The Richmond International Raceway has been a race track that has given Kyle Busch some of the most memorable moments during his NASCAR career.
In 2009, he became the second driver in NASCAR history to win on his birthday by winning at RIR. Friday night, his brother, Kurt, took his Kyle Busch Motorsports Nationwide Series team to victory lane for the first time in history. And Saturday night, he won his fourth-straight spring race at RIR.
Grabbing the lead on an exchange of pit stops after the caution flew with 13 laps to-go, Busch was able to hold off Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Tony Stewart to grab his first win of the 2012 season.
“That last caution was our saving grace,” Busch said after the win. “Trough much of the race, we did what we needed to do to stay in the top-five. That caution really helped me out. Once we had ten laps left, I knew I could get out there and abuse my tires.
“I have no idea what caused that last caution, but I’m glad there was one.”
Busch was being pursued hard by Earnhardt Jr. during the final laps. But after Earnhardt Jr.’s No.88 “ran out of brakes”, it was smooth sailing for Busch to pick up his 24th career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series win.
“There were times were better than us,” he said. “Sometimes they were better on the short run than us, sometimes better on the long run. It just feels good to get back to victory lane. This is a big step in the right direction.
“We didn’t lead a ton of laps, we didn’t dominate the race. But we did what we had to do to get the job done tonight.”
Although Earnhardt Jr. had every chance to grab his first victory since 2008, that was not what grabbed everyone’s attention during the closing stages of the race.
With 90 laps to go, Jeff Burton’s No.31 Chevrolet cut a tire, leaving debris on the track and the yellow flag came out right in the middle of green flag pit stops.
Carl Edwards, who missed pit road just before the caution flag came out for the wounded Burton car, was scored as the second place car when the race went back green with 82 laps to-go.
Starting side-by-side with Stewart, the race leader, Edwards took off before the restart line while Stewart spun his tires as the green flag waved.
Before the No.99 Ford reached the start-finish line again, NASCAR had posted him for jumping the restart, forcing him to relinquish the lead and head to pit road.
Stewart, who had been hunting Edwards all night and even led for parts of the race, found himself on his way to win number three on the season with 80 laps to go.
The caution with 13 laps to-go that Busch proclaimed as his “saving grace” was the ultimate downfall of Stewart’s strong night at RIR.
“It’s pretty hard to understand why the caution comes out when it’s for a little plastic bottle on the back stretch,” Stewart said to the FOX crews after the race. “It’s just disappointing.”
After the race, Edwards was confused why exactly he was blacked-flagged on the restart.
“I’ve never had that happen before,” Edwards said to the SPEED crew after the race. “I was told I was the leader. I’m just waiting on NASCAR to explain this one to me. I never was told Stewart was the leader.”
Edwards, his spotter and the spotter for the No.14 of Stewart all went to the NASCAR hauler after the race to discuss the issue.
“We had to agree to disagree,” Edwards said. “I guess that’s just how it has to be. I don’t know if this has ever happened before, I don’t know if this will ever happen again. I guess I’ll just have to go home, rest and get ready to race at Talladega.”
Stewart, one the other hand, saw it differently than Edwards.
“Well, we were the first one to line up and we were the leader on the board. So I don’t know how much clearer it could be that we were the leader,” said Stewart. “If that was the case then they should have put the caution out and given him the opportunity to choose the lane that he wanted. It’s a miscommunication between upstairs and the drivers.”
Even though Edwards led 110 of the first 140 laps of the 400 lap race, he was relegated to a tenth place finish after the penalty.
After struggling throughout the night, Greg Biffle still managed to hold onto the points lead heading into next weekend’s race at the Talladega Superspeedway.
Biffle leads now second place Earnhardt Jr. by five heading into the tenth race of the season.
Results of the Capital City 400 at Richmond
- Kyle Busch
- Dale Earnhardt Jr.
- Tony Stewart
- Denny Hamlin
- Kasey Kahne
- Jimmie Johnson
- Clint Bowyer
- Mark Martin
- Brad Keselowski
- Carl Edwards
- Matt Kenseth
- Juan Pablo Montoya
- Paul Menard
- Jamie McMurray
- Ryan Newman
- A.J. Allmendinger
- Bobby Labonte
- Greg Biffle
- Kevin Harvick
- Landon Cassill
- Casey Mears
- Marcos Ambrose
- Jeff Gordon
- Joey Logano
- Martin Truex Jr.
- Aric Almirola
- Regan Smith
- Kurt Busch
- Dave Blaney
- Travis Kvapil
- Jeff Burton
- David Ragan
- David Reutimann
- Reed Sorenson
- Stephen Leicht
- David Gilliland
- David Stremme
- Josh Wise
- Michael McDowell
- Cole Whitt
- Joe Nemechek
- Mike Bliss
- Scott Speed