Kyle Busch led for 125 of the 267 laps comprising Saturday night's Quaker State 400 Cup race, but it was still a close-run thing at the end when reigning champion Jimmie Johnson made a charge for the lead only to be distracted by coming under attack himself from David Reutimann.
Kyle had taken pole position based on having the fastest time in practice, after Friday's qualifying session was rained off midway through. However, it was his brother Kurt Busch who took the lead at the green flag and then led the first 31 laps, and it wasn't until after the competition caution that Kyle finally took the lead for any length of time. Thereafter his main competition for the race lead was Kurt's Penske team mate Brad Keselowski who led for a total of 79 laps during the course of the evening.
There were six cautions during the evening but none for anything more serious than a blown tyre and a spin. The first yellow was a competition caution on lap 30 dictated by NASCAR because of the lack of running since the track was washed clean by the rain; there was debris on the track on lap 139 and oil on lap 153; Jamie McMurray blew an engine on lap 200, Dale Earnhardt Jr. blew a tyre on lap 254 and Clint Bowyer cut a tyre and hit the wall bringing out the final caution on lap 262.
Keselowski suffered during a late sequence of green flag pit stops which put Kyle back in front, and the two late cautions then closed up the field for the final restart giving the pack one final two-lap window of opportunity to get the better of the #18 before the chequered flag. Jimmie Johnson and David Reutimann took up the challenge, but in the end their battle ended up being between themselves, and Johnson lost out when he admitted that he hadn't seen the white flag come out and assumed he had another lap left to make his move.
"I was able to hang with the #18 inside of turns 1 and 2, and he just cleared me going down the back," said Johnson said. "If I could have stayed inside of him, it would have been one heck of a finish at the end ... but it didn't happen that way, and then he cleared me and went on, and then I had my hands full with the #00. David was probably the best car at the end, and if he had cleared me sooner, I think he would have been up there with the #18 racing for the win."
It's Kyle Busch's 22nd career Sprint Cup win in 240 starts, and puts him at a grand total of 99 wins in NASCAR's three national series (Cup, Nationwide and Truck) - one off a landmark to which surely even Kyle Busch can't be obvious.
Not that Kyle spends much time reading the history books at the best of times - he's too busy looking ahead to the next race. And remarkably, despite having driven three complete speedway races with all the attendant practice and qualifying activity, Kyle Busch's way of relaxing on a 'free' Sunday was to immediately head off and find another motor race to compete in - in this case the Super Late Model event at Slinger Speedway in Wisconsin. When asked what the most important aspect of Saturday's win was, he replied without hesitation: "That I won on the way to Slinger ... I'm going to stay here tonight, chill out and get a good night's sleep, get out of here in the morning and head up there and, hopefully, win a Late Model race."
Even someone as irredeemably forward-looking as Kyle Busch must surely take some small satisfaction at being the first-ever winner of the inaugural Cup race at Kentucky Speedway in the city of Sparta - the first new Cup venue in ten years, which is one page of the record books that can never be re-written. Kentuckians were eager to come out in support of the new event, the facility reporting a sell-out crowd of some 107,000 for Saturday night's event resulting in huge traffic backlogs for fans trying to get to the Speedway in time for the start of the race.
And if Kyle's still not interested in history, then the most significant statistic of the weekend for him will be that he exits Sparta in the lead of the Sprint Cup points standings
, four points ahead of Carl Edwards, and joining his arch-rival Kevin Harvick as one of only two drivers so far this season to claim three race wins.
That's the sort of thing even the Wild Thing can get excited about off the track, surely.Full times and positions