After a pit stop with 14 laps to go, Kyle Busch came off pit road first and never looked back as he held Dale Earnhardt Jr. to win the Capital City 400 presented by Virigina is for Lovers at Richmond International Raceway.
“Great team, great cars and being aggressive when it matters, yet saving your tires when you can,” Busch says. “I don’t know where that last caution came from, but that was our saving grace at the end. Can’t say enough about this car – we didn’t have the long run car like Stewart, but we were good at the end.”
The win marked Busch’s first win of the season, the 24th of his career.
Meanwhile, Earnhardt Jr. came home second for his seventh top 10 finish of the season.
“We had some brake problems all race long and I had a great restart and ran real great one lap and then it went away,” he says “I had to pump the brake pedal up all the way down the front stretch; I had no front brakes so I couldn’t get in the corner. Even if I had the brakes, I wouldn’t have been able to catch the 18.”
The race had its fair share of controversy, surrounding the two cautions during the second half of the event.
During the final round of green flag pit stops with 90 laps to go, a caution came out when Jeff Burton got into the wall. At the time of the caution, Tony Stewart and Carl Edwards were the only two drivers on the caution.
Edwards, scored the leader, had yet to make his green flag pit stop, so he pitted under yellow. Stewart, who pitted a lap earlier, stayed out and assumed the lead. Meanwhile, Kyle Busch got the lucky dog while seven other drivers took the wave around to get back on the lead lap.
With the restart coming at 82 laps to go, Edwards was told by his spotter that he was the leader of the race. Therefore on the restart, he thought that he’d dictate it. While, in NASCAR’s eyes, he was not the leader and he was blackflagged for jumping the start. Meanwhile, to magnify the size of a jump that Edwards got, Stewart spun the tires.
“I still don’t understand why they black flagged me,” Edwards says. “They said we were the leader and I restarted the best I could given the disadvantaged position I was in. The problem is I don’t know if NASCAR is going to take the stance that I jumped the start. If they are saying that I jumped the start then that would be real frustrating.”
Edwards came back to finish 10th and met with NASCAR after the race to discuss the call that was made.
“We had to just agree to disagree and that’s the way it is,” he says. “They run the sport and they do the best job they can, and I drive a race care and do the very best job I can. I’d rather not say what was said in there. This whole thing is very frustrating. I don’t feel like we did the wrong thing.”
With Edwards’ penalty, Stewart pulled out the advantage and look to have the race locked up, before a caution with 14 to go for debris that set up a round of pit stops. The item of debris appeared to be a plastic water bottle that was laying on the backstretch. After pit stops, Stewart would restart second to Busch, but would spin the tires, dropping to third behind Earnhardt Jr. He would finish third for his 18th top 10 at Richmond in 27 races.
“Well, when the caution is for a plastic bottle on the backstretch, it’s hard to feel good about losing this one and we threw it away on pit road,” Stewart says. “But this is the best car that we’ve had at Richmond. We have some work to do on pit stops.”
Denny Hamlin would finish fourth followed by Kasey Kahne.
Jimmie Johnson would rebound to finish sixth after a pit penalty late in the race that saw him restart at the tail end of the field with 82 laps to go.
“We had a couple little incidents there, but stuff happens; it’s racing,” Johnson says. “We had a tire get away from us and we had to serve that penalty. The good news is we had a good car and was able to get back up there. Proud of the effort.”
Clint Bowyer finished seventh, followed by Mark Martin, Brad Keselowski and the aforementioned Edwards.
Points leader Greg Biffle came home in the 18th position, now holding a five point lead over Dale Earnhardt Jr. heading to Talladega.