(Richmond, VA) If you were to "head for the mountains", it'd only take a couple of hours, but then the only way to catch the 250 lap NASCAR Busch Series event at Richmond International Raceway would be on a Funai television. In the perfect...
(Richmond, VA) If you were to "head for the mountains", it'd only take a couple of hours, but then the only way to catch the 250 lap NASCAR Busch Series event at Richmond International Raceway would be on a Funai television. In the perfect world, that may be the case, but as NASCAR Busch Series drivers found out this past weekend, it's not a perfect world. Rain took care of qualifying and the field started by owner's points on raceday.
Winston Cup regular Kevin Harvick (#21 Bakersfield, CA), took the pole courtesy of Richard Childress, while series point leader Scott Riggs (#10 Bahama, NC) (pronounced Bah-hay-mah) rode shotgun to begin. After Joey Clanton (#27 Stockbridge, GA) looped his TrimSpa ride in turn three on lap 15, Harvick still maintained the lead. Part-time Childress wheelman, Johnny Sauter (#43 Necedah,WI) was up on his wheel powering from 30th to 10th by lap 35. Pit work began after a car stalled on the backstretch, as David Green (#37 Owensboro, KY) followed Harvick's lead. Ron Hornaday Jr. (#2 Palmdale, CA) milked third by sending Riggs to the wall, while Sauter wrenched his way into seventh by lap 50.
Harvick stretched his advantage by 10 car lengths by lap 75, with several drivers falling a lap behind. As lap 90 clicked on the board, Sauter overtook Green for the runner-up position. Then by lap 92, Sauter took the lead and started to walk his way through lap machines, while Green captured Harvick's spot. By lap 100, Sauter was rocking and rolling through the crowd sending half the field a lap down. Randy MacDonald (#72 Oshawa, ON) gave several drivers a breather, as he backed into turn four, bringing out the caution on lap 102.
With a slow stop, Sauter found himself mired in the middle of the pack, with Green leading the charge off pit road. Current Winston Cup point leader, Matt Kenseth (#17 Cambridge, WI) wasted little time bypassing Green for the lead after the restart, as Bobby Hamilton Jr. (#25 Nashville, TN) put his Team Marines! Chevy behind Kenseth. Harvick also circumnavigated Green and began to march toward Hamilton Jr.
Kenseth led at halfway, while homestate favorite Stacy Compton (#59 Grit, VA) was 18th, behind 2002 Busch Series Champion, Greg Biffle (#7 Vancouver, WA). Scott Wimmer (#23 Wassau, WI) rallied to tenth after almost being lapped before the caution. Wimmer's crew chief is South Boston, VA. native Chris Rice. Kenseth blazed a path through the field, leaving only 17 cars on the lead lap with 80 circuits remaining.
Casey Mears (#19 Bakersfield, CA) slapped the outside wall, zeroing the target and bringing out the caution on lap 179. Kenseth led from pit road with Harvick in tow, followed by rookie hotshoe Brian Vickers (#5 Thomasville, NC). Harvick attempted to relieve Kenseth of the lead by lap 200, but Kenseth held with 50 to go. Sauter again worked into contention by tracking down the top two by lap 205, before Mike Bliss (#20 Milwaukie, OR) drove literally upside Riggs' machine as the Nequick Ford slowed for a cut tire. Kenseth maintained his advantage over Harvick and Sauter under the caution.
Kenseth pulled away on the restart, but Harvick and Sauter began to close by lap 215. Harvick, slipping out of turn two, watched Sauter take over second on lap 219. Sauter, inches off Kenseth's bumper by lap 222, looked under Kenseth for the lead. Sauter gave a bump and run on lap 227, with a drag race to the line, Sauter led lap 228. With 20 to go, Sauter pulled away from Kenseth, while Harvick drifted backward.
As Sauter felt the wind at his back, Greg Biffle's machine erupted in smoke sending the clean-up trucks onto the speedway for a late lap caution and a shootout showdown. As the green waved again, Sauter was under attack. Kenseth faked low, then went high to inch ahead. Sauter bumped his way back and Kenseth returned the favor sending Sauter sideways at the stripe. Harvick took a low advantage in a three-wide leader attempt, but Sauter squeezed through in the lead coming out of turn two. Kenseth waged war on Sauter's bumper, just as Shane Hmiel (#48) and Jason Keller (#57) collected one another in a smoke-filled, track blocking incident. The red flag waved for the field, as they crossed the line, with Kenseth letting Sauter know he was there. After that nudge, Sauter stopped a war torn field on the backstretch with four laps remaining.
The battle raged on as Kenseth went outside for the lead, as Sauter held the bottom line. Sauter went back for more with Kenseth as the white flag waved. Harvick went inside and outside on Sauter, as Sauter looked to Kenseth's bumper in the final turn. Contact sent Kenseth sliding up the track off turn four, as Sauter championed his first victory for the Channel Lock team, followed by his teammate Harvick. Kenseth slipped back to sixth trying to gather his composure.
After the cars slowed on the backstretch Harvick was joined by Sauter and Kenseth in a sheet metal bending exchange. Harsh words and hot tempers flared after the event, catching the attention of NASCAR officials and garnering a trip for two to the NASCAR Busch head shed.