Kyle Busch Completes Weekend Sweep With NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Win
Kyle Busch (#18 Combos Toyota) dominated the last 50 laps to win the Crown Royal Presents The Russ Friedman 400 at Richmond International Raceway by 2.752 seconds over Tony Stewart (#14 Office Depot Chevrolet).
Jeff Burton (#31 Prilosec OTC Chevrolet), Ryan Newman (#39 U.S. Army Chevrolet) and Mark Martin (#5 Cheez-it/CARQUEST Chevrolet) rounded out the top 5 finishers in a race that had 15 caution periods for 79 laps. In winning, Kyle Busch became only the second NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver to win a race on his birthday, joining the legendary Cale Yarborough. Busch also joined Kevin Harvick and Harry Gant as drivers who won both the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race and NASCAR Nationwide Series race in the same weekend at Richmond.
In Gatorade Victory Lane, Kyle Busch enthused, “Man, this is a phenomenal team. We knew we had to get on track somehow. We pulled out a win. It’s an awesome night. I hope the team enjoys it as much as me. This car wasn’t’ perfect all night, but Steve made the right calls and it paid off for us at the end.”
Tony Stewart, who matched his best finish of the year with his new team, said, “I’m really proud of our guys. We got lucky getting tires with 50 to go and had that green flag run at the end. I’m proud of the organization. That’s our best finish as a team.”
Jeff Burton who finished third, also matching his best finish of the year, said, “We didn’t have the best car but we kept fighting. That’s who we are.”
Busch’s victory is the third in a row this weekend. The win streak began Thursday night when Busch claimed victory in the star-studded Denny Hamlin Foundation Short Track Showdown at Southside Speedway outside Richmond. Friday night, Kyle won the Lipton Tea 250 NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Richmond International Raceway.
Brian Vickers, starting from his second career Richmond International Raceway
pole position, lead the field to the green flag under variable weather conditions. Sharing the front row was two-time Richmond winner, Jeff Gordon (#24 DuPont Chevrolet). The top starting rookie of the race was Manteca, California’s Scott Speed (#82 Red Bull Toyota), who took the green flag from the outside of the fourth row.
With the track still being wet from afternoon rain showers, NASCAR officials started the race under the yellow flag conditions. The first 6 laps were run at a reduced speed while the jet driers finished their job. Jeff Gordon was able to inch out a slim lead as he raced side-by-side with Vickers for the entire first lap at racing speeds. Running the preferred inside line, Vickers pulled ahead of Gordon and briefly pulled out a lead over the field.
After only three laps at racing speeds, Dave Blaney (#66 PRISM Motorsports Toyota) was the first driver to lose the handle in the tricky conditions when he spun in turn 4 and backed into the SAFER barrier.
Jeff Gordon took the lead again on lap 22 as he raced down the front straight. He began lapping cars shortly thereafter. Gordon was finally chased down on lap 73 by Chesterfield’s Denny Hamlin (#11 FedEx Ground Toyota). One lap later, Kurt Busch (#2 Miller Lite Dodge) moved around Gordon into second. After 90 laps, Hamlin and Busch pulled out a 2 second lead over Gordon who was a further two seconds ahead of Mark Martin.
Green flag pit stops began on lap 94 as Greg Biffle (#16 3M Ford) headed in for service. Leader Hamlin, then Busch, followed him in for tires and fuel on successive laps, handing the lead over to Ryan Newman (#39 U.S.Army Chevrolet). Denny Hamlin drove back into the lead on lap 101 as all the racers cycled through their pit stops.All the leaders headed back to pit road on lap 116 during a caution period caused by Jeremy Mayfield (#41 Big Red Toyota). Mayfield had pancaked the wall coming out of turn 2, damaging his
machine. He spun coming off of turn 4, bringing out the caution. During the flurry of pit stops, Jimmie Johnson was assessed a penalty for speeding on pit road. He was moved to the back of the longest line, which put him 20th on the restart. David Reutimann’s (#00 Aaron’s Dream Machine Toyota) crew lost control of one of his tires during his stop, allowing it to roll across pit road. Reutimann would receive the same penalty as Johnson and restart 21st.
As they took the green flag on lap 122, defending race winner Clint Bowyer (#33 BB&T Chevrolet) was in the lead. Two laps later, Hamlin moved back to the front, and as he pulled out a healthy one-second lead, Bowyer, Newman and Kurt Busch battled over second. Younger brother Kyle Busch entered the fray a lap later.
Kurt Busch took the lead from Hamlin on lap 145 as his brother Kyle began showing signs of trouble with a tire on his Toyota. Crew chief for the #18 Steve Addington remarked after the race that what appeared to be tire smoke was actually exhaust smoke that results from the sudden backing out of the throttle that happens on short tracks.
Pit road was as busy as the Long Island Expressway during rush hour on lap 151. Kasey Kahne had spun out coming off of turn 4, bringing out another caution. Hamlin’s crew made the best of the opportunity and got their man out in first place. Joe Gibbs Racing crew man also provided superlative service for Kyle Busch and got him back out in second. Kurt Busch lined up third ahead of Mark Martin and Ryan Newman on the lap 155 restart.
