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Sunday, March 1
Las Vegas Motor Speedway
Las Vegas, Nevada
Kyle Busch Rallies For Hometown Las Vegas Win
By Reid Spencer, Sporting News NASCAR Wire Service
LAS VEGAS (March 1, 2009) — So the last shall be first, and the first last.
For biblical scholars, that was Matthew 20:16. For NASCAR fans, it was Sunday’s Shelby 427 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Starting from the rear of the field because of an engine change during Friday’s practice session, pole winner and Las Vegas native Kyle Busch worked his way to the front throughout a race punctuated with a record 14 caution periods and streaked to a .411-second victory, his first of the season and his first at Las Vegas.
Matt Kenseth, first in the series standings entering the race, finished last, after his engine blew six laps into the race. That ended Kenseth’s bid to become the first driver to win the first three races in a Cup season.
“This is pretty cool,” Busch said after his celebratory burnout on the frontstretch. “I didn’t know exactly what it would mean, but when I was coming to the checkered flag, there were knots in my stomach.”
Clint Bowyer regained a lap he lost early and finished second, thanks to crew chief Shane Wilson’s decision to keep him on the track while the other front-runners pitted under caution on Lap 260 of the 285-lap race. Bowyer surrendered the lead to Busch off Turn 2 on Lap 269.
Jeff Burton, Bowyer’s teammate at Richard Childress Racing, took third, followed by David Reutimann and Bobby Labonte. Jeff Gordon (who assumed the series points lead by 18 over Bowyer), Greg Biffle, Brian Vickers, Jamie McMurray and Dale Earnhardt Jr. completed the top 10.
Three-time defending Cup champion Jimmie Johnson, who led a race-high 92 laps, spun in Turn 2 to cause the final caution on Lap 280 and finished 24th.
“I’m sorry, guys,” said Johnson, who also had a tough day on pit road.
“It wasn’t meant to be today,” crew chief Chad Knaus responded over the team’s radio.
The race restarted with three laps left, and Busch pulled away from Bowyer and Burton.
Even though Busch started at the rear of the field, he still is credited for starting from the pole, making him the first to win from that position at Las Vegas. But that also meant Busch had to contend with traffic until he took the lead for the first time (other than during an early cycle of green-flag pit stops) on Lap 228.
“We just had to battle hard,” said Busch, 23, who won his 13th series race. “We didn’t have the best car today, but we had a car that we could keep working on and keep making it better.”
Bowyer credited Wilson, his new crew chief this season, for the call that gained him the runner-up finish.
“That’s where he shines,” Bowyer said. “He studies pit strategy real hard and really works on it. And that’s an area where I felt I could improve. I’m proud of him, proud of his call and glad it worked out.”
Notes: Busch has won nine of 39 NASCAR Sprint Cup races since moving to Joe Gibbs Racing to start the 2008 season. He won his first race for the new team last March at Atlanta, site of next week’s race. … Kenseth fell to third in points, tied with teammate Greg Biffle at 40 behind Gordon. … Johnson remained 19th in points, 145 behind the leader. … The only three drivers to score top-10 finishes in the first two races of the season — Kenseth, Kurt Busch and Tony Stewart — all had those short streaks broken. Kenseth was 43rd, Stewart 26th and Busch 23rd. … Rookie Joey Logano stayed on the lead lap and posted his best Cup finish to date: 13th. … For the second straight race, Mark Martin’s engine failed. He finished 40th and dropped to 34th in the Cup standings.
Complete Race Results click here
Post-Race Driver Point Standings click here
Photo Gallery - Sunday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway click here
Jimiie Johnson's No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet was fastest in Saturday's final practice session for the Shelby 427.
Saturday Final Practice Speed Chart click here
Starting Lineup* click here
*Does not reflect adjustments that will be made prior to the race start because of the cars that need to go to the rear
of the field due to engine changes. See the "BREAKING NEWS" note in the Qualifying section below...
