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 Sprint Cup 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 0.411secs victory, his first of the season and his first at Las Vegas.
Matt Kenseth, first in the Cup 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 chequered flag, there were knots in my stomach.”
Even though the M&Ms Toyota started at the rear of the field, Busch still is credited for starting from the pole, making him the first to win from that position at Las Vegas. But that also meant that he 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 the 23-year old, who took his 13th Cup win, “We didn't have the best car today, but we had a car that we could keep working on and keep making it better.”
Busch has now won nine of the 39 Cup races he has contested since moving to Joe Gibbs Racing to start the 2008 season. His first win for the team came last March at Atlanta, site of next week's race.
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 frontrunners pitted under caution on lap 260 of 285. Bowyer surrendered the lead to Busch off turn two on lap 269.
Jeff Burton, Bowyer's Richard Childress Racing team-mate, took third, followed by David Reutimann and Bobby Labonte. Jeff Gordon - who assumes the series points lead by 18 over Bowyer despite a blow-out that damaged his left-front bodywork - Greg Biffle, Brian Vickers, Jamie McMurray and Dale Earnhardt Jr. completed the top ten.