Sunday, March 1, 2009 | 9 p.m.
Shame on any fan at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway who didn't believe Kyle Busch could come from a 39th place start to win his first Sprint Cup victory Sunday at the Shelby 427.
Come on, he told you he was going to do it.
Although a blown engine during qualifying forced him to start the race from the back, as Sunday's pole sitter, the Durango High School graduate addressed the crowd during driver introductions before the race. Busch stepped up to the microphone and told the audience to watch closely.
"They make all the pole sitters address the fans and thank them," Busch said. "I just said, 'Hey, you know what? We're going to the back so get ready for a show, here it comes.' I told them what I thought I could do."
Three-and-a-half hours, 285 laps and one teary-eyed mother later, the 23-year-old made good on his word, working patiently through the 43-car field and leading the final 17 laps to claim victory. It was the Las Vegas native's first NASCAR victory in six tries on a track he and his brother, Kurt, visited often during their childhood. After crossing the finish line, Kyle celebrated by grabbing the checkered flag and kissing the pavement in front of the grandstands.
"There in Victory Lane, Kurt came up and said, 'Congratulations, we watched this place get built,'" Kyle said. "Mom (Gaye Busch) was right there, too, behind him. Her face was soaked, she was crying. It was great to have her here, and we missed dad (Tom). He's back home working. I had to kiss the ground that this place was built on. We watched it built from the ground up."
Instead of trying to take over early -- a plan that led to Kyle Busch wrecking early in the Nationwide Series Sam's Town 300 a day before -- he picked off other drivers one-by-one on his way to the front with 57 laps to go. He fell to third after a restart with 22 laps to go, trailing second place Jeff Burton and leader Clint Bowyer.
Five laps later, Busch passed them both in a matter of seconds, exciting spotter Jeff Dickerson enough to yell, "Goodnight, Gracie!" over the radios, a reference to a TV series in the 1950s.
"It wasn't me who said it. I don't even know what it means," Busch said after the race. "I heard that and I thought, 'What is that?' But I didn't care what it meant, I just said, 'That's right boy, here we go.'"
Two cautions followed that final lead change, with Busch racing out to the front of both of them. The best that Richard Childress Racing teammates Bowyer and Burton could do was battle for second, which Bowyer took.
"We were racing for second, but we were racing for the win," Burton said. "I wasn't thinking about finishing third. But (Kyle Busch) was fast, obviously -- passed both of us."
Older brother Kurt finished in 23rd place.
Kyle 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 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.
With the work of race weekend done and nowhere to go until the morning, Busch said the party would start on the Strip. As a kid who grew up minutes away, he probably knows the way.
"We're partying it up big," Busch said. "The plane can't go home tonight so it's going to be one heck of a party in Las Vegas."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.