SONOMA, Calif. — The swagger had vanished, and the cocky confidence went with it. A two-week slump sent Kyle Busch spiraling into crankiness despite his hold atop the points standings.
With a win Sunday at Infineon Raceway, his mood instantly lifted.
Busch snapped his mini-slump by racing to his first Sprint Cup win on a road course with a Toyota that was so bad during practice that he was certain he would wreck. Instead, he made his series-high fifth visit to Victory Lane this season.
"I'm not happy unless I am winning, to be honest. I am a miserable person," he said. "But it means a lot to be able to run well and win. I'm a moody person, I guess. All of us drivers are when we're not having a good day. But when you have a good day and win races, it's kind of 'Sun's up.' "
Busch, who had a poor qualifying run and started 30th, steadily moved through the field and grabbed the lead away from defending race winner Juan Pablo Montoya on an early restart. Nobody came close to taking the lead from him the rest of the way, but he did have to hold off a pair of challenges on two late restarts.
It was Busch's 11th overall victory this season spanning all three of NASCAR's top series. And it was his second road-course victory of the year, after a Nationwide series win in April in Mexico City.
Busch, 23, celebrated with his traditional smoky burnout then climbed from his car for his customary bow to the crowd. For once, the fans were cheering the driver they so famously love to hate.
"I am really impressed with Kyle," said third-place finisher Jeff Gordon, a former teammate. "I've been around him, and I didn't think he's a really good road racer. So I think you've got to give that guy a lot of credit for his talent. To be able to get their car up front and maintain the position … I would not have bet on that.
"Obviously, he's maturing and learning, and that's what it's going to take for him to maintain that points lead."
Busch and his Joe Gibbs Racing crew had to wrestle with his Toyota to make it comfortable. The team made a slew of changes after Friday and Saturday's practice sessions, but Busch still wasn't pleased as the start of the race approached.
That obviously changed as he charged through the field.
"We unloaded here and we were absolutely junk," Busch said. "When we were here Friday, I just thought it was going to be a dismal weekend, and I was wondering what tire barrier we were going to put it in. It was a bad feeling, but these guys worked so hard.
"It's just phenomenal that we're able to be here in Victory Lane — never before on a road course, in the Cup series, so this is definitely really, really special. We came a long ways with this thing."
David Gilliland held on late to finish a career-best second.
Meanwhile, David Reutimann of Zephyrhills brought out a late caution when a flat tire caused him to run off course and into a wall of tires, setting up a restart with six laps to go.