Joe Gibbs Racing's Kyle Busch has put himself straight back into championship contention with victory in the first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series road course race of 2015 at Sonoma Raceway.

Busch claimed his second win at the two-mile, 12-turn circuit and his 30th victory in 370 series starts on just his fifth outing back after an enforced three-month lay-off following a big accident at Daytona in February that left him recuperating with a broken foot and leg. Busch's last Cup win was at Auto Club Speedway in March 2014.

"This is awesome, it's unbelievable. Can't say enough about my team, everyone at Joe Gibbs Racing. I can't say enough about my medical team that got me back in shape and ready to go behind the wheel," he said. "I can't say enough about it. It's so cool to win here in Sonoma, to win on a road course and of course to win for Toyota - their support that they pour into this race track - it's really cool to be here."

After completing his celebratory burnouts, Kyle had to leaving the #18 out on track rather than driving it into victory lane, admitting: "I blew the rear tyres off of it. I was like, 'All right, park it right here and we'll walk in.' Walking in on a broken leg and a broken foot, nothing better than doing that.

"My foot hurts a little bit, not as bad as I expected it to," he added. "It actually hurt worse in practice. I think I warmed it up on Friday."

Sunday afternoon was also the first time that he and his brother have claimed a 1-2 result in a Cup race, after Kurt Busch crossed the line in second place half a second behind his kid brother.

"It's so cool to come home one-two with my brother, that was really awesome. I can't say enough about him for helping me, actually," said Kyle, who also received a warmer reception from the fans in victory lane than he usually gets given his bad boy image in the sport. "I don't know if they can all understand how it feels. There's some sentimental fans out there for sure, the ones that are cheering that normally wouldn't cheer for me."

CLICK: Full race results from Sonoma Raceway

Having won pole position on Saturday, JTG Daugherty Racing's AJ Allmendinger had been the favourite to dominate the Toyota/Save Mart 350, but in fact it was Kurt Busch starting alongside Allmendinger on the front row in the Stewart-Haas Racing #41 who immediately took control of the race on the first lap, then keeping it for the next 22 laps until the first caution of the day for David Gilliland losing a tyre and going off at turn 10 in the #38 Front Row Motorsports car.

"That was a bad deal," Gilliland said of the early end to his day. "I just passed Sam Hornish up in seven and went through the esses and I just told Donnie [Wingo, crew chief] 'I think I've got a left-front going down. It's soft.' We were gonna come in and pit that lap and I eased up a little bit going through 10, but it never turned and once you get off in the dirt there that's a bad place to get off. It was a big hit, but I'm okay. I'm just bummed out for the situation."

While others used the opportunity to come in, Clint Bowyer and Tony Stewart stayed off pit road to take the lead ahead of Allmendinger and Busch for the restart, but both drivers struggled on their older tyres and Kyle Busch moved to the front for the first time on lap 28 just before Martin Truex Jr. got spun around in turn 8 by the #55 Michael Waltrip Racing car driven David Ragan. The impact of the Furniture Row Racing #78 into the concrete barrier was big enough to force a ten minute red flag to allow the track workers to put the pieces back together again.

"Just a Sonoma restart, mid-pack, just a lot of congestion," Truex explained. "Cars being desperate trying to get some track position. We were just kind of in the wrong place at the wrong time.

"I kind of had the #55 passed about four times and every time he just didn't really give an inch," he continued. "I hit him down there in turn 7 on accident and kind of doored him and I think he got pissed off and turned me on purpose. It's just unfortunate that happened, but that is part of the restarts here and part of the craziness that happens. You have to be up front."

Kyle Busch continued to lead at the restart and he quickly pulled out a one second lap over the rest of the field. Allmendinger soon climbed back to second place and proceeded to hack away at Bush's margin, and the two were soon battling over the lead. The duo became a trio with the arrival on the scene of Kyle's brother Kurt, and on lap 40 it was the elder sibling who dispatched first Allmendinger and then Kyle Busch to regain the lead for the second time heading into a new albeit staggered round of pit stops.

Working a fuel conservation strategy, Kurt Busch stayed out until lap 53 before putting which handed the lead to Jimmie Johnson for the first time followed by Ganassi's Kyle Larson and JGR's Carl Edwards, the defending race champion at Sonoma. All three were on a markedly different fuel strategy, and once Johnson came in on lap 67 it was Kurt Busch who cycled back to the front ahead of Bowyer and Dale Earnhardt Jr.

However, noticeably missing by this stage was Allmendinger who despite having pitted only ten laps previously was reported problems with the #47 car which already seemed to be running on fumes and lacking power. Allmendinger insisted on pitting against the advice of his pit wall, and the crew sound found a problem with the fuel cell. Repairs meant he went 12 laps down, and any hopes for a good result this weekend were dead in the California dust.

