Commentary

Happy homecoming for Kyle Busch

Updated: March 2, 2009, 5:33 PM ET
By Terry Blount | ESPN.com

LAS VEGAS

All times Eastern

8:23 p.m.

Kyle Busch holds on for his first victory of the season. Clint Bowyer is second and Jeff Burton finishes third.

Jimmie Johnson wrecked with six laps to go, causing the 15th and final caution.

Carl Edwards blew an engine coming to the white flag.

8:08 p.m.

Kyle Busch takes the lead on Turn 2 with 17 laps to go, forcing Clint Bowyer up the hill.

Seconds later Paul Menard wrecks on the front stretch to bring out the yellow flag -- a race-record 13th caution.

8:05 p.m.

Jimmie Johnson passed Kyle Busch to get on the lead lap the hard way with 52 laps to go.

Jeff Burton is moving backward on this set of tires. He's fallen to fifth with 50 laps left.

Bobby Labonte is doing a great job of staying close to Busch. He's less than half a second behind Labonte with 33 laps remaining. But both drivers are trying to save a little fuel.

Carl Edwards has managed to move up to fifth after the lug-nut problem on pit road.

Caution 12 comes out with 27 laps to go because of debris on the backstretch. Pit-road strategy could decide the race. Twelve cautions is a record for this event.

Clint Bowyer's crew tells him to stay out. Bowyer is shocked, asking whether they can make it to the end on fuel. He doesn't get an answer. It's a Vegas gamble.

Burton is second on the restart and Gordon is third with his mangled No. 24 Chevy. Busch restarts fourth with 22 laps to go.

7:37 p.m.

At Lap 200, Jeff Burton has managed to stay in front after his two-tire stop. Jimmie Johnson is second, half a second back. Bobby Labonte is third, Greg Biffle fourth and Jeff Gordon fifth.

Biffle is concerned about his engine, telling his crew that the motor is surging. Biffle switches ignition boxes. He's running sixth.

Green-flag stops are coming. It's a disaster for two Hendrick cars.

Gordon misses the pit road entrance and locks up the tires. He blows the left-front tire and the shredding rubber destroys the left-front fender, bringing out a caution flag.

But Johnson slides through his pit box and almost hits a crew member before the yellow flag flies. He falls 16 spots to 18th, one lap down.

Problems in the pits for Carl Edwards, also. The No. 99 crew doesn't get all the lug nuts on and Edwards has to come back to pit road. Burton gets out first, Labonte is second and Kyle Busch third on the restart with 58 laps to go. Some teams will try to get to the end without another stop. But Busch takes the lead with 57 laps remaining, going from the back to the front.

7:07 p.m.

Jeff Gordon crosses another career plateau with 20,000 laps led, ranking seventh on the all-time list.

Michael Waltrip spins and scrapes the Turn 4 wall to bring out the ninth caution on Lap 165.

Pit road is busy and several cars on the lead lap elect to change only two tires. It puts Jeff Burton out front and Bobby Labonte second for the Lap 169 restart.

Denny Hamlin's car snaps around in Turn 4 and hits the wall. That's caution No. 10.

6:47 p.m.

Reed Sorenson spins into the backstretch wall on Lap 138, bringing out the seventh yellow flag.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. has worked his way up to 12th on the Lap 143 restart.

Caution No. 8 comes out one lap later, when Aric Almirola crashes in Turn 2.

For the second time today, Kasey Kahne miraculously avoids contact with the wreck in front of him. Kahne spins into the asphalt apron in the backstretch before coming to pit road to change tires.

Jeff Gordon passes Jimmie Johnson for the lead on Lap 149, the first lap of the restart.

6:33 p.m.

Caution flag No. 6 flies on Lap 124.

Mark Martin loses an engine and heads to pit road. His day is over. That's two consecutive engine failures for Martin and the No. 5 Chevy.

"We really feel bad for [crew chief] Alan [Gustafson] and the guys on the 5 car," Martin said. "We had an encouraging run, but this is very disappointing."

