If It’s Spring in Richmond, Busch Is in Victory Lane
M&M’s Driver Scores 24th Career Sprint Cup Series Win Saturday Night at Richmond
If April showers bring May flowers, then races conducted in the spring at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway bring victories to Kyle Busch.
Busch, driver of the No. 18 M&M’s Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR), beat Tony Stewart off pit road with 12 laps to go to take the lead and went onto win the Capital City 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race Saturday night at Richmond.
It was Busch’s 24th career Sprint Cup victory, his first of the season and his fourth at Richmond. Busch has won four consecutive spring races at the .75-mile oval, breaking a tie with Richard Petty, who won three straight spring races at Richmond from 1971-73.
“I can’t say enough about this M&M’s Camry,” said Busch, who led twice for a total of 32 laps. “It was a really good racecar. We just didn’t quite have enough on the long runs like (Tony) Stewart had. He was really, really good and beat us there. It means so much that we’re able to come to this place every time and know that we can have a decent car again and again. It wasn’t the best car, but it was really good. We just kept fighting, kept ourselves up there in track position, kept the fenders clean, the right side clean and kept us in the game all race long.”
After qualifying a solid fifth, Busch stayed within the top-five early in the race and worked his way up to third by lap 138. Crew chief Dave Rogers worked on Busch’s M&M’s Toyota over the course of the first four pit stops, making air pressure, wedge, and trackbar adjustments to help solve a tight condition in the middle of the corner and create more rear grip for Busch.
Busch stayed within the top-three for most of the 400-lap race, but as the laps wound down, he found himself in the runner-up spot and losing ground to race leader Tony Stewart. But when the caution flag waved for debris with just 12 laps to go, the subsequent pit stop gave the M&M’s team just the opportunity it needed. Busch was able beat three-time and defending Sprint Cup champion Stewart off pit road and to the lead for the final restart of the night with less than 10 laps to go. From there, Busch pulled away from the field, with runner-up Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Stewart in his mirror.
“It was a gift,” said Busch of the lap 388 caution flag. “I just don’t know where it came from or what it was or anything, but it doesn’t matter. We came down pit road, and Dave Rogers (crew chief) and these guys went to work and gave me a great pit stop -- got me out front. Gave me the lead so I could restart the race how I wanted to. That was the win right there. This thing was so fast I could abuse the tires, but I knew in long runs you couldn’t do that. And we always kind of struggled in the long run but had a lot in reserve on the short run. So that was really cool. This M&M’s Camry was awesome.”
Busch’s JGR teammates – Denny Hamlin, driver of the No. 11 Toyota Camry, and Joey Logano, driver of the No. 20 Toyota Camry – finished fourth and 24th, respectively.
Earnhardt finished 1.095 seconds behind Busch in the runner-up spot, while Stewart, Hamlin and Kasey Kahne rounded out the top-five. Jimmie Johnson, Clint Bowyer, Mark Martin, Brad Keselowski and Carl Edwards comprised the remainder of the top-10.
There were five caution periods for 31 laps, with seven drivers failing to finish the 400-lap race.
With round nine of 36 complete, Hamlin continues to lead the JGR contingent in the championship point standings as he climbed two spots to third. He has 329 points, nine behind leader Greg Biffle. Busch gained two spots to 11th, 73 points out of first, while Logano fell three spots to 15th, 97 points behind Biffle.