NSCS Recap: Happy Birthday: Kyle Busch Sweeps Richmond RICHMOND, Va. -- Kyle Busch's burnout on the frontstretch was a loud and smoky substitute for candles on a birthday cake. But for Busch, there was no better way to celebrate his 24th ...
NSCS Recap: Happy Birthday: Kyle Busch Sweeps Richmond
RICHMOND, Va. -- Kyle Busch's burnout on the frontstretch was a loud and smoky substitute for candles on a birthday cake.
But for Busch, there was no better way to celebrate his 24th birthday than to win his third NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race of the season and the 15th of his career.
In a race that featured a record-tying 15 cautions -- but none in the final 40 laps -- Busch powered past Jeff Gordon for the lead on Lap 352 and pulled away to win Saturday night's Crown Royal Russ Friedman 400 at Richmond International Raceway and complete a weekend sweep of NASCAR events there.
Busch, who won the NASCAR Nationwide Series race Friday night at the .75-mile short track, joined Cale Yarborough as the only drivers to win NASCAR Sprint Cup races on their birthdays. With a full year in hand, Busch also holds the record for most victories in the series before turning 25.
Busch got to the finish line 2.751 seconds ahead of Tony Stewart who made a late pit stop for tires and worked his way up through the field in the final 50 laps. Jeff Burton survived a medley of wrecks to finish third. Ryan Newman came home fourth and Mark Martin fifth.
"I hope the team enjoys this as much as I do," Busch said in victory lane. "It's just amazing, man. It's so cool. The car wasn't perfect all night -- it was good, but it wasn't perfect. I knew that when we had practice (Friday). I kept telling (crew chief) Steve (Addington), 'It doesn't feel bad, but it's not perfect.'
"Steve made the right call on when to pit and when to take four tires versus two tires or no tires or whatever, and it really paid off for us there at the end to be able to have that long run like that and not to have to deal with the 14 (Stewart) and the 31 (Burton). I knew they were coming.
"It's great to be able to do this on my birthday week -- it means a lot."
Sam Hornish Jr., Jamie McMurray, Gordon, Casey Mears and Juan Pablo Montoya completed the top 10. Gordon pitted for the last time on Lap 274 and faded in the closing laps as his tires lost grip.
With Stewart finishing second and Newman fourth, fledgling Stewart-Haas Racing posted its best combined finish of the season.
"I'm not sure we had a second-place car, but we got there at the end," Stewart said. "We were toward the back of the lead-lap cars, and we had a chance to come in and put four tires on it. The guys did a really good job all night in the pits. They really made us up a lot of spots.
"We had about 20 or 30 laps less on our tires than everybody else did, and that gave us an advantage."
Virginia native Denny Hamlin, who finished 14th, surrendered control of the race during a pit stop under caution on Lap 274. Up to that point the No. 11 Camry had led 148 laps, but a lug nut problem on the right front dropped Hamlin from first to eighth for a restart on Lap 279.
Notes: Gordon regained the series points lead from Kurt Busch, who held it for one week. Gordon leads Kurt Busch by 10 points; Stewart, Hamlin and Kyle Busch each climbed one spot to third, fourth and fifth, respectively. ... A succession of problems that included a pit-road speeding penalty, a brake failure and a crash relegated three-time defending NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson to a 36th-place finish and dropped him to sixth in the standings. ... Newman jumped three places to 10th in points, as David Reutimann dropped out of the top 12.