"I don't know the problem, I think it was a fuel related issue. The car was good," said Allmendinger. "I thought we had a better chance of winning this year than we did last year. It was still going to be tough."

"It looks like something with the fuel system may have gotten clogged up or gotten some debris or something in there, not sure yet," contributed Allmendinger's crew chief Brian Burns. "We will take a good look at it when we get back to the shop and regroup. Man, even after having to come back out laps down, we turned it into a test sessions and learned a lot, picked up a lot of speed. We ran the fastest lap of the race compared to anybody else towards the end just trying some things. Trying to turn something positive into it."

With the race itself having enjoyed a clean bill of heath for 42 laps, Kurt Busch had managed to pull out a seven second lead over Earnhardt and his Hendrick Motorsports team mate Kasey Kahne, but that all evaporated when the yellows finally returned on lap 73 for a big crash for JJ Yeley exiting turn 10. Earnhardt and Kahne managed to leapfrog Busch in the race off pit road, but the cars who stayed out on a different fuel strategy were now ahead of them on the track with Johnson taking point for the restart on lap 78 ahead of Bowyer, Joey Logano, Kyle Larson and Kyle Busch.

The race was immediately back under caution when David Ragan and Carl Edwards got together in turn 8 as they battled for sixth place. Both cars were badly damaged and in Ragan's case even on fire, so they would play no further part in the day's proceedings.

Johnson still had control over the race at the next restart on lap 84 with Bowyer maintaining second, while Kyle Busch got the better of Logano to move up a spot into third. It didn't take Busch long to set his sight on hunting down Bowyer for second, and he pulled off that pass on lap 87 after a brief battle. Despite the #18's pace it still seemed that Johnson was able to maintain a two second advantage and had matters well in hand - that is, until he radioed in to crew chief Chad Knaus on lap 89 that the #48 was feeling very loose on top of which there were worries about whether he had enough fuel to make it to the finish.

A five-lap caution after Casey Mears broke a rear axle and shed a wheel at turn 7 was enough to ease Johnson's fuel concerns to the extent that he didn't feel the need to take the opportunity to come down pit lane. Jamie McMurray, Jeff Gordon, Ricky Steinhouse Jr. and Matt Kenseth also all opted to stay out, while Bowyer got the jump on Kyle Busch for sixth place at the restart on lap 104 with seven laps remaining.

While Johnson maintained the lead, it was Kyle Busch who leapt forward when the green flag came out and within a lap he had moved past McMurray to assume the second spot with Bowyer following him through for third. The fresher tyres of the pair put Johnson under serious pressure, and in the end there was nothing the six-time Cup champion could do: Busch took the lead on lap 106 and Bowyer once again held on to his coattails to pass Johnson for second. A lap later and Johnson had deja vu all over again as he was passed by a second Busch, this time Kurt who had taken the restart in ninth place.

"Tyres were definitely the call, but we had a strategy that we were going to stick to," Johnson said after the end of the race. "It looked like so many guys came to pit road, but then there were more that stayed out. I was just surprised how fast they got through traffic.

"As we made that next lap, I saw there were a bunch of cars between myself and the first guy on [fresh] tyres," Johnson added. "I felt pretty good about things. And then after about a lap and a half, I wasn't feeling so good about things," he laughed. "They were there quickly."

Despite a spin for Danica Patrick and Jamie McMurray going off-roading through the dirt, the closing laps stayed green and it gave Kurt the chance he needed to apply sustained pressure on Bowyer. It paid off, and on the penultimate lap the #41 wrested second place; however, it was too late for Kurt to be able to do anything about his kid brother, and less than two minutes later it was Kyle who clinched the chequered flag by a margin of half a second to make it the first-ever Busch Brothers 1-2 in a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race.

"It's definitely special to be here in victory lane in a Sprint Cup Series race at Sonoma. We broke this streak of 10 different winners - I won here in 2008. It's been a long time," he said as he raised a glass of Somona win to celebrate. "Adam Stevens, this is his first win as a Cup crew chief, so this is pretty special. My wife is here, she flew in this morning. So it's awesome to have her with us today. [Son] Brexton is at home though, he didn't want to fly six hours, so we let him stay at home this time. This is so cool."

"Congratulations to my little brother! I know this is huge," said Kurt. "He's an incredible driver. I don't know how many times we've finished 1-2, but we'll see the other Busch brother win today.

"Kyle got a lucky break when that yellow came out and he got onto pit road and there were just too many cars between me and him on some of those restarts. I just didn't quite get the restarts I needed.

"But it was a great Haas Automation Chevy. It was fast. We led laps. We qualified second and finished second. I think we made a statement," he said. "All the guys back at the shop built me a beautiful road course car. I just came up a little shy in qualifying and in the race. ."

