Kyle Busch ends 21-race drought
AP Auto Racing Writer
RICHMOND, Va. – Kyle Busch snapped a 21-race losing streak – an eternity by his standards – with a late-race pass at Richmond International Raceway that denied Jeff Gordon yet another victory.
Although Busch embarrassed the field early Saturday night – at one point, there were only eight cars on the lead lap – the racing evened out and Busch’s car faded just a bit. That put Gordon in position for the win, a spot he’s been in at least three other times this season.
Once again, though, he was denied. Three late cautions gave the challengers a chance to chase Gordon down, and Busch capitalized with a pass on the final restart to stretch the four-time NASCAR champion’s winless streak to 38 races.
“I don’t even remember what just happened,” Busch said. “I drove it down into Turn 1 and hoped it stuck. I knew I had to baby it into Turn 3 and finally got to clear Jeff. We set sail there from there.”
Indeed he did, as Gordon had to hold off Kevin Harvick to keep second place.
Since Gordon’s last victory, at Texas last year, he has finished second eight frustrating times.
“I’ve been doing this long enough to know that they don’t give out trophies for leading any lap other than the last one,” Gordon said.
The race was unbelievably fast at the start. Busch lapped car after car through the first 150 laps until only seven others were still running with him. A pair of cautions for debris allowed everybody to catch up under NASCAR’s “wave around” rule, and Busch finally had some competition.
He still led 221 of the first 229 laps before his Toyota began to fade. Gordon eventually took command of the race, leading 144 late laps, but he knew he’d have to withstand a slew of late cautions to close out the win.
After just three cautions through the first 364 laps, there were three in the final 36 laps.
“Of course, it’s never easy,” Gordon grumbled over his radio.
Sam Hornish brought out the last yellow with a spin, and Gordon had Busch on his outside on the restart with five to go.
Busch completed his pass coming out of Turn 3, then pulled away in his Joe Gibbs Racing entry for his first win since Bristol last August. That Bristol victory was the lone bright spot for Busch during a late summer swoon that saw him miss the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship and led to a crew-chief change late in the season.
JGR and Busch were criticized for replacing Steve Addington, who won 12 races with Busch, with Dave Rogers, who was promoted from the second-tier Nationwide Series. After guiding Busch to Victory Lane at Richmond, where Busch also won last May, the decision was vindicated.
“I can’t thank Dave enough,” Busch said. “It’s just unbelievable to be back in Victory Lane. A lot of people doubted what we were doing but I never did.”
Harvick was third and was followed by Richard Childress Racing teammate Jeff Burton as Chevrolets finished second through fourth.
Carl Edwards was fifth in a Ford, followed by Juan Pablo Montoya, Martin Truex Jr., Ryan Newman and Marcos Ambrose. Jimmie Johnson and Denny Hamlin rounded out the top 10.