Kurt Busch also has engine problems. He's on pit rod with the hood up. The crew thought it could be a valve spring problem, but the No. 2 Dodge is still in the race.

Kevin Harvick says he has a tire going down on Lap 121, but the caution saves him.

Jimmie Johnson restarts in front on Lap 132. Jeff Gordon is second and Greg Biffle is third.

Matt Kenseth's hauler is leaving the track, heading back to North Carolina. Not what the 17 team had in mind for what they hoped would be a special day.

6:14 p.m.

Drew Blickensderfer, crew chief for Matt Kenseth, told Roush Fenway teammate Bob Osborne (Carl Edwards' crew chief) that Kenseth's car lost a piston to cause the failure. Blick wants Osborne to tell Edwards to be careful going up through the gears.

6:05 p.m.

Greg Biffle passes Kevin Harvick for the lead on Lap 85. Jeff Gordon passes Harvick for second on the backstretch of Lap 90.

David Stremme spins in Turn 2 to bring out the fifth caution on Lap 96.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. gets the lucky dog back to the lead lap. He restarts 27th.

Biffle and Mark Martin stay out while most of the other lead-lap cars pit on Lap 97.

Juan Pablo Montoya makes contact with Clint Bowyer on the Lap 99 restart. Montoya scrapes the wall, but no caution. Montoya comes to pit road.

5:51 p.m.

Kevin Harvick restarts in front on Lap 83 because he took only fuel in the pits. Jimmie Johnson restarts 10th.

David Ragan doesn't know specifically what happened to his engine.

"If I knew I'd be back in Charlotte working on engines," Ragan said. "When you're pushing the issue to get everything out of it, sometimes you have things like this happen."

5:42 p.m.

Jamie McMurray makes a miraculous save of his sliding car on Lap 67. Really impressive. McMurray's No. 26 Ford was sideways coming out of the turn, but he held it together like a guy in a drifting competition.

***

David Ragan blows an engine to bring out the fourth caution on Lap 75. That's two Roush Fenway cars with blown engines early in the race.

5:36 p.m.

Jimmie Johnson has dominated the first 50 laps, but green-flag pit stops are coming.

After cycling through on Lap 58, Johnson still leads and Carl Edwards is second.

Pit road is no friend of Dale Earnhardt Jr. He is caught speeding on pit road and has to come back in for a drive-through penalty. Earnhardt is a lap down in 31st.

A caution flag flies on Lap 60 for debris on the backstretch.

5:24 p.m.

Matt Kenseth was asked what happened with the No. 17's motor.

"That's a great question," Kenseth said. "I have no idea. The guys who work on these engines [at Roush Fenway Racing] do an awesome job. It's unfortunate that we won't get to race. I was worried about today because this race is such a strain on the motor with the high RPMs."

***

A spin on the backstretch by Todd Bodine brought out the second caution. Elliott Sadler was involved in the accident

5:03 p.m.

Matt Kenseth's quest at history is over. The No. 17 Ford just blew up in Turn 1 on Lap 7.

Kenseth's engine shut off on the backstretch of Lap 2. He told his crew it sounded funny and he thought it was going to blow up. He came to pit road under the caution.

The crew looked under the hood for a loose spark plug wire. Kenseth was speeding on pit road and had to restart at the end of the longest line. It didn't matter. He's done.

Kenseth was hoping to become the first Cup driver to win the first three races of a season. Instead of a victory, he'll finish 43rd.

***

The first caution came when Brad Keselowski got loose out of Turn 4 on Lap 1 and slammed into the wall. Keselowski, driving the No. 25 Chevy, is in a fifth Hendrick Motorsports car today.

Denny Hamlin damaged the right front of his No. 11 Toyota by running into the back of Joe Nemecheck, who checked up when Keselowski wrecked in front of him.

***

Las Vegas Motor Speedway said the race was a sellout. If so, a lot of folks with tickets didn't show up in the grandstands around Turns 3 and 4.

Nevertheless, it's a huge crowd, probably in excess of 130,000 spectators.

4:39 p.m.

Ten guys in red-and-white Elvis jumpsuits were standing on the start-finish line before the race. All of them are wearing Elvis hair helmets and sunglasses. Only in Vegas.

