(AP photo/Isaac Brekken)
It was only fitting that the Return of Wild Thing came of chaos.
Kyle Busch took his bow -- albeit a little rusty on the Cup tour -- after his competition had stumbled through a series of bizarre incidents in Sunday's Shelby 427 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
To dispense with any semblance of order, early on, the script had to get rid of Matt Kenseth, of course -- suddenly and definitely.
It was sort of the way old baseball announcers used to greet a leadoff single in the top of the first -- "Well, there goes the no-hitter."
On only the seventh lap, there went Kenseth's shot at a historic third straight win to start the Cup season. His blown engine would be the first of three on his five-driver Roush Fenway team, with David Ragan's motor popping soon after, while Carl Edwards was out with only a lap and a half to go.
This was supposed to be an engine-headache day for Toyota, not Ford. Toyota engineers had spotted excessive engine wear going into the race, and so Busch, who'd won the pole, changed engines and started 39th.
"I think it's the first failure we've had in over two years," Kenseth told reporters at the track.
Said team owner Jack Roush, "I think we misjudged how fast this tire was going to be, and the engine turned more. It's the same spec on the engine that we had all of last year. It wasn't something new or experimental. I had great confidence in it."
Thing was, "The tire didn't fall off as much as we expected it to," said Roush.
Gordon locked up a left front wheel and missed the pit road, and the wheel remained locked and blew out the tire, ripping away the left-front fender.
"We kind of got fortunate in the one sense that the caution came out," Gordon said.
Indeed. With patchwork to his car, Gordon hung on to finish sixth and take the lead in the Cup standings, even though his winless streak in points races extended to 44.
Johnson slid through his pits to draw a one-lap penalty but managed to unlap under green -- no free pass -- with 52 laps to go. But his zeal didn't let up, and he spun and wrecked with six laps to go, to wind up 24th.
Johnson conceded that "I got in the dirty stuff and just lost it."
So Wild Thing's only worries as the laps waned were two Richard Childress Racing teammates, one of whom -- Jeff Burton -- had finished 28th and 32nd to start the season.
Clint Bowyer, the RCR driver from whom Busch took the lead for keeps with 17 laps to go, didn't fault himself.
"He just passed us; he didn't make some magic move," Bowyer said after finishing second. "We did what we needed to do to put ourselves in position to win the race. Their cars [the Joe Gibbs Racing Toyotas] are really fast on new tires. That's where they've got us."
"After last week, that felt like a win," Burton said of his third-place finish after his 32nd place showing at Fontana, Calif., last week.
Busch, a Las Vegas native, had gone into the race shrugging off the fact that he'd never won a Cup race at his home track.
But after collecting his first hometown win, and his first Cup victory since last August at Watkins Glen, N.Y., Busch acknowledged the occasion.
"You never really know how special they can be," he said, "until you actually get it done."
Nationwide Series: Fresh story lines emerge at Vegas
It wasn't just the Return of the Biff in Nationwide -- Greg Biffle's win to break a 76-race losing streak in the series.
Allgaier showed there is hope for a non-Cup driver to take charge of what ought to be a developmental series anyway.
Allgaier, 22, led for a while and pestered other leaders so much as to impress them greatly before scraping the wall with 22 laps to go and finishing eighth.
Allgaier is the Roger Penske project who's in a fully funded, all-Nationwide development program. It's partly due to the fact that Verizon, when it took over AllTel, owed Penske sponsorship contract money and couldn't participate in Sprint Cup due to exclusivity rights of the rival wireless provider.
Regardless, it's nice to see that a bona fide Nationwide driver, and not just another cherry picker dropping down from Cup, can contend this season.
And then there was Speed's impressive if brief Nationwide debut in the 300.
Speed won the pole and, even with a tight car, hung onto third place until he was collected in Busch's crash after the latter's admittedly unwise early challenge for the lead.
Just 22 laps into the race, Speed fought off a strong challenge for third by Edwards. Edwards drove underneath to take the position momentarily, but Speed got a strong run off the corner on the outside to regain third.
The bright break from banality shone through in Speed's personality after he was caught up in Busch's wreck and sidelined for the day.
Asked what happened, the free-spirited former Formula One driver, 26, said, "Oh, I don't know. I hit something on the racetrack. It was a racing thing, you know?"
