DOVER, Del. - The first car rubbed the wall less than three miles into yesterday's Best Buy 400.
Welcome to the Monster Mile.
Fifteen laps later, Elliott Sadler touched off an amazing wreck that collected more than a quarter of the 43-car field, including five drivers who began the day among the top 12 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup standings.
Welcome to the Monster Mash.
But thoughts of survival were replaced by an appreciation for sheer power at Dover International Speedway, where Kyle Busch won going away in front of a less-than-capacity crowd, estimated at 110,000.
After leading just one lap in the first half of the race, Busch benefited from his Joe Gibbs Racing team's adjustments on the No. 18 Toyota to run up front for a total of 158 laps. Having built a lead of nearly eight seconds with 45 miles to go, Busch eased off down the stretch to coast across the finish line 4.2 seconds ahead of runner-up Carl Edwards, with just six cars on the lead lap.
It was the first Cup victory and fifth top-10 finish in seven starts here for Busch, who has four victories on the season and owns a 142-point series lead heading into Sunday's Pocono 500 at Pocono Raceway.
Greg Biffle led a race-high 164 laps but battled alternator problems on his No. 16 Ford in finishing third. Still, the efforts of Edwards, Biffle, Matt Kenseth (season-best fourth) and Jamie McMurray (10th) produced a huge points day for Roush Fenway Racing.
Yet none of them had an answer for Busch, who - despite piloting dominant vehicles - had gone winless here on Friday due to a mechanical failure in the Craftsman Truck Series race and on Saturday because of a crash in the Nationwide Series race.
"We missed out on two trophies this weekend, but we finally got one to take home," Busch said. "[Crew chief] Steve Addington and these guys on pit road had an incredible day on what I felt was a third-place car early in the race."
The competitors barely had a chance to get a feel for their cars when the melee on Lap 18 began with Sadler's dipping down the banking while trying to make a pass going through Turn No. 2. David Gilliland's No. 38 Ford already occupied the spot, though, and the contact sent Sadler's No. 19 Dodge careening back up the track and directly in the path of Tony Stewart's No. 20 Camry. A frightening chain-reaction accident ensued, and when the smoke cleared, NASCAR needed a stoppage of 16 minutes, 13 seconds to clear the speedway of twisted metal and shredded rubber.
"I didn't know [Gilliland] was there," Sadler said, "but I don't have to look at [a replay] to know there were a lot of good cars taken out."
That was little consolation to title contenders such as Dale Earnhardt Jr., Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick, Kasey Kahne and Tony Stewart, all of whom wound up 31st or worse.
"I take 100 percent responsibility. It's my fault for being anywhere close to Elliott," a seething Stewart muttered sarcastically after finishing 41st. "If I'm within a half lap of [Sadler], I expect that to happen."
There were five cautions covering 26 laps, but only one yellow flag waved over the final 240 miles - when Busch shifted into overdrive and began lapping cars at will.
Joe Gibbs, the JGR team owner and Hall of Fame football coach, was impressed with what he saw from atop the pit box, and it wasn't just the performance by Busch on the concrete mile.
"I thought it was a total team effort, and I think Kyle would agree," Gibbs said. "This is a team sport, and you can see the guys are really jacked on pit road when they're [completing] stops in the 12.6- and 12.7-second range."