For two days, Kyle Busch had a magical homecoming, and Sunday looked to be the icing on an already sweet cake.
The Las Vegas native had roared to victory in the Gander Outdoors Truck Series race Friday night then followed it up Saturday by rallying to win the Xfinity Series race in double overtime. There was only one box left to check at Las Vegas Motor Speedway — the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race.
Only one driver has ever completed a weekend sweep of races in NASCAR’s top three national series, and that driver did it twice. Of course, that driver is Busch, who pulled off the feat at Bristol Motor Speedway in 2010 and 2017.
But this one would be different. It would be in front of the hometown crowd where Busch is the hero and not the villain. It would be in front of family and friends, and it was there for the taking — until one minor gaffe derailed it all.
Busch was busted for entering pit road too fast during his green-flag pit stop in Stage 2 of the Pennzoil 400 and was forced to serve a pass-through penalty. He was leading the race before the pit stop and never got it back, despite a hard charge in the final stage that saw him rallying back to the front to finish third behind Team Penske’s Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski.
“If we didn’t have the speeding penalty on pit road, we would have won this race,” Busch lamented after the race. “Overall we had a really fast car – the M&M’s Camry was good and the driver threw it away.”
Busch’s demeanor during his post-race TV interview Sunday was in sharp contrast to the joyous driver who celebrated in victory lane the previous two days. And it seemed clear that the 2015 Cup Series champion understood that he had let an incredible opportunity slip from his grasp.
“I certainly screwed up our day coming to pit road there. We tried a different brake package for us this weekend — trying to make up time in order to get a bigger jump on the guys behind me coming to pit road there — and I just ruined it for us and we had to come from the back. I think we passed the most cars today, so I think we were the most impressive today, but that doesn’t matter because we don’t have a trophy. Whatever.”
Busch remains three victories shy of 200 combined in Trucks, Xfinity and Cup. He’ll go after win No. 198 next weekend at ISM Raceway in Avondale, Ariz.