AVONDALE, ARIZ. -- Kyle Busch defended the family name yesterday, petulantly stained it anew and then haltingly attempted to restore it again.
On a day when older brother Kurt Busch, the reigning Nextel Cup champion, was pulled from the race and suspended by the Roush Racing team because of a Friday night run-in with police that included a traffic violation, Kyle Busch won the Checker Auto Parts 500 at Phoenix International Raceway.
The rookie from Las Vegas passed runner-up Greg Biffle with 27 laps to go in the 312-lap race and kept his No. 5 Chevrolet in front to the end for his second victory in 41 career starts.
Afterward, he brushed past his publicist and angrily stormed out of the interview room when a reporter challenged the driver's assertion that "usually things in the media are false," in reference to reports of his brother's troubles.
About 25 minutes later, he returned to take more questions, saying, "There is a lot of speculation in the media. The only things that are there for us to comment on are the police report and whatever Kurt Busch releases at a later time."
In his first go-round with reporters, Busch said of his ability to concentrate on the task at hand despite the controversy swirling around his brother: "You just try to put all that stuff aside and deal with it another time. This isn't the area for all that stuff. It shouldn't be at the racetrack. For myself, just being able to go out there and perform at my best, that's what I'm here to do week in and week out.
"You come in here and you get in your race car and you're focused and you're down to one duty and that's obviously to win the race."
Busch's emotional victory and its untidy aftermath deflected attention from series leader Tony Stewart, who finished fourth behind Jeff Gordon on the one-mile oval and widened the gap over his closest pursuers in the Chase for the Nextel Cup.
Stewart, who won the championship in 2002, is 52 points ahead of Jimmie Johnson - who finished second in the points race in 2003 and 2004 - and 87 ahead of Carl Edwards going into Sunday's season finale in Homestead, Fla. Edwards, who had won the previous two races, finished sixth yesterday; Johnson was seventh. Biffle, who is 102 points behind, is the only other driver with a mathematical chance to overtake Stewart in the race for the championship.
Though Stewart could win his second title in four seasons by finishing as low as ninth next week, he promised not to alter his approach.
"As odd as it's going to sound," he said, "we're actually going to go out and try to win the race. I know that sounds crazy, but that's really what we're going to do. The last time I checked my contract, that's what I get paid to do."
Before the race, the 35th in the 36-race series and ninth in the 10-race Chase, Roush Racing took action against Kurt Busch, abruptly ending his season. The move was made in response to Busch's being cited for criminal reckless driving and detained under suspicion of driving under the influence Friday night.
The incident near the Phoenix track was the latest controversy involving the older of the Busch brothers, whose affiliation with Roush Racing effectively ended with the suspension. Busch, 27, will race next season for Penske Racing South.
Kenny Wallace replaced Busch in the No. 97 Ford yesterday, driving it to a 16th-place finish after starting at the back of the field. Smith said Todd Kluever probably would drive the car next week.
Busch said in an interview with NBC Sports that alcohol was not involved in Friday's incident.
"Obviously, I'm upset," he said. "It's tough. I'm a racecar driver, there's a race today and I'd love to be in the race. My crew, [crew chief] Jimmy Fennig, I have to thank them for what they gave me. Man, it's just unfortunate. I'd love to be there for them today. [But] That's the decision they made, and I will live with it."
Said team owner Jack Roush, who made the move after consulting with sponsors: "Of course, Roush Racing is embarrassed, the sponsors are embarrassed. We're embarrassed for all of the NASCAR community."
Sponsors, among them Crown Royal whiskey, told Roush that he would be in breach of his contract if he did not take action against the driver.
"And the only action I felt I could take, and the one that was agreed upon, was to suspend him for the balance of the season," Roush said.
A Maricopa County sheriff's spokesman said the driver was argumentative and that a deputy smelled alcohol on his breath, though Busch was not cited for driving under the influence after a breathalyzer machine malfunctioned.
No stranger to controversy, Busch has angered fans and run afoul of fellow drivers because of his aggressive driving and erratic behavior, which NASCAR officials had deemed was not "befitting of a champion."
The 2004 Cup champion was punched in the face by Jimmy Spencer for trying to deliberately wreck him. Kevin Harvick called him "an arrogant punk."
But Kyle Busch said, "I'm behind my brother 100 percent." Asked if Kurt had called to congratulate him after the victory, Busch paused for a moment and said: "I don't have my cell phone in my pocket. How's that?"
Jerry Crowe is a reporter for the Los Angeles Times.