And, of course, we have show girls for the driver introductions. The ladies were quite colorful -- one in red, one in green, one in purple and one in blue.

Pete Rose also came on stage after an introduction from Speedway Motorsports Inc. chairman Bruton Smith. Is anyone surprised that Rose is in the gambling capital of the world?

Robin Leach introduced Todd Bodine as "Todd Bodeen." Maybe Leach thinks Todd is related to Jethro.

***

Today's race is 18 laps longer than the previous Cup events at LVMS. The increase comes because of the name of the event -- the Shelby 427. It takes 285 laps to complete 427 miles.

Racing legend Carroll Shelby, whose special edition Mustang is the title sponsor, is attending the event.

3:34 p.m.

Kyle Busch, the hometown boy, was a hero to a happy couple when he volunteered for an unusual extra assignment Friday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Busch
Busch

NASCAR fans Damon and Heather Landry were getting married on one side of Victory Lane as Busch walked into the other side after winning the pole for the Shelby 427.

Someone involved in the wedding told Busch that the couple didn't have a best man. "I'll be the best man," Busch said.

Damon and Heather were thrilled. Busch, wearing his fire suit and cap, stood next to Damon during the ceremony, delaying the pole award presentation.

Busch removed his hat and bowed, with his hands folded in front of him, when the chaplain started a prayer.

When the ceremony ended, Busch saw that the newlyweds didn't have a wedding cake. So Busch gave the couple several bags of M&Ms (his sponsor) to nibble on during the celebration.

***

The weather for today's race is as close to perfect as it gets -- clear skies and temperatures in the low 70s when the green flag waves with a 0 percent chance of rain. That's nice to see after the first two events this year.

On the other hand, weather back at NASCAR team headquarters in Charlotte, N.C., is awful. The forecast calls for at least 6 inches of snow tonight. If that happens, it could affect the teams trying to fly back to North Carolina on private jets.

Most of the Cup teams expect to arrive back in North Carolina before daylight Monday morning. And most of those teams are flying into private airstrips in Concord or Statesville, not places where snowplows are readily available.

***

Kevin Harvick had some interesting comments on his radio show about Jeff Burton, his Cup teammate, during the Nationwide race Saturday.

Burton spun in front of Harvick, causing Harvick to wreck.

"Just in over his head," Harvick said of Burton. "That car is a piece of junk and he was trying to make something happen."

That beat-up piece of junk Burton was driving, the No. 29 Chevy, finished 10th.

***

The Sam Town's 300 on Saturday was a wild crashfest that tore up a lot of equipment. No team suffered more than Joe Gibbs Racing.

The No. 20 Toyota driven by Denny Hamlin and the No. 18 Camry that Kyle Busch drove were brand-new cars that hadn't turned a lap until Friday. Both cars were scrap metal by the end of the race.

***

Goodyear has received plenty of criticism over the last year for failing to bring a quality racing tire to several Cup events, but Goodyear officials deserve some credit for the tire compound they brought to Las Vegas this weekend.

Most of the drivers have said how pleased they are with the grip of the tire in the turns and how racy it is on the track. Drivers say this tire has more flex in the sidewall, but doesn't lose durability.

That's a difficult combination to find with the new car. Things could change today, but so far so good.

Goodyear had a tire test at LVMS in December. One of the drivers involved in the test was Mark Martin. It probably helped having a Cup veteran like Martin who could give Goodyear detailed feedback about the tires.

***

The flu bug has hit Roush Fenway Racing. Jamie McMurray and Greg Biffle aren't feeling so hot this weekend, but the bug didn't keep Biffle from winning the Nationwide race Saturday.

Terry Blount covers motorsports for ESPN.com. His book, "The Blount Report: NASCAR's Most Overrated and Underrated Drivers, Cars, Teams, and Tracks," was published by Triumph Books and is available in bookstores. Click here to order a copy. Terry can be reached at terry@blountspeak.com.

Terry Blount

ESPN Seattle Seahawks reporter

ALSO SEE