Carl Edwards (#99 Aflac Ford) and Jamie McMurray (#26 Crown Royal Ford) were the victims of some overly aggressive driving by David Stremme (#12 Penske Dodge) on lap 167. Stremme bumped Edwards, spinning him out. McMurray had to take evasive action and also spun. None of the top 5 cars would pit during the caution period. Most of the cars running in 6th and lower did take advantage of the slow-down to get service.
As they went back to green, Kurt and Kyle Busch began a spirited battle over second place. They would keep it clean over the course of 3 laps. Soon thereafter, Kyle Busch began to drop back as he suffered from a handling problem.
Stremme would cause more trouble on lap 180 when he bumped Matt Kenseth (#17 DeWalt Ford) forcing him into the wall. Luckily, Kenseth was able to continue.
Jimmie Johnson (#48 Lowe’s Chevrolet), who was having brake problems, spun in turn 2 on lap 191, bringing out another caution. Pit road became a very busy place once again as all the front runners made their way there for service. Hamlin led over Kurt Busch and Mark Martin when they got back up to racing speeds. Johnson, who had already lost two laps getting repairs, would be black flagged for restarting in the wrong position on lap 197.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. got underneath Jeff Burton on lap 212 coming out of turn 4. Burton spun out and made light contact with the wall. The ensuing caution saw all the front runners on pit road again. Martin Truex Jr. (#1 Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet) had a great pit stop and was in the lead when they went back to green flag running.
About lap 220, Brian Vickers and Kyle Busch began racing very aggressively. Vickers was a lap behind Busch at the time and clearly causing Busch frustration. After passing and re-passing Vickers, Busch decided he’d had enough. Kyle tapped Vickers on the rear bumper as they entered turn 3, moving the Red Bull machine out of his way.
Lap 235 saw Ryan Newman grab the lead from Truex Jr. coming out of turn 4. Hamlin then took the lead from Newman on lap 249.On lap 272, NASCAR officials noticed a piece of debris on the race track and threw the yellow to slow the field. Again, the front runners headed to pit road for tires, fuel and chassis adjustments. Newman’s team got him out in the lead, followed by Jeff Gordon. Gordon’s team
helped him move up three places with their quick service. Hamlin, on the other hand, had a disastrous stop. Two lug nuts of the right front tire fell off the wheel as it was being mounted and the tire-changer lost valuable seconds replacing them.
Greg Biffle (#3M Ford) spun on lap 285 after Joey Logano (#20 The Home Depot Toyota) tapped his left rear quarter panel. He made light contact with the SAFER barrier, bringing out another caution.
When the race went green on lap 291, Jeff Gordon was forced high when he found himself on the outside of a three-wide situation going into turn one. He would lose 6 positions before the lap was over. Two laps later, the caution was out again when Sam Hornish Jr. made contact on the back straight with Kevin Harvick. Harvick suffered a cut tire which caused him to spin and hit the wall in turn 4.
With 100 laps to go, Newman was passed by Kyle Busch for the lead. They would battle side-by-side for the next 4 laps before Newman was able to reassert himself at the point. Marcus Ambrose (# 47 Bush’s Best Baked Beans/Kingsford/Clorox Toyota) got the short end of the stick when he found himself on the outside of a three-wide situation going into turn 3. Sam Hornish Jr. tapped him into a spin, bringing out another caution.
Jeff Gordon, as well as many of the cars running in the lower positions, chose not to pit during the caution, figuring there would be any number of chances to get service before the end of the race. On the first lap after the green waved, previous leader Ryan Newman found himself deep in the field. When cars ahead of him checked up in traffic, Newman tapped Mark Martin, causing him to spin. Martin Truex Jr wasn’t able to stop in time and rammed Martin’s machine. Martin was able to continue, showing no signs of trouble from the incident.
On lap 327, David Stremme, Jimmie Johnson and Kasey Kahne got together in turn three, hitting the wall. Jeff Burton ran into the back of the Bobby Labonte (#96 Ask.com Ford) machine and slid up into Stremme, Johnson and Kahne. None of the front running cars made a pit stop.
As the first car in the one-lap-down-line, AJ Allmendinger was trying to get ahead of Gordon so he could stay on the lead lap. AJ raced Gordon very hard to stay ahead. They raced side-by-side for 6 laps before Gordon was able to move ahead for good.
The 14th caution period was the result of Bobby Labonte spinning as he exited turn 4. Labonte did not hit anything and was able to stay on the track. Kurt Busch also spun while taking evasive action.
When the green flag waved, Kyle Busch immediately jumped to the outside of Carl Edwards and put pressure on leader Jeff Gordon. First he tried running low, but Gordon was able to maintain momentum running high. Busch then ran on the outside and made the pass stick. Kyle quickly pulled out a lead over Gordon.
On lap 358, Brian Vickers ran into the side of David Reutimann’s machine in turn 2 causing Reutimann to hit the wall, bringing out the 15th caution of the race. The race went green again on lap 361.
With 25 laps to go in the race, Kyle Busch held a commanding 3.5 second lead over Jeff Burton who had just passed Jeff Gordon. Gordon would lose another position to Tony Stewart one lap later.
Lap 384 saw Tony Stewart pull ahead of Burton. Over the next few laps, he would cut a little into Busch’s lead, but it would stabilize to around 3 seconds. Gordon suffered from fading handling a dropped down to 8th at the end.
Denny Hamlin lead the most laps of the race again, 148, yet failed to win in front of the home fans. The average speed of the race was 90.627 mph. There were 21 lead changes among 8 different drivers.