eighth), No. 44 of AJ Allmendinger (21st) and the part-time No. 78 of Smith (35th).