TV Broadcast Times*
Qualifying Time Trials: Friday, February 27 at 7:30 p.m./SPEED
Practice: Saturday, February 28 at 2:30 p.m./SPEED
Final Practice: Saturday, February 28 at 3:30 p.m./SPEED
RaceDay, Pre-Race Show: Sunday, March 1 at 3 p.m./SPEED
FOX Pre-Race Show: Sunday, March 1 at 4:30 p.m./FOX
Shelby 427: Sunday, March 1 at 5:46 p.m./FOX
*Times shown are AT - one hour ahead of ET, i.e. if it's 2 p.m./AT - it's 1 p.m./ET...
Green Flag Fast Facts
The Race: Shelby “427”
The Date: Sunday, March 1
The Distance: 427.5 miles/285 laps
TV: FOX, 4:30 p.m./AT
Radio: PRN and Sirius Satellite
2008 Polesitter: Kyle Busch
2008 Winner: Carl Edwards
Schedule: (All times local PT) Friday—Practice, 12-1:30 p.m.; Qualifying, 3:40 p.m. Saturday—Final Practice, 11:45 a.m.-12:50 p.m.
Year-To-Date Results & Point Standings click here
Qualifying Notes & Related News
BREAKING NEWS...Even though Kyle Busch won the pole position in qualifying he will start from the rear of the field after changing
the engine in his racecar during practice. Several other Toyota drivers will join him at the back of the pack after also having engine woes Friday,
including: David Reutimann (was 4th), Marcus Ambrose (was 5th), Brian Vickers (was 21st) and Scott Speed (was 42nd.) Several reports identify the lifters as a common problem - the same issue
that forced Vickers to change engines after winning the pole in California last week...
Kyle Busch won the Coors Light Pole Award for the Shelby 427 with a lap of 29.033 seconds, 185.995
mph, a new qualifying record at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Starting Lineup* click here
Photo Gallery - Thursday NASCAR Hauler Parade on the Las Vegas Strip click here
NASCAR Newscast - Las Vegas Preview click here
NASCAR Beat Podcast - Las Vegas Preview click here
- This is his fifth pole in 153 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races.
- This is his first pole and third top-10 start in 2009.
- This is his second pole in six races at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. He also won the pole in last year's
Las Vegas race.
- Kurt Busch (second) posted his second top-10 start of 2009 and his ninth in nine races at Las Vegas
- This marks the first time that the Busch brothers have occupied the front row in a NASCAR Sprint Cup
race. The last time brothers started from the front row of a NASCAR Sprint Cup race was April 9, 2000.
Rusty Wallace won the pole at Martinsville Speedway. His brother, Kenny, qualified second.
- Jimmie Johnson (third) posted his fourth top-10 start at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. It is his third in
three races this season.
- Joey Logano (20th) was the fastest qualifying rookie.
- Twelve drivers broke Kasey Kahne’s March 9, 2007 qualifying record of 184.856 mph, 29.212 seconds
- Drivers that failed to qualify include: Travis Kvapil, Dave Blaney, Mike Garvey, Jeremy Mayfield, Sterling Marlin, Scott Riggs,
Tony Raines and Dexter Bean.
*Does not reflect adjustments that will be made prior to the race start because of the cars that need to go to the rear of the field due to engine changes...
- Two Wins Down, Kenseth Going For Three...In a display of virtual perfection on and off pit road this past Sunday at Auto Club Speedway, Matt Kenseth (No. 17 USG Ford) and crew became the fourth team in NASCAR history to win the Daytona 500 and the following event.
What is even more impressive is the No. 17 team has the opportunity to become the first to win the first three races of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season, and just might do it.
Kenseth joined some elite company by starting off 2-0. Ironically, the last driver to pull off such a feat was four-time series champion, Jeff Gordon (No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet) in 1997, winning Daytona and Rockingham. Gordon, incidentally, battled Kenseth last weekend in the closing laps at ACS, finishing second.
