Richmond: Kyle Busch race report

Birthday + Victory Great 'Combo' at Richmond Busch Earns 15th Career Sprint Cup Win on 24th Birthday What kind of birthday present do you get for the man who has everything? For crew chief Steve Addington and the rest of the No. 18 Joe ...

Birthday + Victory Great 'Combo' at Richmond

Busch Earns 15th Career Sprint Cup Win on 24th Birthday

What kind of birthday present do you get for the man who has everything? For crew chief Steve Addington and the rest of the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) team, the solution was simple. They got their man -- Kyle Busch, driver of the No. 18 Combos Toyota -- a victory on his 24th birthday in Saturday night's Crown Royal 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway.

With the win, Busch became only the second driver in Sprint Cup history to celebrate a victory on his birthday, a feat first accomplished by Cale Yarborough -- twice. Yarborough won on his March 27 birthday at North Wilkesboro (N.C.) Speedway in 1977 and at Atlanta Motor Speedway in 1983.

"I really want to thank Combos, M&M's, Interstate Batteries, Toyota and the fans for coming out tonight. It's my birthday," said Busch, who led three times for a total of 53 laps. "The Combos Toyota was good. It wasn't great, but it was good, and good enough to matter most when we needed to win here. I know they were all supporting me for my birthday tonight and we pulled out a win for them. I know this is another big win this year. I hope the team enjoys it as much as I do. It's amazing."

The Las Vegas native not only won Saturday night's Sprint Cup race, but swept his slate of races at Richmond this weekend, starting with winning a Late Model stock car race on Thursday night at nearby Southside Speedway that benefited the charity of his JGR teammate Denny Hamlin. Busch then went on to win Friday night's NASCAR Nationwide Series race before securing his third Sprint Cup win of the year on Saturday night. The win also allowed the Combos brand to stay undefeated in its Sprint Cup tenure with Busch, as he delivered the first win for Combos last June at Dover (Del.) International Speedway.

Busch's charge to victory in the Crown Royal 400 began from his 14th-place starting position in the 43-car field. He quickly moved into the top-10 just 15 laps into the 400-lap race and cracked the top-five by lap 44.

Despite the strong forward progress, Busch felt that his car was too tight in the center of the corner, while also too loose coming off the corner. An assortment of wedge, track bar and air pressure adjustments directed by Addington throughout the event allowed the Combos Toyota to handle closer to Busch's liking.

And as Busch masterfully sliced his way through traffic around the .75-mile oval, the critical call that helped win the race came from Addington atop the pit box on lap 308. While several leaders elected to either stay out or take just two tires, Addington opted for four tires instead. It was the decision that helped propel Busch to victory.

"That's exactly what we needed," said Busch, whose 15th career Sprint Cup win tied Jeff Gordon's record for the most wins before the age of 25. "We needed to get out and get a long run, and those guys had to chase us back down and they couldn't really catch us. It really worked out. Steve made a great race call on when to pit and when to take more tires when other guys took two or no tires, and we were able to stay out front from there on out."

The newly minted 24-year old restarted in seventh on lap 312, but was the first car with four fresh tires. He quickly caught the leaders, and after another restart on lap 350, Busch made a nifty move on the outside to pass Gordon and take the lead. While a handful of other drivers pitted for fresh tires under the last caution of the night on lap 358, they didn't have enough time to catch Busch as the race went green for the final 39 laps.

"It really paid off for us at the end to be able to have that long run like that and not have to deal with the 14 (Tony Stewart) or the 31 (Jeff Burton)," added Busch. "I was hoping we wouldn't see another caution out. I knew those guys were coming."

Busch's JGR teammates -- Hamlin and Joey Logano -- finished 14th and 19th, respectively.

With 10 of 36 races complete, Busch gained one spot and now sits fifth in the championship standings, where he is 127 markers behind new series leader Gordon. Hamlin's 14th-place finish bumped him up one spot to fourth in the standings, 120 points behind Gordon. Logano picked up one position to climb to 32nd, where he sits 188 markers ahead of 36th-place Scott Speed.

Finishing 2.751 second behind Busch in the Crown Royal 400 was Stewart, while Burton, Ryan Newman and Mark Martin rounded out the top-five. Former Indy car champion Sam Hornish Jr., Jamie McMurray, Gordon, Casey Mears and Formula 1 ex-patriot Juan Pablo Montoya comprised the remainder of the top-10.

There were a record-tying 15 caution periods for 79 laps, with six drivers failing to finish the race.

The next event on the Sprint Cup schedule is the May 9 Southern 500 at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway, where Busch is the defending winner.

-credit: jgr

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Juan Pablo Montoya