Kurt Busch dominates to win postponed
race at Richmond, seals Chase berth
RICHMOND, Va. - Suspension to redemption.
After being suspended for three NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races earlier this season after an alleged domestic violence incident, Kurt Busch won Sunday's postponed Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond International Raceway in a dominating performance, virtually locking up a spot in this year's Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.
"It's an incredible feeling," said Busch, who was reinstated March 11 and granted a waiver into the Chase. "It's a total team effort. And the way that everything came together, it just seemed like we were building, building and building towards a great finish like this.
"I have this opportunity because of Gene Haas and everybody that's a part of our family at Stewart-Haas. It's an unbelievable feeling when you pull deep from within, you go through troubles and you know when you're accused of something and things go sideways. Your personal life doesn't need to affect your business life and I'm here in Victory Lane. It feels great to do it at Richmond."
Pole sitter Joey Logano led the first 50 laps of the race, until the scheduled competition caution waved allowing teams the opportunity to pit for fuel, tires and adjustments. The top 10 left pit road as they entered, but Jamie McMurray had to come down pit road a second time after being informed his team left lug nuts loose.
Logano led the field back to green and maintained the race lead through Lap 94, when Kurt Busch challenged and inherited the lead on Lap 95. The Stewart-Haas Racing driver pulled to an eight-tenths of a second lead by Lap 100 and extended it until a Lap 127 caution when Joey Gase wrecked on the backstretch.
Busch won the race off pit road and controlled the field through the halfway point with a 0.826 second advantage over Brad Keselowski in second. Through the long run, McMurray climbed through the field and momentarily challenged Busch for the top spot on Lap 259, but Busch reasserted himself a lap later.
McMurray regained control of the lead a lap later and led until green flag pit stops began on Lap 263 with McMurray pitting on Lap 265. Meanwhile, Keselowski stayed out and shuffled into the lead. Nearing the end of green flag stops, Brett Moffitt made contact with the wall in Turn 4 bringing out the fifth caution of the day, leaving only three cars on the lead lap.
Keselowski, Justin Allgaier and Busch all pitted under the yellow, with McMurray benefiting from the free pass, putting himself back on the lead lap. Fifteen cars behind them elected to take the wave around, putting 19 cars on the lead lap for the restart.
Busch checked out on the restart, ahead of Allgaier and Keselowski. Meanwhile, McMurray had to make another climb back through the field and made his way to the bumper of Allgaier on Lap 315 for second. Once past the HScott Motorsports driver, McMurray trailed Busch by more than four seconds.
With 50 laps to go, McMurray trimmed the lead down to less than three seconds, but the yellow flag waved a lap later, saving a number of the front-running teams from making their final planned stop under green.
The race resumed with 42 laps remaining and unchanged at the front. Two quick cautions set up for a 26-lap shootout between Busch, McMurray, Jimmie Johnson, Kevin Harvick and Logano.
Escaping the field quickly, Busch checked out, with the battle on for the runner-up spot. Harvick - aptly nicknamed the "The Closer" - made the pass on McMurray on Lap 382 and set sights on his Stewart-Haas Racing teammate for the win.
Harvick chipped away at his deficit, but the reigning champion was no match for Busch, putting a period on a stellar performance by claiming his 26th-career Sprint Cup Series victory and second at Richmond. The 36-year old led a race-high 291 of the event's 400 laps. "Tony Gibson is an amazing crew chief and I'm glad I've got the chance to work with him," Busch said. "We got it done today."
Behind Busch and Harvick, Johnson was third followed by McMurray, Logano, Kasey Kahne, Matt Kenseth, Jeff Gordon, Clint Bowyer and Martin Truex Jr. to round out the top 10.
The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series resumes next Sunday at Talladega Superspeedway for the GEICO 500. Denny Hamlin is the defending race winner.