NASCAR Nextel Cup
Driver (Prev. pos.) Points Wins Top 5 Top 10
Tony Stewart (1) 6,415 5 17 25
Jimmie Johnson (2) 6,363 4 13 22
Carl Edwards (3) 6,328 4 12 17
Greg Biffle (4) 6,313 5 14 20
Mark Martin (5) 6,253 1 11 18
Ryan Newman* (7) 6,208 1 8 15
Matt Kenseth* (6) 6,187 1 11 16
Rusty Wallace* (9) 6,016 0 8 17
Kurt Busch* (8) 5,974 3 9 18
J. Mayfield* (10) 5,939 1 4 8
Checker Auto Parts 500
At Avondale, Ariz. Lap length: 1 mile (Start number in parentheses) 1. (15) Kyle Busch, Chevy, 312, $199,225.
2. (4) Greg Biffle, Ford, 312, $183,375.
3. (10) Jeff Gordon, Chevy, 312, $165,786.
4. (9) Tony Stewart, Chevy, 312, $153,171.
5. (5) Bobby Labonte, Chevy, 312, $145,775.
6. (3) Carl Edwards, Ford, 312, $101,900.
7. (2) Jimmie Johnson, Chevy, 312, $126,541.
8. (12) Robby Gordon, Chevy, 312, $85,775.
9. (21) Dale Jarrett, Ford, 312, $111,133.
10. (30) Travis Kvapil, Dodge, 312, $84,525.
11. (24) Elliott Sadler, Ford, 312, $111,266.
12. (11) Ryan Newman, Dodge, 312, $112,866.
13. (1) Denny Hamlin, Chevy, 312, $82,225.
14. (29) Mark Martin, Ford, 312, $83,375.
15. (25) Jeff Burton, Chevy, 312, $95,495.
16. (97) Kenny Wallace, Ford, 312, $111,350.
17. (18) Joe Nemechek, Chevy, 312, $93,483.
18. (28) Jamie McMurray, Dodge, 312, $76,400.
19. (38) Kyle Petty, Dodge, 312, $83,958.
20. (20) Ricky Rudd, Ford, 312, $95,139.
21. (40) Scott Wimmer, Dodge, 312, $93,308.
22. (34) Casey Mears, Dodge, 312, $86,083.
23. (8) Kevin Harvick, Chevy, 312, $110,286.
24. (39) Jeremy Mayfield, Dodge, 311, $91,895.
25. (13) Dave Blaney, Chevy, 311, $73,725.
26. (6) Brian Vickers, Chevy, 311, $73,100.
27. (22) Kasey Kahne, Dodge, 311, $96,950.
28. (14) Jeff Green, Dodge, 311, $93,686.
29. (26) Rusty Wallace, Dodge, 310, $95,158.
30. (33) Ken Schrader, Dodge, 310, $62,000.
31. (32) Mike Bliss, Chevy, 310, $61,375.
32. (16) Matt Kenseth, Ford, 310, $109,161.
33. (42) Michael Waltrip, Chevy, 310, $89,264.
34. (41) Sterling Marlin, Dodge, 310, $88,883.
35. (7) B. Hamilton Jr., Chevy, 217, acc, $70,397.
36. (23) Jimmy Spencer, Dodge, 214, acc, $60,700.
37. (27) Mike Skinner, Dodge, 214, acc, $60,575.
38. (31) Scott Riggs, Chevy, 205, acc, $68,450.
39. (37) Johnny Sauter, Dodge, 149, sus, $60,325.
40. (19) Earnhardt Jr., Chevy, 112, acc, $107,583.
41. (43) Jerry Robertson, Chevy, 51, ef, $60,035.
42. (36) Stanton Barrett, Chevy, 24, acc, $59,910.
43. (35) Chad Chaffin, Chevy, 14, oh, $60,115.
Race statistics Time of race: 3 hours, 2 minutes, 23 seconds. Margin of victory: .609 of a second. Winner's average speed: 102.641 mph. Caution flags: Nine for 44 laps. Lead changes: Ten among five drivers. Lap leaders: D.Hamlin 1-15; G.Biffle 16-27; D.Hamlin 28-35; G.Biffle 36-193; J.Gordon 194-215; G.Biffle 216-229; Kyle Busch 230-256; S.Wimmer 257-271; Kyle Busch 272-279; G.Biffle 280-284; Kyle Busch 285-312. Leaders summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps led): Greg Biffle, 4 times for 189 laps; Kyle Busch, 3 times for 63 laps; Denny Hamlin, 2 times for 23 laps; Jeff Gordon, 1 time for 22 laps; Scott Wimmer, 1 time for 15 laps. Note: acc-accident; sus-suspension; ef-engine failure; oh-overheating