Saturday, April 28, 2012

Kyle Busch Wins Four in a Row

Kyle Busch had won the spring Richmond race for the past three years.  As the Capitol City 400 was being run, it didn't look like Kyle Busch had anything for the top two drivers.  But on two consecutive restarts, Busch was able to defeat the best to win his fourth-consecutive Sprint Cup Richmond race.

Kyle Busch celebrates his 24th career victory (Courtesy Getty Images)
Mark Martin, who first won the pole here 31 years ago in 1981, led the field to the green after he won his 53rd career pole.  Martin held the lead until lap 30, when Carl Edwards, who started second, passed him for the lead.  Martin's car was starting to get very loose, and he quickly began to lose spots on the track.  A competition caution came out on lap 50, and by that point Mark Martin had fallen all the way to eighth place. 

On the restart, Jeff Gordon got loose and got into Greg Biffle, and it sent his car into Kurt Busch's car.  Gordon was forced to pit with a flat tire. Carl Edwards was able to lead the entire green flag run, until lap 116, when Kurt Busch spun coming out of turn 4.  Edwards' pit crew once again got him off of pit road first.  On the restart, he was able to pull away from Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch.  Tony Stewart had been closing on Carl Edwards for about 20 laps, and finally, on lap 201, Stewart passed Edwards for the lead.  The same time that Stewart took the lead from Edwards, green flag pit stops began for most of the field. 

Carl Edwards leads Tony Stewart and Kyle Busch (Courtesy Getty Images)
Stewart and Edwards made pit stops together, and Edwards was able to beat Stewart off pit road.  Following pit stops, however, Kevin Harvick was scored as the leader.  Harvick made his pit stop about five laps sooner than Stewart and Edwards, and that was all he needed to take the lead.  Harvick held onto the lead for a few laps, but Carl Edwards and Tony Stewart quickly passed him again for first and second place.  On lap 227, the third caution of the day came out for debris.  The leaders pitted, and Carl Edwards' crew got him off pit road first again, followed by Jimmie Johnson, Tony Stewart, Kasey Kahne, and Kyle Busch. 

Carl Edwards pulled away from the field on the lap 236 restart.  Jimmie Johnson tried to fend off Tony Stewart, but to no avail; Stewart quickly got around Johnson and was soon on the back bumper of Carl Edwards.  On lap 250, Stewart was able to complete the pass on Edwards, and regained the lead.  Edwards quickly fell to fourth, as he was soon passed by Kyle Busch and Jimmie Johnson.  Green flag pit stops soon followed, and most of the leaders came in.  Carl Edwards missed pit road, which actually helped him.  While Jimmie Johnson was on pit road, Jeff Burton hit the wall on lap 311 to bring out the fourth caution.  Carl Edwards made his pit stop, and restarted first.

On the restart, Carl Edwards jumped out into the lead when Tony Stewart spun his tires.  But he may have jumped out to the lead a little too soon; Edwards was black-flagged for jumping the restart.  He came in to make his pass-through penalty, and Tony Stewart was handed the lead.  Kyle Busch tried to catch up to Stewart, but he began to pull away from the 18.  Stewart led until lap 386, when the fifth caution came out for debris.  The caution allowed Carl Edwards to get the lucky dog.

Edwards' crew chief, Bob Osborne, talks with a NASCAR official about his penalty (Courtesy Getty Images)
The field pitted for tires, and Kyle Busch's pit crew got him out first.  On lap 391, Kyle Busch brought the field to the green flag and pulled away from the field.  Tony Stewart had another bad restart, and Dale Earnhardt Jr. was able to get around him for second place.  Earnhardt Jr. wasn't able to catch Busch, however, and Busch was able to win his fourth straight spring race at Richmond.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. came close to winning his first race since 2008, but fell short and finished second.  Tony Stewart led 112 laps, but could not get going on the final restart and finished third.  Denny Hamlin finished fourth, Kasey Kahne fifth, and Jimmie Johnson sixth.  MWR teammates Clint Bowyer and Mark Martin finished seventh and eighth, respectively.  Mark Martin will not be in the car next weekend at Talladega, and his next race will be at Darlington for the Bojangles' Southern 500.  Brad Keselowski finished ninth, and Carl Edwards came back to round out the top 10.  Points leader Greg Biffle finished 18th, while Jeff Gordon finished 23rd after troubles on the first restart. 

Kyle Busch's car is in a cloud of smoke following his post-race burnout (Courtesy Getty Images)
The Capitol City 400 had more cautions than we'd seen in the past few races, and Kyle Busch returned to his old form.  But what most people will be talking about this week will be how Carl Edwards lost the race.  The class of the field all day, Edwards lost the race in a confusing turn of events where Edwards may or may not have been the leader of the race when he was black-flagged for jumping the restart.  We'll see what happens next week, when NASCAR returns to the fastest track on the Sprint Cup circuit; Talladega.  The pack is back, and the race promises to be full of excitement.  The race can be seen next Sunday at 12 p.m., only on FOX.

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