Tuesday, Oct 04

Yet Another Birthday Party for Busch at Richmond

For the third consecutive year, Kyle Busch celebrated his birthday in victory lane at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway. Busch led four times for a race-high 235 laps – including the final 84 circuits around the .75-mile oval – en route to a dominating win in Saturday night’s Crown Royal 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race.

The driver of the No. 18 M&M’s Pretzel Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR), who turns 26 on Monday, scored his 21st career Sprint Cup victory, his second of the season and his third at Richmond. Busch has now won three straight Crown Royal 400s.

“I just can’t say enough about the guys on this M&M’s Pretzel team,” said Busch, who now has an astounding 11 top-five finishes in 13 career Sprint Cup starts at Richmond. “These guys did such a great job tonight and have been there for me all year long. I can’t thank the Mars associates for their support this year – a few of them are here with us tonight. Dave Rogers (crew chief) and this whole M&M’s Pretzel team did a flawless job at getting this car prepared. The new tire that Goodyear brought here this weekend made it especially difficult for most of the teams, and us too. We were the best here this weekend.”

After starting 20th in the 43-car field, Busch methodically moved his way up through the field from the drop of the green flag. While carefully picking off positions one-by-one, he reached the top-10 by lap 29, the top-five by lap 59, and climbed his way to second by lap 84. Quick work by the M&M’s Pretzel over-the-wall team during the first pit stop of the day on lap 88 catapulted Busch to the lead for the first time on lap 90, where he leapfrogged JGR teammate Denny Hamlin and spent the next 110 laps as the leader.

While a series of caution flags during the middle part of the race shuffled the running order, Busch always kept his sights on the front of the field. Following what turned out to be the final caution period of the night on lap 302, Busch lined up fourth for the ensuing restart on lap 315. Known for his prowess on restarts, Busch made an impressive move to the outside of second-place Dale Earnhardt Jr., and in just two short laps, the M&M’s Pretzel Toyota took the lead.

Busch appeared to have the dominant racecar, but crew chief Rogers kept reminding his driver to save fuel as the laps wound down. With the last pit stop on lap 293, Busch was just inside the pit window should the race go green the rest of the way. So Busch needed to save fuel in the closing laps, while also keeping a hard-charging Hamlin at bay.

As it turned out, the final 85 laps were run under green. Busch coasted to victory, but his gas tank ran dry as he performed his victory burnout.

“It was important to save fuel there under the last caution since it was so long,” said Busch, who now has 94 victories across NASCAR’s top three divisions (Sprint Cup – 21; Nationwide – 47; Camping World Truck – 26). “That probably saved us. Thankfully, it played out that way and I saved just enough. I thought we were going to have enough to make it to the end, but I didn’t think we would run out on the way to the winner’s circle. I’m just glad I could save that much and we made it.”

Busch’s JGR teammates – Denny Hamlin and Joey Logano – finished second and 11th, respectively. Hamlin’s runner-up effort gave JGR a 1-2 finish – the 10th such time JGR drivers have finished 1-2 in a Sprint Cup race.

Kasey Kahne finished third, while David Ragan and Carl Edwards rounded out the top-five. Clint Bowyer, A.J. Allmendinger, Jimmie Johnson, Stewart and Brian Vickers comprised the remainder of the top-10.

There were eight caution periods for 60 laps, with five drivers failing to finish the 400-lap race.

With round nine of 36 complete, Busch still leads the JGR trio in the championship point standings. He jumped three spots to third and now has 305 points, 30 markers back of series leader Edwards. Hamlin remained 17th in the standings with 238 points, 97 markers back of the top spot. Logano moved up three spots to 21st with 212 points, 123 points behind Edwards.

True Speed Communications/Kyle Busch PR

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