A debris caution prevented Kurt Busch from earning a win at Fontana last month, but the Las Vegas native was not to be denied in Sunday’s Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond International Raceway.
Busch dominated, leading a race-high and a single-race career high of 291 laps en route to victory in the 400-lap event, which had been rescheduled due to rain on Saturday night.
It was Busch’s 26th career Sprint Cup victory and his first since March 2014 at Martinsville Speedway, a span of 35 races.
“It’s an incredible feeling,” Busch told Fox Sports in Victory Lane. “It’s a total team effort. It seemed like we were building and building to this.
“I’m here in Victory Lane and it feels great to do it here in Richmond. … We got it done today. It was pretty good.”
Busch, who was suspended by NASCAR for the first three races of the season due to domestic violence accusations, becomes the seventh different driver to win a race thus far in the first nine races of 2015. It was a 1-2 Stewart-Haas Racing finish, as teammate Kevin Harvick finished second.
Jimmie Johnson finished third, followed by Jamie McMurray and Joey Logano.
Sixth through 10th were Kasey Kahne, Matt Kenseth, Jeff Gordon, Clint Bowyer and Martin Truex Jr.
With the exception of two brief laps, Busch led from Laps 95 through 258. He finally yielded the lead to Jamie McMurray on Lap 259 when teams began a series of green flag pit stops.
Busch regained the lead for two laps (260-261) before McMurray regained the advantage from laps 262-264. Brad Keselowski then assumed the point Lap 265 and held it through Lap 272 before Busch regained the lead once again on Lap 273.
On Lap 350, a yellow caution flag came out for debris on the backstretch but Busch did not relinquish his lead following the restart on Lap 358.
Contact less than one lap later between Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Tony Stewart brought out another caution. When the race restarted on Lap 367, the yellow caution came right back out one lap later when Jeb Burton spun.
Busch refused to yield when the race restarted on Lap 374 and began to pull away from the rest of the field.
How Busch won: When Busch held off all potential challengers on the last three restarts. But it was the restart on Lap 358 that all but put the win away for good. There were two cautions afterward, but his car was unquestionably the class of and the fastest of the field. No other driver could challenge Busch from that point on. Busch also had the heads-up run of the day on Lap 270. He passed Keselowski to get back on the lead lap just before a caution came out for Brett Moffitt’s cut tire.
Who else had a good day: It was a good day for Stewart-Haas Racing as Busch and teammate Kevin Harvick finished 1-2. … Jimmie Johnson rallied to pass Jamie McMurray on the last lap to take third place. Hendrick Motorsports had three drivers in the top eight (Johnson 2nd, Kasey Kahne 6th and Jeff Gordon 8th). … Pole-sitter Joey Logano led the first 94 laps but eventually yielded to Busch and was unable to work his back to the front of the field from that point on.
Who had a bad day: Brad Keselowski was forced to compete at least half of the race down one cylinder. While he was competitive until that point and challenged for the lead, Keselowski gradually fell behind and finished 17th. … Tony Stewart was having a decent run before he was involved in a slight mishap with Dale Earnhardt Jr. on Lap 359. It appeared Stewart clipped the left rear of Earnhardt, sending Stewart spinning and just barely glanced off the inside retaining wall. Stewart could not get his car restarted and was forced to settle for a disappointing 41st-place finish at what is Stewart’s admitted favorite racetrack on the Sprint Cup circuit.
Notables: Sam Hornish’s struggles continued. The former three-time IndyCar champion finished a disappointing 35th. … Kevin Harvick broke the track bar adjuster in his car about three-quarters of the way through the race, but still managed to make it to the finish line as runner-up in the race. … Chase Elliott made his second career Sprint Cup race and finished 16th.
Quote of the day: “I don’t know. You’ll have to ask him. He hit me in the left-rear quarter panel. I was trying to clear the 51 on the outside of me, so I was as high as I could go. You’ll have to ask him.” – A very upset Dale Earnhardt Jr. on his contact with Tony Stewart (who refused to talk to the media after the incident between the two).
What’s next: Geico 500 at Talladega Superspeedway, Sunday, May 3, 2015.