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Photo Credit: Jason Smith/Getty Images
Kyle Busch Celebrates Birthday With Richmond Sweep
By Reid Spencer, Sporting News NASCAR Wire Service
RICHMOND, Va.(May 2, 2009) — Kyle Busch’s burnout on the frontstretch was a loud and smoky substitute for candles on a birthday cake.
But for Busch, there was no better way to celebrate his 24th birthday than to win his third NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race of the season and the 15th of his career.
In a race that featured a record-tying 15 cautions—but none in the final 40 laps—Busch powered past Jeff Gordon for the lead on Lap 352 and pulled away to win Saturday night’s Crown Royal Russ Friedman 400 at Richmond International Raceway and complete a weekend sweep of NASCAR events there.
Busch, who won the NASCAR Nationwide Series race Friday night at the .75-mile short track, joined Cale Yarborough as the only drivers to win NASCAR Sprint Cup races on their birthdays. With a full year in hand, Busch also holds the record for most victories in the series before turning 25.
Photo Credit: Drew Hallowell/Getty Images
Tony Stewart (14) and Jeff Burton (31) race for the second spot in the closing laps of the race...
Busch got to the finish line 2.751 seconds ahead of Tony Stewart who made a late pit stop for tires and worked his way up through the field in the final 50 laps. Jeff Burton survived a medley of wrecks to finish third. Ryan Newman came home fourth and Mark Martin fifth.
“I hope the team enjoys this as much as I do,” Busch said in victory lane. “It’s just amazing, man. It’s so cool. The car wasn’t perfect all night—it was good, but it wasn’t perfect. I knew that when we had practice (Friday). I kept telling (crew chief) Steve (Addington), ‘It doesn’t feel bad, but it’s not perfect.’
“Steve made the right call on when to pit and when to take four tires versus two tires or no tires or whatever, and it really paid off for us there at the end to be able to have that long run like that and not to have to deal with the 14 (Stewart) and the 31 (Burton). I knew they were coming.
“It’s great to be able to do this on my birthday week—it means a lot.”
Sam Hornish Jr., Jamie McMurray, Gordon, Casey Mears and Juan Pablo Montoya completed the top 10. Gordon pitted for the last time on Lap 274 and faded in the closing laps as his tires lost grip.
With Stewart finishing second and Newman fourth, fledgling Stewart-Haas Racing posted its best combined finish of the season.
“I’m not sure we had a second-place car, but we got there at the end,” Stewart said. “We were toward the back of the lead-lap cars, and we had a chance to come in and put four tires on it. The guys did a really good job all night in the pits. They really made us up a lot of spots.
“We had about 20 or 30 laps less on our tires than everybody else did, and that gave us an advantage.”
Virginia native Denny Hamlin, who finished 14th, surrendered control of the race during a pit stop under caution on Lap 274. Up to that point the No. 11 Camry had led 148 laps, but a lug nut problem on the right front dropped Hamlin from first to eighth for a restart on Lap 279.
Notes: Gordon regained the series points lead from Kurt Busch, who held it for one week. Gordon leads Kurt Busch by 10 points; Stewart, Hamlin and Kyle Busch each climbed one spot to third, fourth and fifth, respectively. ... A succession of problems that included a pit-road speeding penalty, a brake failure and a crash relegated three-time defending NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson to a 36th-place finish and dropped him to sixth in the standings. ... Newman jumped three places to 10th in points, as David Reutimann dropped out of the top 12.
Unofficial Race Results click here
Post-Race Driver Point Standings click here
NASCAR Newscast - Richmond Review click here
Jimmie Johnson, who has won three of the last four Richmond races, had a rough day, spinning on Lap 192 and going several laps
down after a pass-thru penalty for not obeying NASCAR instructions. (Photo Credit: Drew Hallowell/Getty Images)
Mark Martin spins in Turn 2 to bring out the 12th caution of the race. There were 15 total cautions on the evening, tying a track
record in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. (Photo Credit: Drew Hallowell/Getty Images)
Green Flag Fast Facts
The Race: Crown Royal Presents The Russ Friedman 400
The Date: Saturday, May 2
The Track: Richmond International Raceway (.75-mile D-shaped oval)
The Time: 8:30 p.m. AT
The Distance: 400 laps (300 miles)
TV: FOX, 8 p.m. AT
Radio: MRN and Sirius Satellite
2008 Polesitter: Denny Hamlin
2008 Winner: Clint Bowyer
Schedule: (local track time) Friday – Practice, 12-1 p.m. and 2-3:30 p.m. – Qualifying, 5:40 p.m.
Year-To-Date Results & Point Standings click here
TV Broadcast Times*
Practice: Friday May 1 at 1 p.m./SPEED
Final Practice: Friday May 1 at 3 p.m./SPEED
Qualifying Time Trials: Friday May 1 at 6:30 p.m./SPEED
RaceDay, Pre-Race Show: Saturday May 2 at 6 p.m./SPEED
FOX Pre-Race Show: Saturday May 2 at 8 p.m./FOX & TSN
Race: Saturday May 2 at 8:42 p.m./FOX & TSN
*Times shown are AT - one hour ahead of ET, i.e. if it's 2 p.m./AT - it's 1 p.m./ET...
Practice, Qualifying, Starting Lineup & More...
Photo Credit: Rusty Jarrett/Getty Images for NASCAR
Brian Vickers won the Coors Light Pole Award for the CROWN ROYAL Presents The Russ Friedman
400 with a lap of 21.238 seconds, 127.131 mph.
Complete Starting Lineup click here
- This is his seventh pole in 182 This is his second pole and fourth top-10 start in 2009.
