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Kyle Busch finally hits the Vegas jackpot....as his toughest competition craps out


Maybe this is NASCAR's new 'Smoke.' Over the last year Kyle Busch has outscored former teammate Tony Stewart 9-1 on the Cup tour (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)


   By Mike Mulhern


Uh-oh, boys, we've seen this movie before: Kyle Busch, Kyle Busch, and more Kyle Busch.
   The younger of the Las Vegas Busch Bros was unbeatable down the stretch after most of his strongest completion fell by the wayside in Sunday's Shelby 427 – felled either by engine problems, technical problems, crashes, or self-induced mistakes.
   Busch showed the fastest car Friday in winning the pole, but an engine problem forced him to change motors, putting him at the back of the field for the start.
   "This was about like winning the Daytona 500 for me," a jubilant Busch said after finishing four lengths ahead of Clint Bowyer and Jeff Burton.
    "We just fought our way methodically through there. I told myself 'Man, you'd better man-up and drive this thing, or we're not getting anywhere.'"
   For Busch the win was emotional – he is just 23, and he grew up watching this track being built from the ground up. He made a name for himself across the field at the Bull Ring, and then finally got the call to Cup.
   "I told the fans before the race 'Hey, get prepared for a show. I've got to go to the back.' Even if I backed it in the way, we were going to give 'em a show," Busch said with a laugh after his first tour win since last August at Watkins Glen.
   The win by Toyota follows two weeks of engine problems for several Toyota teams, issues traced to the failure of special parts coatings. Toyota's Lee White, head of the company's racing operations, said his engineers thought they'd solved the problem after it surfaced at California, but when it resurfaced here Friday his men took a different approach: "We're going back to basics."
   Whatever the issue, Busch didn't have quite the clout Sunday he'd showed Friday. Jimmie Johnson led the most laps, 92 of the 285 (140 of the 427 miles) in Chad Knaus Chevy.
   "We weren't the fastest car, but you take what you have, and this sets the foundation for a great year," general manager J. D. Gibbs said. Busch led 51 laps.
    "Crazy weekend….crazy race," crew chief Steve Addington said. "But sometimes you have to kick and scratch and claw for a win, and that's what we did."
   Brother Kurt came to victory lane to celebrate Kyle's win, the family's first at the big track.
   After his Daytona problems (41st), Kyle Busch still has ground to make up in the race to the playoffs. But this, with his third at California, puts Busch sixth, 54 points down to new leader Jeff Gordon heading to Atlanta this week.
   When Busch made the winning pass with 17 laps to go, his radio crackled with "Good night, Gracie."
   No, Busch said that wasn't him, that was his spotter Jeff Dickerson: "I heard that, and it was like, what did that mean?" Busch said. "Was that from Miss Congeniality?"
   The line of course is from the 1950s comedy team George Burns and Gracie Allen…not from Sandra Bullock's Gracie Hart character in the 2000 flick Miss Congeniality.

Kyle Busch opening 2009 strong (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)





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