LAS VEGAS — Kyle Busch has had plenty of highlights in his short NASCAR career: setting a record as the youngest winner in Sprint Cup history, giving Toyota its first victory and returning Joe Gibbs Racing's flagship car to prominence.
None of it compared to winning at home.
Busch notched the biggest win of his young career Sunday by driving from the back of the field to win the Shelby 427 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, his hometown track.
Though there are far more hallowed tracks in NASCAR, this 1.5-mile oval in the desert was where "The Wild Thing" most wanted to win. He proved that with an elaborate celebration that ended with him on his knees, kissing the finish line.
"I tell you what, this is pretty cool," Busch said. "I didn't know exactly what it would mean, but coming to the checkered flag, there were knots in my stomach. It's bigger than winning the Daytona 500. I said it wasn't going to be, but it is."
Busch struggled in his first race at Vegas, wrecking 11 laps into his Cup debut in 2004 and finishing 41st for Hendrick Motorsports.
He was a contender the next two seasons, but he settled for second- and third-place finishes to then-teammate Jimmie Johnson. Busch was ninth in 2007, then last year came home leading the series points for the first time (and sat on the pole) but wound up 11th for JGR.
This year, he wouldn't be denied. Busch beat big brother Kurt for the pole to put brothers on the front row for the first time since 2000. But an engine change in Kyle Busch's Toyota meant he had to drop to the back of the field at the start, so he needed to power his way through the field over 285 laps.
In a brief address to the crowd before the start, he promised to get to the front.
"I just said, 'Hey, you know what? We're going to the back so get ready for a show. Here it comes,' " he recalled. "Even if I got up to 20th and then backed it in, it was still going to be a show."
Busch took the lead with 57 to go, then lost it during a late round of pit stops. He was third on a restart with 22 to go, then chased down Jeff Burton and leader Clint Bowyer to move out front again.
"Say good night, Gracie," spotter Jeff Dickerson radioed as Busch moved out to a dominating lead.
But there were two more cautions, and Busch had to hold off the competition over two final restarts for his first Cup victory of the season.
"We just had to battle back," Busch said. "We didn't have the best car out there, but we had a car we kept on working on. I don't know where I get credited for winning this thing, whether it's from the back or from the pole. Either way, we conquered both of them."
He was met in Victory Lane by his tearful mother, Gaye, and Kurt Busch, who gave him a hearty hug despite his disappointing 23rd-place finish.
Bowyer finished second and Richard Childress Racing teammate Burton was third. Zephyrhills' David Reutimann finished a career-best fourth, followed by Bobby Labonte.
Three-time defending series champion Jimmie Johnson, strong all afternoon, wrecked with six laps left to finish 24th.