The other two drivers to open with two wins are three-time series champion Cale Yarborough (1977, Daytona/Richmond); and seven-time champion, Richard Petty (1973, Daytona/Richmond).
After going all of 2008 without a win, the No. 17 team has turned it around by adding crew chief Drew Blickensderfer.
“I just feel great about the group we have assembled,” said Kenseth. “Everybody's having fun. Everybody's loose. Everybody's performing at the same time. I think that, Drew has given the leadership and the spark they (the team) kind of needs.”
Kenseth heads to Las Vegas Motor Speedway ready to keep the streak alive. He has a Loop Data Driver Rating of 107.8 at LVMS and an Average Running Position of 10.771 .
Kenseth has posted two wins, four top fives and five top 10s at Las Vegas in nine starts. Kenseth is first in the series standings 85-points ahead of Gordon.
- Busch Brothers Head Home, Seeking Elusive Las Vegas Win...Las Vegas is the home of the Busch Brothers, Kyle Busch (No. 18 M&M’s Toyota) and Kurt Busch (No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge), who grew up racing on the “bull-ring” dirt track across the street from Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
The Busch brothers had much success at the dirt track, but surprisingly, neither have won a NASCAR national series race at LVMS.
Both have kicked the ‘09 season off to a good start. Kurt Busch is third in the series standings with a 10th-place finish at Daytona, and a fifth-place finish at Auto Club Speedway. Kurt has posted one top five and two top 10s in eight starts at LVMS. He has a Driver Rating of 89.9 and an Average Running Position of 13.354 at the 1.5-mile oval.
Kyle Busch is 18th in the series standings after finishing 41st in the Daytona 500 and third in the Auto Club 500.
He became the first driver ever to win a NASCAR Nationwide Series and a NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race in the same day this past Saturday, sweeping the doubleheader at Auto Club Speedway.
Kyle will attempt to carry his momentum to Las Vegas this weekend. He has two top fives, three top 10s and a pole (2008) at LVMS. Loop Data has him ranked first at the track in Average Running Position with (6.777), third in Driver Rating (109.8), second in Quality Passes with (174) and second in Laps in Top 15 (93.1%).
- Gordon Second In Points — And 11 Laps Shy Of 20,000 For His Career...Turning up the heat. That’s exactly what Jeff Gordon did at Auto Club Speedway, battling for the lead with Matt Kenseth.
Gordon, for the second week in a row, had the best finish by a Hendrick Motorsports driver, finishing second in the Auto Club 500. That followed a 13th in the Daytona 500.
As a result, Gordon is second in the series standings 85-points back from Kenseth.
This weekend ,the No. 24 team heads to Las Vegas with the confidence that comes with improvement.
“I'm so excited about this race team right now,” said Gordon. “I just think we're head and shoulders above where we were (last year).”
Gordon has posted one win, five top fives and five top 10s at LVMS in 11 starts.
The Las Vegas-specific Loop Data has him ranked second in Average Running Position (7.446), second in Driver Rating (111.4), first in Quality Passes (186) and first in Laps in Top 15 (93.5%).
Gordon has the opportunity to reach a career milestone this weekend at LVMS. He is currently 11 laps shy of 20,000 laps run in his NASCAR Sprint Cup Series career.
Gordon’s teammates have not shared the same early success.
Of the three Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Lowe’s/KOBALT Tools Chevrolet) is fairing the best. He is 19th in the series standings after posting a 31st at Daytona and a ninth at the Auto Club Speedway.
Las Vegas Motor Speedway is a perfect place for Johnson to get the ball rolling.
Johnson has three consecutive wins (2005-’07), three top fives and four top 10s in seven starts at LVMS.
Mark Martin (No. 5 Pop-Tarts/CARQUEST Chevrolet) and Dale Earnhardt Jr. (No. 88 AMP Energy/National Guard Chevrolet) had their weekends cut short at Auto Club Speedway after both their engines expired.
