Practice runs boost Kyle Busch’s confidence

Whether it means anything for today is unknown, but Kyle Busch at least has good reason to believe he has a strong NASCAR Sprint Cup car.

The native Las Vegan was third in each practice session Saturday, driving 187.611 mph in the first one and 186.845 in the second.

“I think it helps, feeling like you have a good car versus struggling being 30th or something like that, not looking forward to the day,” Busch said after finishing second in the Sam’s Town 300 Nationwide Series race. “We are, and we have a good car.”

Busch’s No. 18 Toyota will start 13th in today’s noon Kobalt Tools 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

He was slotted in that position based on owner points from last season because qualifying was rained out Friday.

“I wish we could have qualified,” Busch said. “Think we’d be starting a little farther.”

He and his Joe Gibbs Racing team used their preparation time wisely.

Busch tested as the ninth-fastest car Thursday morning and the 20th fastest that afternoon.

“As far as I’m concerned, where we’re at right now is really, really good,” Busch said. “This M&M’s Camry is flying around here. It was really fast and feels really good. These guys have done a really nice job here the last couple of days with the test session we had and trying some different concepts, and some things were working and some weren’t working.”

■ ROOKIE SENSATION — Alex Bowman is only 19, but he is off to an impressive Nationwide start.

He finished eighth Saturday, two weeks after coming in third at Daytona.

“The racecar was a little bit better than me today,” Bowman said. “I made some mistakes on pit road — mistakes that last run that cost us probably finishing fifth or sixth. Can’t complain about eighth. We’ve torn up racecars the last two weeks, so it’s good to get out of here without a scratch on it and move onto Bristol (Tenn.) next week.”

Veteran Mark Martin has taken a special interest in Bowman’s development.

Martin even tweeted during the Sam’s Town 300 that Bowman “is doing a very impressive job here in the Nationwide Race at Vegas.” Bowman said he appreciated Martin’s support.

“I think out of everybody that helps me out, I have to thank Mark the most,” Bowman said. “It was the first time I met him, and he was really willing to give me a lot of good information, and the reason we were so good on the long runs and older tires is because of something Mark told me, and I’m going to keep that to myself. It was awesome to get to talk to him and get his advice because he’s one of the best there is, for sure.”

■ LONG-TERM RELATIONSHIP — LVMS extended its partnership with Boyd Gaming to continue sponsoring the Nationwide race, extending the contract by four years. That means Boyd will be the title sponsor for 20 years when the new deal is completed, a rarity for the length of such a sponsorship.

This was the second such announcement in a row for the speedway.

On Friday, LVMS announced a contract extension with Lowe’s Companies, the chief sponsor of the Sprint Cup race.

■ EASY THERE — Trevor Bayne was on pit road during the Nationwide race when he heard crew chief Mike Kelley yell, “Let’s go!”

Kelley meant it for the pit crew, but Bayne thought the comment was directed at him and began to move forward.

“Trevor, stay!” Kelley shouted.

■ SUPPORTING THE TROOPS — Service members at Nellis and Creech Air Force bases will be special guests today.

They will attend the drivers’ meeting, receive a tour of the Sprint Cup garage, have access to pit road, be introduced before the race and sit in premium seats.

The Armed Forces Foundation partners with NASCAR, creating the Troops to the Track program. Las Vegan Kurt Busch’s girlfriend, Patricia Driscoll, is president and executive director of the Washington-based organization.

Contact reporter Mark Anderson at or 702-387-2914. Follow him on Twitter: @markanderson65.

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