LAS VEGAS --- Kyle Busch has had plenty of highlights in his short NASCAR career: becoming the youngest winner in series history, giving Toyota its first win 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 career Sunday by driving from the back of the field to win 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 showed that with an elaborate victory 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 visit to Vegas, wrecking 11 laps into his Cup debut race and finishing 41st.
He bounced back to compete for wins the next two seasons, but he settled for second- and third-place finishes to then-teammate Jimmie Johnson. His best chance might have been last year, when he returned home leading the points for the first time in his career and won the pole. But he struggled with the handling on his JGR Toyota and wound up 11th.
This year, he wouldn't be denied.
Busch came prepared at the start of the weekend, beating big brother Kurt for the pole to put brothers on the front row for the first time since 2000. But an engine change in his Toyota meant he had to drop to the back of the field at the start of the race, and Busch had to power his way through the field over 285 laps.
In a brief address to the crowd before the start of the race, 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 laps to go, then lost it during a late round of pit stops. He was third on a restart with 22 laps to go, then chased down Jeff Burton and leader Clint Bowyer to move out front again.
"Say goodnight, Gracie," spotter Jeff Dickerson radioed as Busch moved into a dominating lead.
But there were two more cautions, and Busch had to hold off the competition over two final restarts for his first victory of the season.
It was his first win at Las Vegas in six career Cup Series starts, 13 total spanning NASCAR's top three series.
"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 celebrated with thick burnouts through the grass, then apparently blew his engine again. Enveloped in thick white plumes of smoke, he emerged from the clouds to make his signature bow to the crowd.
He then collected the checkered flag and kneeled to kiss the finish line.
"I just had to kiss the ground this place was built on," he said.
He was met in Victory Lane by his tearful mother, Gaye, and Kurt Busch, who gave him a hearty hug.
"He said, 'We watched this place be built and you were the first one to conquer it,'" Kyle Busch recalled. "And mom was right there, too. Her face was soaked."
Kurt Busch, who finished 23rd, remains winless at Las Vegas in nine career Cup starts.
TOP 10 FULL RESULTS/3B
1. Kyle Busch, Toyota
2. Clint Bowyer, Chevrolet
3. Jeff Burton, Chevrolet
4. David Reutimann, Toyota
5. Bobby Labonte, Ford
6. Jeff Gordon, Chevrolet
7. Greg Biffle, Ford
8. Brian Vickers, Toyota
9. Jamie McMurray, Ford
10. Dale Earnhardt Jr., Chevrolet
WHAT: Kobalt Tools 500
WHERE: Atlanta Motor Speedway
WHEN: 1:30 p.m. Sunday
TV: Fox-Ch. 54
DEFENDING CHAMP: Kyle Busch