Sunday, Feb. 28, 2010 | 6:29 p.m.
On paper, all signs pointed to a successful, Sunday afternoon homecoming for the Busch brothers in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Shelby American.
Kurt held the pole and four spots back, little brother and defending Shelby American champion Kyle was starting on the third row.
But that’s why they race on a track.
After battling at the top of the field early in the race, both eventually fell out of contention in different fashions.
“Certainly not the day we anticipated,” Kurt Busch said. “We had great expectations starting on the pole here at my home track and Lady Luck wasn’t on our side.”
That much was evident after Kurt Busch found his No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge caught up in the aftermath of an accident between Earnhardt Ganassi Racing teammates Juan Pablo Montoya and Jamie McMurray.
On lap 93, Kurt Busch was sitting in 12th place, in pursuit of the teammates, when McMurray nudged Montoya, sending him into the wall.
Following in the high lane, the pole-sitting Busch couldn’t avoid Montoya.
“I was a sitting duck for the wreck in front of us,” he said. “That basically ended our day. Do we get collected if we’re on the inside lane? Who knows.”
He finished in 35th place and eight laps behind.
Kyle Busch’s misfortunes, however, were of the self-inflicted variety.
When the field pitted on lap 216, he was flagged for a speeding penalty on pit road and was required to make a drive-through.
Shortly thereafter, he apologized to his team on the radio.
“Our car wasn’t bad all day,” he said. “It just didn’t seem like we had the speed.”
About the penalty, Busch said, “There was too much rear brake and I slid.”
He finished 15th and leaves the weekend without a top-10 finish in either race.
The McMurray/Montoya tangle didn’t come without its fair share of drama afterwards.
While being interviewed in the No. 9 Target Chevrolet garage after the accident, Montoya had strong words for his teammate.
“He runs straight into my (butt),” Montoya said. “He nearly ran me into the fence in Turn 2 as well.
“He’s not doing himself any favors.”
The incident wasn’t the first between the two, who became teammates in early February.
After a race in Bristol last March, McMurray was angered after Montoya intentionally spun him out.
McMurray was unavailable for comment.
“Sorry that it happened,” McDonald’s Chevrolet crew chief Kevin Manion said. “It’s a terrible day for EGR, it’s unfortunate and hopefully we can be adults, act like a team, pat each other on the back and move on.”
Duel of dominance
When Jimmie Johnson passed Jeff Gordon in Turn 2 with 17 laps to go, it was another example of Jimmie being sneaky.
In four of the past five races in which Gordon has led the most laps, Johnson was the driver to take home the checkered flag.
“You have to give credit where credit’s due,” Gordon said. “They’re strong, a very good team.”
Gordon led 219 laps while Johnson ended up with 18 laps led and his 49th Sprint Cup victory.
“The car was so fast in the long haul,” Johnson said. “At parts of the race we stuck behind Gordon and Kenseth and I just kept putting pressure on Jeff, hoping he would make a mistake.”
The Hendrick Motorsports teammates have won a combined 131 Sprint Cup races; Gordon ranks sixth all-time while Johnson checks in at 12th.
It was Johnson’s fourth win at Las Vegas Motor Speedway and Gordon’s seventh top 10 finish.
Sunday’s race was the ninth consecutive sellout for the Shelby American.
Speedway officials sold the final grandstand seats Sunday morning and the crowd marked the largest of the season.
“In what are still challenging economic times, today’s turnout is a testament to the popularity of LVMS, this great city and NASCAR’s premier racing series,” Speedway president Chris Powell said.
The race was the 13th Sprint Cup race at LVMS.