- This is his second pole in ten races at Richmond International Raceway.
- Jeff Gordon (second) posted his seventh top-10 start of 2009 and his 25th in 33 races at Richmond
- Denny Hamlin (third) posted his sixth top-10 start at Richmond International Raceway. It is his fourth in
ten races this season.
- Scott Speed (eighth) was the fastest qualifying rookie.
- Drivers that failed to qualify include: Todd Bodine and Trevor Boys.
NASCAR Newscast - Richmond Preview click here
*Does not reflect adjustments that may be made prior to the race start because of the cars that need to go
to the rear of the field due to engine and/or transmission changes or practice wrecks...
- Richmond Pivotal Track For Chase Hopefuls...Richmond International Raceway — the site of Race 10 on the 2009 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series schedule — has proven to be pivotal to the hopes of potential Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup contenders.
Nearly 80 percent of the drivers who have been Chase eligible coming out of the spring Richmond race have gone on to qualify for the Chase, with the championship field set following the second Richmond race. The breakdown is as follows: 2004 (8-10); 2005 (6-10); 2006 (8-10); 2007 (11-12); and 2008 (10-12). The drivers know good and well that how they stand after Saturday night’s 300-miler at this .75-mile D-shaped oval, will serve as a good barometer in gauging their championship hopes.
Commonly referred to as “America’s Premier Short Track,” Richmond International Raceway features a storied NASCAR racing tradition. This Saturday night’s running of the Crown Royal Presents The Russ Friedman 400 will mark the 106th NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race held at RIR. Only Daytona (124), Martinsville (120) and Darlington (108) have hosted more points-paying NSCS events and only Martinsville (1949) and Darlington (1950) have hosted NASCAR Sprint Cup races longer than Richmond, which hosted its first race in NASCAR’s premier series in 1953.
Three-time defending NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet) will be aiming for his fourth trip to Victory Lane at Richmond. All three of his wins at RIR have come in the last two seasons, including last year’s Chevy Rock & Roll 400 in September and a Richmond sweep in 2007. Considering his recent success at Martinsville Speedway as well, Johnson has been dominant in the Commonwealth of Virginia of late. Including a win in the March event this year, Johnson has won five of the last six races at Martinsville dating back to 2006. During that stretch, he has won an amazing eight of the last 10 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races in Virginia.
- Former Champion Kurt Busch Back On Top...Kurt Busch (No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge), the 2004 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion, is back on top of the point standings for the first time since March 13, 2005.
Busch moved up two spots in the standings last week following his sixth-place finish at Talladega, his sixth top-10 showing on the season. He holds a slim five-point lead over four-time series champion Jeff Gordon (No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet) heading into Richmond.
Busch has had mixed success at Richmond. In 16 career starts there, he has one win (Sept. 2005), two top fives and five top-10s, but only an average finish of 19.1.
Busch’s 93.1 Driver Rating at Richmond ranks just eighth among the current top 12 drivers. However, his season Driver Rating of 103.1 ranks fourth best among the top 12.
“I really enjoy racing at Richmond,” says Busch. “Both of the races there are pure excitement. They call Richmond the ‘action track.’ We can race low, we can race in the middle or you can race in the high groove. There’s always some good action on the race track at Richmond.”
- Keselowski And Finch Nab First Career NSCS Win...Making just his fifth career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series start on Sunday, Brad Keselowski (No. 09 Miccosukee Indian Gaming & Resort Chevrolet) was the surprise winner in a wild finish at Talladega Superspeedway.
The victory, Keselowski’s first in NASCAR’s premier racing series, qualifies him as a driver for next month’s NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race at Lowe’s Motor Speedway.
“Talladega is such a crapshoot,” Keselowski said shortly after his landmark victory. “You can’t expect anything. You can’t expect to win; you can’t expect not to win. I was here today to win and I’ve got no other reason to be here than to win and put these guys in Victory Lane.”
The win was also a first in the NSCS for team owner James Finch, an independent owner who runs a construction business in Panama City, Fla. While this was his team’s 105th NASCAR Sprint Cup Series start, it was a win for the ages for the affable Finch.
“I guess I’m one of the only independents to race on a regular basis,” said Finch early Sunday evening, still soaking in the victory. “It’s been a long time since I’ve had a trophy and I thank God I got one here.”
Finch’s Phoenix Racing shop in Spartanburg, S.C., employs about 25 people and fields cars in both NASCAR and ARCA. Finch entered his first NASCAR Nationwide Series race in 1989 and made his NSCS debut a year later, but generally has raced more in the NNS, with 476 starts and 11 victories in that series. Several well-known veteran drivers, including Sterling Marlin, Jimmy Spencer, Martin Truex Jr. and Geoffrey Bodine have driven cars for Finch.
- Racing Up To The Front...It’s not where you start; it’s where you finish at Richmond International Raceway. Only two winners since 1993 have come from the pole position. Jimmie Johnson won the Sept. 2007 race from the pole and Kasey Kahne (No. 9 Budweiser Dodge) won the 2005 May race from the pole. Last May, pole sitter Denny Hamlin (No. 11 FedEx Toyota) led a race record 381 laps before a tire problem cost him a shot at the victory.
- Newman On The Rebound...Ryan Newman (No. 39 U.S. Army Chevrolet) is on the comeback trail the past several weeks. Fresh off his best finish of the season — a third-place showing at Talladega — Newman has moved up to 13th in the point standings and is now just 30 points outside the top 12.
Newman started slow this season, with four straight finishes outside the top 20. Only six races ago, Newman was 32nd in points.
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