Kyle Busch broke a 21-race winless streak at the NASCAR Sprint Cup Heath Calhoun 400 at Richmond International Raceway Saturday night. For a non-GWC finish (only the third this season,) the final laps delivered all the excitement GWCs are meant to manufacture.
Busch, whose birthday was the next day, also won at Richmond in 2009 said, “We did it last year on my birthday, this year we got a birthday present early.
“Unbelievable to be back in victory lane,” he told FOX-TV. “A lot of people doubted what we were doing but I never did. I gotta say thanks to all these guys who do so much work on this team. I want to thank the fans too … birthday weekend, always great to have all their support here.”
Busch led the first half of the race, then lost the setup. He and his crew worked hard to keep him in the race, and Busch was able to pass Kevin Harvick for second on a restart on lap 385. Joey Logano got into Sam Hornish four laps later, and Busch made another great restart to work his way past Jeff Gordon.
Gordon’s car was worn out, and he had his hands full holding off Kevin Harvick , who was forced to settle for third. While the pair fought each other, Kyle Busch drove away and took the checkered flag.
“I just drove it down into turn one and hoped it stuck,” Busch explained. “I drove it too far—I got it pointed just in time and had a major drive up off the corner. I knew I needed to baby it into Turn Three to try to get a good launch off of Turn Four as well. I finally got to clear Jeff and got down to the bottom and set sail from there while those guys got to racing.
“It’s the best thing when you are out front to see the guys behind you racing, to let you lead out there.”
At the post race press conference Kyle Busch talked about losing the set-up halfway through the race.
What did we fall back to, fifth or something there? It felt like fifteenth, as bad as we were running,” he said. “For some reason we just missed the handle on the car there in the middle of the race.
The car was phenomenal in the beginning I couldn’t have asked for anything better, we were making some minor changes to it just to make it a little bit better, and there about lap 170, 200, something like that it we started falling behind on the long runs and getting really, really loose.
We just kept plugging away. Dave [crew chief Dave Rodgers] never gave up and I just kept driving what I had. We made some changes to the car to get it going a little bit better, especially there at the end of the race.
“When Dave made the call to come to put tires on with about 30 to go, 25 to go … we just got going on restarts.”
Gordon Finishes Second Again
Jeff Gordon has made a practice of almost winning races this season, and sad for him, Richmond was one more in that list. Gordon took the lead from Jeff Burton on lap 250, and held it for much of the rest of the race. But by the final restart, Gordon’s car used up.
“[Kyle Busch], he was so strong on restarts all night. He was head and shoulders above everybody on restarts. We were good on the long runs,” Gordon explained.
“That last restart, I got as good one but Kyle got a good one as well, and I was just too loose. To really get going and he drove a heck of a race, so I’ll settle for second.”
Jeff Gordon has scored eight second-place wins since his last victory. “I’m gonna have to figure out how to win these ones on these late cautions,” he said. “That’s just not where we are strong right now. But it is something we will continue to get batter at as the season goes on. We are certainly getting plenty of practice at it.”
Gordon chose the outside for the final restart. At the post –race press conference on NASCAR.com, a reporter asked him if that contributed to his loss.
Kyle was just unbelievable on the restarts,” Gordon replied. “I followed him enough times earlier in the race to watch him run around the bottom on the inside and I knew that if I gave him the inside he was going to drive by me faster than he did on the outside.”
“I was struggling on that last restart. Kevin almost got by me too. Luckily he raced me clean because I couldn’t even stay down on the bottom in front of him. I just was real loose on that last restart.
“An unfortunate sequence of cautions for us, that wasn’t to our favor. We finished second: that’s the bottom line.”
Jimmie Johnson Gives Up Points Lead
Jimmie Johnson, who struggled through much of the race, ended up tangling with Clint Boyer and wrecking on the front stretch coming to the checkered flag. Johnson gave up his lead in the points standings as Kevin Harvick moved into first place.
“It’s fun to be racing for wins. That’s what we’re here to do and we’ve done that several times this year,” Harvick said. “After winning last week, and close this week, we’ve led the points at the end of ten weeks now, so there’s no reason we can’t lead it after the last ten.”