Nextel rookie Kyle Busch steals the show

FONTANA, Calif. ­ So much of the talk leading up to the Sony HD 500 focused on Jeff Gordon, and his quest to make the Chase for the NASCAR Nextel Cup.

After the sky turned dark and the lights went on Sunday night at California Speedway, it was a different Hendrick Motorsports driver who stole the show.

Rookie Kyle Busch became the youngest winner in Nextel Cup history by holding off a challenging field in a green-white-checkered flag finish before an estimated crowd of 100,000.

After he emerged from his Chevrolet, Busch put his arm around team owner Rick Hendrick and informed his boss that they were dedicating their winnings to aid the victims of Hurricane Katrina.

"We're going to donate my share ($241,065) and your share to the Red Cross," Busch told Hendrick. "I saw Carl Edwards do that last night (after winning the Busch series race). I thought that was a class act."

Busch registered his first victory at 20 years, 4 months and two days, bettering the record of Donald Thompson, who was four days older during his November 1951 victory in Atlanta.

Busch celebrated his victory with a series of doughnuts that sent a huge cloud of white smoke over the grandstands.

Before he could even get out of his car, Busch received congratulations from his older brother Kurt, the reigning Nextel Cup champion who finished 12th on Sunday.

The other big storyline besides Gordon heading into the race was the Roush Racing team, which grabbed the top four qualifying spots for Sunday with pole-sitter Edwards, Mark Martin, Kurt Busch and Greg Biffle.

Biffle finished second and was followed by Brian Vickers, Edwards and points leader Tony Stewart.

Biffle won the February race at California Speedway's two-mile oval. He put up a solid fight Sunday to go for the sweep but tipped his hat to Kyle Busch, who had two runner-up finishes coming in.

"Those guys have been coming on for a long time," Biffle said. "They deserve it. It was just a great job for (my) guys in the pits. We adjusted the heck out of that race car there. Our thoughts and prayers are with everybody in the Gulf Coast."

Kyle Busch led a race-high 95 laps in the scheduled 250-lap event. He pointed to a key pit stop under yellow on lap 242. A host of cars joined then-leader Stewart on pit road.

Busch's crew chief, Alan Gustafson, called for only a two-tire change. It saved time, but was a risky move on a track that eats away at tires so quickly. When green-flag racing resumed, Busch passed Robby Gordon for the lead and held on by 0.554 seconds.

"Alan made an awesome call for two tires," said Busch, who averaged 136.356 mph. "That's what won it for us."

When another caution came out for a collision between Scott Riggs and Robby Gordon, NASCAR extended the event to 254 laps to ensure a green-flag finish.

The top 10 drivers in the standings after next week's race in Richmond (Va.) qualify for the 10-race Chase for the NASCAR Nextel Cup, which decides the season championship.

Jeff Gordon was 10th coming in but his 21st-place effort dropped him to 12th. Ryan Newman began the day ninth but fell to 11th by finishing 18th on Sunday.

Matt Kenseth vaulted into ninth place in the standings and Jamie McMurray took over 10th.

The top eight in points are Stewart, Biffle, Jimmie Johnson, Rusty Wallace, Mark Martin, Kurt Busch, Jeremy Mayfield and Edwards.