RICHMOND — One night after celebrating his first win as an owner, Kyle Busch was back in Victory Lane on Saturday night — this time for his driving.
Busch’s older brother, Kurt Busch, won the Nationwide Series race on Friday night at Richmond International Raceway in a car owned by Kyle Busch. Saturday night, Kyle Busch picked up his first win of the NASCAR Sprint Cup season at a track he has dominated, taking the Capital City 400 for his fourth consecutive spring win at Richmond and 24th career victory.
Busch passed Tony Stewart by beating him off pit road with 13 laps remaining, and the No. 18 Toyota held Dale Earnhardt Jr. off to take the checkered flag and end a 20-race winless streak.
The four consecutive spring wins set a Richmond record, breaking a tie with the legendary Richard Petty, who won three straight from 1971 to 1973.
“Great team, great cars and being aggressive when it matters, but yet trying to save your tires when you can,” Busch said of his success in Richmond. “I don’t know where that last caution came from but that was our saving grace today.”
With the second-place finish, Earnhardt Jr. trails series leader Greg Biffle by five points. Biffle finished Saturday’s race in 18th place.
Stewart, who finished third, nearly emerged from a tumultuous final 100 laps in Richmond with his third win of the season. The veteran started 22nd and worked his way through the field, initially taking the lead from Carl Edwards at the midway point of the race. He then took the front spot when NASCAR officials ruled Edwards jumped the restart after a caution on Lap 318, just five laps after Jimmie Johnson lost the lead for a tire violation on a pit stop.
There was some confusion about what caused the black flag. Edwards said he thought he was the leader on the restart, but the leader board indicated Stewart was in the front position. When Stewart spun his tires on the restart, Edwards accelerated by him before they reached the restart box.
“I still don’t understand why they black-flagged me,” said Edwards, who finished 10th. “. . . If they’re saying I jumped the start that’d be real frustrating because I started the way I started all night.”
While Stewart was the beneficiary of that decision, however, he seemed miffed about the final caution, which he said was for a plastic bottle on the track.
“That’s what it looked like to me,” Stewart said. “I mean, it was out of the groove. It had been sitting there for eight laps.”
After consecutive Sprint Cup races without a wreck, Richmond’s three-quarter mile, D-shaped oval track surprisingly failed to bring any major wrecks and had just five cautions for a total of 30 laps.
Only once, when Jeff Gordon got sideways and bumped with Biffle and Kurt Busch on Lap 57, did the yellow flag come out for bumping and banging. That incident caused some damage to a right side tire of the No. 24 Chevrolet, and Gordon was on pit road and two laps down. Gordon finished 23rd.
The story of the first 200 laps was Edwards’s dominance. He had led just one lap in eight starts this season, but when he passed pole-sitter Mark Martin to take the front spot on Lap 30, it looked like he would never give it back.
In fact, he hardly did. Edwards ran comfortably up front in his No. 99 Ford for 170 of the next 171 laps. He ceded the lead to Stewart on Lap 200, then regained it on Lap 220 and held it until Stewart passed him again in the second turn of Lap 250.
Stewart took the lead once more on Lap 317 and held it until Busch, who led just 31 laps, had the fastest pit stop on that final caution.
That allowed Busch the chance to end the weekend as both a winning owner and driver, which earned him some ribbing from his car owner, former Washington Redskins coach Joe Gibbs.
“The first thing I asked Kyle, I said, ‘Okay, is it more fun winning as a car owner or a driver?’ ” Gibbs said, chuckling. “And he was honest, he says as a driver.”