Bowyer held on to third place ahead of a charging Kevin Harvick as the reigning Sprint Cup champion had to work hard to overcome problems on pit lane mid-race, while Joey Logano crossed the line in fifth

"I was just in the wrong line," said Bowyer. "That restart there, Kyle got up on the inside of us and wasn't able to get underneath of him. Then I got hung up with Matt and thought we were both going to work. Tore our car up real bad. You get so close - drove my ass off. I tried, just came up a little short."

"Just a lot of things went wrong," sighed Harvick when asked how his day at the office had gone. "We had probably the fastest car on the racetrack it just took us all day to overcome all the stuff we had going on."

"We struggled all weekend and got something decent," said a satisfied Logano for his part. "Once we started running I thought, 'We're not that slow.' We made some adjustments and started getting closer and got a top five out of it. We'll take that. I think it's our third top-five in a row and they've all been hard fought."

Johnson ended up in sixth place after his pace declined in the closing laps after the decision to try and make it to the end on old tyres and fumes. Johnson did just pip Kurt Busch for most time spent in lead with 45 of the 110 laps put in front, two more than the #41. The race winner led just 17 in total by comparison.

"If we came back tomorrow, we'd still run the same strategy," Johnson insisted. "We played it perfectly. We were one caution away from it working out just right. So, this situation we're in with the wins and being locked in the Chase, we wanted to come out and be aggressive with our strategy."

Behind Johnson were two of his team mates, Earnhardt and Kahne. The final member of the Hendrick line-up, Jeff Gordon, ended up in 16th place after suffering a very long pit stop on lap 75 as the #24 crew put in extra set-up changes to compensate for the car becoming too loose. The five-time Sonoma winner - making his final start here before his retirement from racing at the end of 2015 - also picked up a rather harsh penalty for equipment being thrown over the pit wall during the stop which put him on the back foot and obliged him to follow Johnson's ill-fated race strategy for the rest of the afternoon to even less success than the #48 managed.

"I was really optimistic going into the race. Our car was good in practice, we qualified well," he sighed. "I felt that rear starting to go off pretty early on and saw some guys coming from further back, so we tried to make a couple of adjustments.

"It just didn't pay off for us," he admitted. "I know it wasn't the finish we all wanted, but it was a very memorable weekend. It's still a little bit more fun to go to hang out with some of my friends and family here. But, I hate that we weren't a little bit better. And that last thing, I was just taking some risk on that last pit stop [by staying out]. We didn't have anything to lose at that point."

Kyle Busch's win this weekend puts him in the company of ten other drivers who have been to victory lane so far in 2015. In the case of Jimmie Johnson, Kevin Harvick, Kurt Busch, Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano, Denny Hamlin, Matt Kenseth, Carl Edwards, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Martin Truex Jr., those wins also come complete with an almost-guaranteed all-access pass to the Chase championship play-offs that start in September.

That's not necessarily the case for Kyle Busch, however. Although NASCAR has granted him a waiver from the Chase requirement of participating in all 26 of the regular season events, the 11 races he has missed because of injury also mean that he remains seriously behind in the points standings. Following this week's Sonoma race, Busch is still only in 37th place on 125 points; to be Chase eligible he needs to be in the top 30, and he's currently 136 points outside that threshold.

Of course, Busch still has ten races to make up that ground and can now afford to focus on getting consistently strong, safe finishes rather than having to push his luck to pick up a vital victory now that one is already in the bag. But as the race two weeks ago at Michigan demonstrated - where Busch was taken out in a mid-race accident and ended up being classified in last place - he certainly can't yet take his Chase place for granted with anything like the assurance that his fellow ten race winners can.

"Now I don't have to bust my butt and overdrive the car every week in order to get wins," he explained. "I can just concentrate on running top-three, top-five, top-eight - just getting those finishes and points. If we can do that, the points have got to come and fall on the line. Of course, more wins would certainly help us, and that would only help our cause and allow us to get to the top-30 quicker, but we have to take it in moderation here and be smart about it.

"We have our work cut out for us, we knew we did in the beginning and I knew we put us in the hole in points. It's unfortunate that we've had a couple crashes," he concurred. "I hate it for my guys, they don't deserve to be in that spot. They have certainly worked hard all year long. David Ragan and Matt Crafton, those guys that have filled in for me, those guys never gave up and kept fighting hard the whole time, so I appreciate them for that and they deserve to be in the Chase. As much as I can do, that's what we're going to do."

Busch will have the chance to start making up some of that lost points ground next weekend when he returns to the scene of his February accident, Daytona International Speedway, for the Coke Zero 400 on Sunday July 5.

See full race results from Sonoma Raceway and updated Sprint Cup Championship standings

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