Kurt Busch has won for the 26th time in his NASCAR Sprint Cup career.
Busch sizzled in the rain-delayed Toyota Owners 400 at the Richmond International Raceway on Sunday afternoon.
Taking the lead early on, Busch dominated from that point, leading six times for 291 of the 400 laps to score his 26th Sprint Cup victory and ending his 35 race winless streak.
In becoming the seventh Sprint Cup victor of season, Busch punched his card as a qualifier for the all-important Chase field.
“This was a total team effort,” said a clearly emotional Busch. “The win and everything just came together.
"It just seemed that we were building and building toward a great finish like this. I got this opportunity because of Gene Haas. It is an unbelievable feeling when you pull deep from within, going through troubles.
"Tony Gibson has been an amazing crew chief, and I am glad that I have been able to work with him. We got it done today.”
Gibson added: “It is pretty cool to win and know you have a shot at the championship. Hopefully, we can win four or five more. This (win) is all about the depth in our team; we believe in one another.
"Last week the race got away from us and we didn’t win. We came here this week determined to stay focused. Today, we all executed perfectly. We had a fifth to eighth place car on Friday; we didn’t have a car that could win the race. When you don’t have such a car, you have to execute and that’s what we did.”
Harvick comes up one spot short
Finishing second, 0.755 seconds behind, was hard-charger Kevin Harvick, who displayed one of his patented 'closer' runs as the race wound down.
“What we really needed was just all the tires to be the same," he complained. "We put that one set of tires on and went back to 12th or 13th and wound up making up the spots, but it just got us way behind.
"The track bar broke and we weren’t able to get the track bar back where we needed to, but all in all, I’m just really happy for everybody at Stewart-Haas Racing and Kurt (Busch) and everybody on the No. 41 team and everybody on our Jimmy John’s/Budweiser team on our No. 4 car. They’ve done a great job and made up a lot of ground after we lost it and we were able to get back up and at least have a chance there at the end.”
Johnson: the biggest mover
Third place went to Jimmie Johnson, who drove forward from his 36th starting spot.
“We had a great race car and I really felt like that was the case on Friday, except for our qualifying lap," said Johnson. "I don’t know what happened on Friday and in general, I’m not the best qualifier. So Fridays, we’ve got to get those better in order to really win as often as we’d like to.
"We’ve got two wins and we’re making the most out of these poor starts and poor pit road picks. We’ve got to get better on Fridays. I really think our race car, we worked hard to make it last in the long run and with all the long runs that we had, I was able to get through the field and get this Lowe’s Pro Service Chevy up front.
"Those last few restarts I was able to hang on and duke it out with those guys and get a nice top three finish.”
Best of the rest
Jamie McMurray and Joey Logano were fourth and fifth, respectively. Rounding out the top 10 was Kasey Kahne, Matt Kenseth, Jeff Gordon, Clint Bowyer and Martin Truex Jr.
Eight caution flags slowed the race for 53 laps with half of them coming in final 30 laps.
In the most notable incident, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Tony Stewart tangled. Chase Elliott came home 16th in his second career Sprint Cup start.
In points, Harvick continues to lead with 357. Johnson is second with 299, and he is trailed by Logano, Brad Keselowski, Kenseth, Denny Hamlin, Truex, Kahne, Earnhardt and McMurray.
1. (3) Kurt Busch, Chevrolet, 400
2. (5) Kevin Harvick, Chevrolet, 400
3. (36) Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, 400
4. (9) Jamie McMurray, Chevrolet, 400
5. (1) Joey Logano, Ford, 400
6. (40) Kasey Kahne, Chevrolet, 400
7. (8) Matt Kenseth, Toyota, 400
8. (11) Jeff Gordon, Chevrolet, 400
9. (17) Clint Bowyer, Toyota, 400
10. (6) Martin Truex Jr., Chevrolet, 400
11. (23) Ryan Newman, Chevrolet, 400
12. (12) Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, 400
13. (4) AJ Allmendinger, Chevrolet, 400
14. (26) Dale Earnhardt Jr., Chevrolet, 400
15. (15) Paul Menard, Chevrolet, 400
16. (16) Chase Elliott, Chevrolet, 400
17. (7) Brad Keselowski, Ford, 400
18. (22) Justin Allgaier, Chevrolet, 400
19. (18) Carl Edwards, Toyota, 400
20. (27) Aric Almirola, Ford, 399
21. (32) Greg Biffle, Ford, 398
22. (2) Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 398
23. (10) David Ragan, Toyota, 398
24. (34) Trevor Bayne, Ford, 398
25. (21) Danica Patrick, Chevrolet, 398
26. (19) Landon Cassill, Chevrolet, 398
27. (20) Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 398
28. (24) Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Ford, 398
29. (14) Brett Moffitt, Toyota, 396
30. (25) Casey Mears, Chevrolet, 396
31. (30) David Gilliland, Ford, 396
32. (41) Alex Bowman, Chevrolet, 396
33. (38) Michael Annett, Chevrolet, 395
34. (43) Reed Sorenson, Ford, 395
35. (29) Sam Hornish Jr., Ford, 394
36. (31) Cole Whitt, Ford, 394
37. (37) Matt DiBenedetto, Toyota, 394
38. (39) Jeb Burton, Toyota, 393
39. (42) Alex Kennedy #, Chevrolet, 392
40. (33) Jeff Green, Chevrolet, 386
41. (13) Tony Stewart, Chevrolet, Accident, 359
42. (28) Josh Wise, Ford, Engine, 137
43. (35) Joey Gase, Ford, Accident, 124