6-22-08 -- Already enjoying an impressive season, Kyle Busch achieved yet another accomplishment - his first career road course victory.
Busch took the checkered flag Sunday, recording his Sprint Cup Series-best fifth win of the season in the Toyota Save Mart 350.
“It’s just phenomenal to be here in Victory Lane,” Busch said. “I mean never before on a road course - in the Cup Series. So this is definitely really, really special.”
Busch, who started 30th, led 76 of the 112 laps at Infineon Raceway en route to his 10th career victory. He also extended his lead in the standings to 103 points over Jeff Burton, who finished 13th.
David Gilliland posted a career-best second-place finish and Jeff Gordon, who has five career wins at Sonoma, finished third.
“That’s an uncomfortable feeling, I can tell you that,” Gilliland said of holding off four-time series champion Gordon in the final laps. “I wasn’t real excited about having him back there, for sure. Our car was pretty good on the restart before the last one - I kind of got away from Jeff a little bit going up the hill.
“So, that made me a little more comfortable on the second one, but it was super slick the last lap, so as far as challenging for the lead, it was everything I could do just to stay on the race track.”
Clint Bowyer placed fourth and Casey Mears rounded out the top five.
After taking the lead on lap 33, Busch rarely had to look back as his Toyota was rarely challenged from that point. He did have to overcome three different cautions during the final eight laps at the 12-turn road course.
“I am really impressed with Kyle,” Busch’s former Hendrick Motorsports teammate Gordon said. “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.”
It appeared he would get a challenge from the leaders after the first of those restarts with six laps to go, but Kevin Harvick collided with Tony Stewart and Jamie McMurray, who were running second and third, respectively, in Turn 11.
“I don’t know. I just got run into the back of,” said McMurray, who finished 18th. “I guess the 29 car wheel-hopped or, I don’t know, just drove over his head. We had a second- or third-place car and should’ve finished there, and we didn’t.”
Busch was able to hold off and even pull away from Gilliland on a restart with four laps to go and a green-white-checkered restart.
“I wanted to catch Kyle,” Gilliland said. “But once I got up to Turn four, I quit worrying about that and just basically focused on keeping my car on the race track.”
The 23-year-old Busch used pit strategy and a little luck to first grab the lead. He pitted just before the first caution of the day and restarted in the third position.
Greg Biffle, who restarted in the lead, spun out on the next out lap, causing Juan Pablo Montoya to slow down as Busch immediately passed him on the inside.
Montoya, who picked up his only career win here last year, continued to run in second but failed to keep pace with Busch, who continued to pull away from the field during a relatively caution-free first 102 laps.
Making his Sprint Cup debut, Marcos Ambrose got into the back bumper of Montoya in Turn 11 and he spun out but recovered without a caution. Despite the setback, Montoya still finished in sixth place.
Ambrose, who ran in the top 10 for the majority of the race, did not finish the race and placed 42nd.
“It’s just unfortunate, one of those deals. But we leave here with our heads held high,” Ambrose said. “We raced hard and we raced well at the front there, and it was just a lot of fun.”
Ryan Newman collected a seventh-place finish, Matt Kenseth finished eighth, Carl Edwards was ninth and Stewart rounded out the top 10.
Dale Earnhardt Jr., who is currently third in the standings, finished 12th place and fell 152 points behind Busch.