Kyle Busch recorded a victory on Sunday on the Sonoma Raceway road course in his comeback from serious injuries suffered a day before the NASCAR season-opener.
He won in just his fifth race since breaking his right leg and left foot in a February 21 crash.
Busch crashed into a concrete wall during the Xfinity Series race at Daytona. He missed 11 races but recovered far faster than anyone expected.
With seven laps remaining and on fresh tyres, he picked his way past five cars and targeted leader Jimmie Johnson.
Johnson, who did not pit during the final caution, was a sitting duck for drivers on new tyres. Busch ran down Johnson and grabbed his first Sprint Cup win since California in March 2014 – a streak of 35 races.
“This is awesome, just unbelievable,” said Busch.
Busch has his sights on the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship. NASCAR had granted him a waiver to made him eligible should he qualify, and the victory is the first step.
But he still must rank inside the top 30 in points to make the Chase. He started Sunday’s race ranked 39th in the standings, and the win moved him to 37th. He has 10 races left to crack the top 30 – he’s 136 points out of 30th – and ironically heads next week back to Daytona.
To crack the top 30, Busch must average roughly a 14th-place finish in each of the next 10 races.
Kurt Busch finished second, the brothers notching their first one-two finish in Sprint Cup.
“I’ve got over 500 starts. I know he’s over 300. Can you imagine? 800 starts between the two of us, we almost have 30 wins each, and that’s the first time we’ve ever finished one-two?” Kurt said.
“I now I wish I would have gotten up there and moved him.”
Kyle praised Kurt for pushing Clint Bowyer over the final seven laps.
“He certainly made it hard on Clint and gave me some ground,” Kyle said.
Bowyer finished third and said once Kyle went past him on the restart, his hopes were over. He still notched the first top-five of the season.
Kevin Harvick was fourth, followed by Joey Logano and Johnson, who dominated the race but faded to sixth after the final restart.
Dale Earnhardt Jr was seventh, ahead of teammate Kasey Kahne, while Ryan Newman and Sam Hornish Jr rounded out the top 10.
AJ Allmendinger started from the pole but was slow early, ultimately succumbing to an engine issue. He finished 37th.