Now how cool was that? No grousing, no finger-pointing, just the fact of the matter that, as Speed added, "it happens" in NASCAR.
Camping World Truck Series
The Trucks were off this past weekend. Next race: Saturday at Atlanta.Ed Hinton is a senior writer for ESPN.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Monday's SportsNation Chat
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Racing Resources SaysSprint Cup Series
- Las Vegas native Kyle Busch won the Shelby 427 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Busch was the pole winner but dropped to the rear, under penalty, for an engine change prior to the start. He is the first pole winner to win at Las Vegas.
- Busch posted his 13th career Sprint Cup victory in 153 races. All 13 wins have come at different tracks. Busch's last victory came at Watkins Glen in August 2008, 17 races ago.
- Busch scored his first Las Vegas victory in six races there. He became the eighth different race winner in 12 Las Vegas races.
- The 14 cautions set a track record; the old track record of 11 was set in 2008. The number of caution laps was also a new track record.
- Crew chief Steve Addington posted his ninth career Cup victory in 148 races. All nine of his crew chief victories have come with Busch.
- This is the first victory for Joe Gibbs Racing at Las Vegas. Roush Fenway Racing leads all teams with six wins at Las Vegas. Hendrick Motorsports has four.
- Jeff Gordon led 17 laps, surpassing 20,000 career laps led. He is one of only seven drivers with 20,000 or more laps led. Richard Petty leads all drivers with over 50,000.
- Jeff Gordon leads the Cup standings for the first time since Atlanta on Oct. 28, 2007 (42 races ago). He leads second-place Clint Bowyer by 18 points.
- Bowyer (second) extended a 76-race streak of running at the finish that began at Homestead in November 2006. Bowyer's last DNF came at Phoenix on Nov. 12, 2006, when he finished 33rd due to oil pump failure.
- David Reutimann, who finished fourth, scored his first career top-5 finish.
- Bobby Labonte, who finished fifth, posted his first top-5 since finishing third at Martinsville in 2006 (78 races between).
- Joey Logano (13th) was the highest-finishing rookie contender among the three rookies in the race.
- Roush Fenway had three engine failures in the race: Matt Kenseth, David Ragan and Carl Edwards, tying most engine DNFs for Roush in a race (set at Atlanta in March 2003 and Talladega in April 1998).
- The top 10 consisted of three Fords, four Chevrolets and three Toyotas. Kasey Kahne, who finished 11th, was the highest-finishing Dodge.
- Greg Biffle won the Sam's Town 300 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. It was his 19th Nationwide Series win in his 223rd race; his last victory came at the Auto Club Speedway in February 2006, a span of 76 races.
- Biffle ranks 18th on the all-time wins list.
- Biffle scored his first Nationwide Las Vegas victory in his eighth race there. He also has a win at Las Vegas in the Camping World Truck Series (1999).
- Biffle rebounded from a "too fast on pit road penalty" on Lap 30 and from going a lap down after running out of fuel at Lap 148. He became the ninth different Las Vegas race winner.
- Roush Fenway Racing posted its fifth Nationwide victory and 14th NASCAR victory at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
- Ford scored its fifth Las Vegas win.
- Eighteen drivers failed to finish the race -- a track record.
- Kyle Busch, who was leading the points coming in, finished 39th. Busch is now fifth in points, 124 points behind Carl Edwards.
- Nineteen drivers were involved in on-track incidents, including Mike Bliss, Denny Hamlin, Jeff Burton, Kevin Harvik, Brad Keselowski, Carl Edwards, David Ragan and pole-winner Scott Speed.
- The race featured 12 cautions for 60 laps and two red flags for 20.49 minutes. The 60 caution laps were a track record.
- The Vegas race featured a green-white-checker finish for the third time -- it was extended from 200 laps to 209.
- Pole-winner Speed finished 40th after being involved in an accident that brought out the race's third caution.
- Scott Lagasse Jr., who finished ninth, scored his first career top-10 finish.
- Michael McDowell, who finished sixth, was the highest-finishing rookie.
- Four of the drivers who finished in the top 10 were Rookie of the Year contenders.
- The top 10 consisted of two Fords, four Toyotas, three Chevrolets and a Dodge.