Capturing his fourth consecutive spring race at Richmond International Raceway and his first of the 2012 season, Kyle Busch ended his 20 race drought when he powered his Joe Gibbs Racing M&Ms Toyota to Victory Lane.
Busch became the seventh different winner out of nine races this season.
The win was the younger Busch’s 24th career one tying him with his brother Kurt, the 2004 NASCAR Sprint Cup Champion, for 26th all time.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. tried hard to reel Busch in but was struggling with his brakes all night stating, “It would just get loose locking the rears up. So even with the brakes working, I think the No. 18 [Busch] was just a little bit better than us all night.”
Struggling with pit stops and restarts, the Stewart-Haas No. 14 Team and defending Sprint Cup Champions lost their chance for the win during the last restart of the night with eight laps to go. Stewart, disgusted with the victory slipping from their grasp had this to say about the race, “When the caution is for a plastic bottle on the backstretch, it’s hard to feel good about losing that one. And we gave it away on pit road. So we did everything we could to throw it away; it got taken away from us.” Stewart was clearly upset by the loss of more than a second lead over Busch when the caution came out, but also by his team’s performance.
“That’s the best car I’ve had at Richmond in a long time. So I’m really proud of that and [crew chief] Steve Addington, and I’m proud of our guys. But we’ve got some work to do on pit stops right now. I don’t know what their malfunction was but I’m pretty ticked off about it tonight.”
Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch’s JGR teammate finished fourth and Junior’s HMS teammate Kasey Kahne posted his first Top 5 of the season with fifth.
Jimmie Johnson and the Hendrick Motor Sports No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet team were caught with an infraction on pit road concerning a tire that was to be “in contact with a crewman until at least halfway past the car” but was rolled unmanned. NASCAR noticed and Johnson had to restart at the end of the field on Lap 319. In typical championship fashion Johnson brought his No. 48 home to sixth, salvaging an otherwise disappointing turn of events.
Michael Waltrip Racing placed two in the Top 10 with Clint Bowyer in seventh and pole sitter Mark Martin in eighth. Penske Racing’s Brad Keselowski posted a ninth.
In the same restart that saw Johnson go to the back of the field, Carl Edwards, who was told he was the leader of the race ahead of Tony Stewart, was black flagged for jumping the green flag before reaching the double red restart lines on the outside wall.
Edward’s crew chief Bob Osbourne was livid by the ruling and argued with NASCAR officials, but the ruling stuck on Saturday night leaving Edwards, the driver who led the most laps, with a tenth place finish that he had to battle back to from a lap down.
Greg Biffle is still the NASCAR Sprint Cup points leader leaving RIR.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. picked up two positions placing him in second, five points behind Biffle. Denny Hamlin also improved two places landing in third. Matt Kenseth’s 11th place finish led to his losing one spot felling him to fourth. Martin Truex Jr. tumbled three positions due to his 25th in the race and is now in fifth.
Jimmie Johnson improved one position to sixth. Kevin Harvick fell one spot to seventh. Tony Stewart, Carl Edwards, and Ryan Newman remained the same for another week at eighth, ninth, and tenth respectively.
Short track racing is over as the NASCAR drivers set their sights on the longest track on the circuit, Talladega Superspeedway.
The Aaron’s 499 will begin coverage on Sunday, May 6th at 12 noon EST on Fox.
Be sure to tune into that race and return here afterwards for my race recap.
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