We headed out to the Las Vegas Motor Speedway this past Sunday, March 1st 2009, for the third Sprint Cup race of the season. Even though this is the home track for Kyle Busch, he did not get a warm reception - sucks when they boo you even at home, but I guess it sucks less when you're a millionaire with a hot wife. After back-to-back Sprint Cup victories for Matt Kenseth, I was hoping to see a new driver in victory lane.
Pretty fucking rad to get the U.S. Air Force flyover from five Thunderbirds before the race starts. Here's a look-see:
Kyle Busch had won the pole for the race - meaning he was supposed to start at the front of the pack - but after qualifying, he had engine problems and was forced to start at the back. Right off the bat this race was tight, with two cautions coming out in the first seven laps. We would go on to see a record 14 cautions for this track by the end of the race. The majority of the cautions came from the bend at turn 2 during the first half of the race, and then they started coming from turn 4. Reason being is that as the race progressed, the sun stopped hitting the first two two turns, making that part of the track cool down and help the drivers grip to the road better.
Jimmie Johnson led the most laps with 92 of the 285, but ended up bringing out a caution at the end of the race and finishing a disappointing 24th. Johnson was racing hard the entire day, and while he was leading the race, he would pull away easily from the pack on restarts after cautions. Carl Edwards showed flashes of racing well but never was a real threat to the leaders.
This race really came down to a Jeff Gordon blown tire, which cost both Gordon and teammate Johnson any hopes of winning this race. Gordon and Johnson were both having amazing days and could have either come away with the win. Late in the race, Johnson went in for a pit stop, and right behind him was Gordon. As Gordon was coming into pit, his front left tire blew, ripping the front left fender off of his car, and causing the caution flag to come out. What Gordon's blown tire meant was many of the leaders were screwed out of their positions as they were coming in for pit stops, right as the caution came out.
Kyle Busch was able to capitalize on this turn-of-events because all the leaders got the short-end of Gordon's blown tire; as all the leaders dropped down, Busch was able to lead lap 228 and never looked back. The only test Busch had for the rest of the rest was to keep Bobby Labonte off of his tail, who had a good day with a 5th place finish, and who also benefited from Gordon's blown tire. The race finished with a green-white-checker, and an extremely happy Kyle Busch who "kissed" the finish line (through his helmet) at the end of the race.
This really was Johnson's race to win, but the unfortunate timing of Gordon's blown tire and the late caution spoiled any chances of victory. This was a pretty entertaining race for the last 120 or so laps, with lots of mini-battles throughout the pack. It was nice to see strong racing from Edwards, Junior, and Brian Vickers. Kevin Harvick had a decent day finishing 12th, but he just could not keep up at the top; Denny Hamlin and Tony Stewart went relatively unnoticed.