Martin is 27th in the standings but is likely to turn out a good finish at LVMS. He won the inaugural NASCAR Sprint Cup race there n 1998. He has since then posted five top fives and nine top 10s in 11 starts.
After being projected as a title contender in ‘09, Earnhardt can’t seem to catch a break this season.
After finishing 27th at Daytona, and his engine letting go at Auto Club Speedway en route to a 39th-place result, he is 35th in the series standings.
- Big Names “On The Bubble” Of The Top 35 Owner Standings...For the first five races of the season, the top 35 teams from the final 2008 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series car owner points get guaranteed starting spots. After the first five weeks, the guaranteed berths are based on the 2009 owner point standings. Already, there are some concerned teams out there.
For example: Robby Gordon (No. 7 Jim Beam Toyota) Is currently 33rd in car owner points. As a car owner and driver, he has all the weight on his shoulders to stay in the top 35.
Gordon posted a 31st at Daytona and a 12th at Auto Club Speedway. His best finish at Las Vegas Motor Speedway was 12th in 2006.
Ryan Newman (No. 39 Haas Automation Chevrolet) joined Stewart-Haas Racing and car owner/driver Tony Stewart (No. 14 Old Spice Chevrolet) this season. He is currently 34th in car owner points after posting a 36th at Daytona and 28th at Auto Club Speedway. Newman has amounted one top five, four top 10s, and a pole in eight starts at LVMS.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. (No. 88 Amp Energy/National Guard Chevrolet) has had a rough two weeks to start the season and comes into Las Vegas 35th in car owner points. He finished 27th at Daytona and 39th at ACS.
Earnhardt has NEVER missed a race since becoming a full-time NASCAR Sprint Cup driver in 2000. Earnhardt has posted two top-five and three top-10 finishes at Las Vegas in nine starts.
Aric Almirola (No. 8 TomTom Chevrolet) is 36th in the car owner point — two points behind 35th. Driving for Earnhardt Ganassi Racing he has posted a 30th at Daytona and 35th at ACS.
Almirola has only one NASCAR Sprint Cup Series start at LVMS in 2007 — he finished 41st.
Joey Logano (No. 20 Home Depot Toyota) and Joe Gibbs currently are 37th in car owner points — 14 points back from 35th. In ’09 Logano has posted a 43rd at Daytona and a 26th at Auto Club Speedway. Practice on Friday, Feb. 27 will be the first laps Logano has run in any of NASCAR’s national series at LVMS.
- Michael Waltrip Racing Continues To Improve In 2009...During the 2009 NASCAR Media Day in Daytona Beach, Fla. Michael Waltrip (No. 55 NAPA Toyota) said, “If I don't see the results that I think can get the 55 car the results it deserves, then as an owner, I want to get somebody in there that can post those results."
Apparently, by putting himself “in the hot seat,” he has elevated the entire Michael Waltrip Racing organization.
Waltrip is seventh in the series standings after a seventh-place finish in the Daytona 500 and a 15th in the Auto Club 500.
Waltrip’s teammate, David Reutimann (No. 00 Aaron’s Dream Machine Toyota) has also started the season well. He is 12th in the series standings after posting a 12th-place finish at Daytona and a seventh at ACS.
A lot of the early success can be attributed to the shuffling of the crew chiefs at MWR.
This season Robert “Bootie” Barker has come on board to crew chief the No. 55 and Rodney Childers has come on for the No. 00.
It will be interesting to see if MWR can carry their early momentum to Las Vegas; a track both drivers have struggled at.
Waltrip has made 11 starts at LVMS and he has only one top-five finish.
Reutimann has started two races in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at Las Vegas with a best finish of 25th last season.
- Jeff Burton will reach a career milestone this weekend at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. It will be his 450th consecutive NASCAR Sprint Cup Series start.
- Mark Martin is making his 750th start in NASCAR Sprint Cup Series competition.
- Greg Biffle is making his 225th start in NASCAR Sprint Cup Series competition.
- Jamie McMurray is making his 225th start in NASCAR Sprint Cup Series competition.
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