After settling for second place in the Boyd Gaming 300 for the second straight year Saturday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Kyle Busch was clearly disgusted.
As the Las Vegas native left the podium following a brief news conference, NASCAR spokesman Kerry Tharp wished him luck in today’s Sprint Cup Series Kobalt 400.
“Oh, it’s going to be a (bleeping) blast,” Busch said, sarcastically.
Brad Keselowski seized the lead from Busch on lap 163 following a restart of the 200-lap race and led the rest of the way, holding off Busch down the stretch to claim his first victory at LVMS.
“It’s been one we missed out on over the last few years. It feels like redemption to figure it out and get it done today,” said Keselowski, the 2012 Sprint Cup champion who has won 28 Nationwide Series races.
Busch has dominated the Nationwide Series with a record 64 wins but has never won in his hometown, where he’s finished runner-up three times in 11 Nationwide races at LVMS.
“The car was probably definitely good enough (to win),” Busch said of his No. 54 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota. “There were just a couple pieces that are lacking, and it’s frustrating to have to deal with that year in and year out.”
After starting last in the 37-car field as a penalty for making unapproved adjustments after qualifying, Busch quickly moved to the front, reaching the top 10 after 12 laps and the top five on lap 36.
Busch, who led for 33 laps, was in control until a caution on lap 160 following a spin by Matt Kenseth. Taking the outside lane on the restart, Busch was quickly passed by Keselowski and Chase Elliott — the highest-finishing rookie in fifth place — and never recovered.
“My car didn’t go,” Busch said. “I stepped on the gas and it felt like I was holding a parachute, the way those guys went by me. I was third before I got to Turn 1. It just wouldn’t go.”
Of the five cautions in the race, there were only two in the first 148 laps but three in the next 19.
“We would’ve won the race if it wasn’t for the three cautions,” Busch said.
Keselowski dominated the early part of the race in his No. 22 Penske Racing Ford and led for 144 laps despite dealing with alternator issues.
He also had to fight through traffic caused by lap cars on the final two laps to prevail.
“I felt like I was in a game of Tetris. You try to weave your way through it,” he said. “Kyle wasn’t far behind me, and my car wasn’t running right to begin with, but we made it through.”
Kyle Larson placed third and Dale Earnhardt Jr. fourth.
Las Vegas natives Brendan Gaughan and Dylan Kwasniewski finished 16th and 24th.
Gaughan, 38, incurred three infractions in his No. 62 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet: two for speeding entering the pits and one for jumping the restart.
Kwasniewski, an 18-year-old rookie from Faith Lutheran High School, qualified eighth for his first NASCAR race at LVMS. He was running in the top 13 early on before his No. 31 Turner Scott Motorsports Chevrolet was pushed into the wall by Chris Buescher on lap 70, all but taking him out of contention.
“I’m upset. It always sucks when that happens,” said Kwasniewski, who finished eighth at Daytona and 13th at Phoenix in his first two Nationwide races. “It sucks when you’re running four laps down and you know you don’t have any chance of making any up. But you’ve just got to ride those laps.
“You’ve got to make sure that you try to get the most points possible.”
Keselowski’s win might help him erase the sour taste of the 2011 Sam’s Town 300, in which he lost the lead on the final lap when he blew a tire and hit the wall.
“Wins are great, but you can never get those back,” he said. “I could probably count three or four of those scenarios where I thought we had a shot at it, but somebody puts it behind you and it makes you feel a lot better.
“There are always races you probably should have won and didn’t, and there are probably races you did win and shouldn’t have, so you try to put those all in perspective.”
Tell that to Busch.
NOTE — Elliott failed his postrace inspection because his car was too low, and NASCAR confiscated Keselowski’s right rear shock for further examination.
Contact reporter Todd Dewey at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0354. Follow him on Twitter: @tdewey33.