Kyle Busch Sweeps Cup Races at Richmond

Going from worst to first, Kyle Busch celebrates his Richmond win.

Going from worst to first, Kyle Busch celebrates his Richmond win.

Kyle Busch continues to show why he is one the most talented drivers in NASCAR.

Busch, who started from the rear of the pack after unapproved adjustments, charged through the field to win Saturday’s Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond Raceway. With the win, he swept both races at Richmond this season and punched his ticket to the Round of 12.

Busch led 92 laps in the race, all of which came in the final stage of the race. Even more impressive, he did it after not finishing in the top 10 in either of the first two stages.

“That was too close for my comfort,” said Busch to NBC’s Rutledge Wood in the immediate post-race interview. “I thought we were a little bit better than that in the long run. I know (Kevin) Harvick, that’s kind of his specialty, but we had a really, really good race car tonight. The M&M’s Camry was awesome. The guys did a great job coming back from a dismal qualifying effort, and preparing a really, really good race car for us here tonight.”

Harvick and Martin Truex Jr. completed the Big 3 at the front in second and third. Harvick, who led 40 laps, had a better car in the long runs than Busch, but ran out of time to catch him.

Truex Jr., who won the first two stages and led a race-high 163 laps, also ran out of time to chase down Harvick and Busch in the closing stages.

“We restarted eighth on the outside, and to get back to third, we kind of were used up at the end,” Truex Jr. said. “Man, what an awesome race car the guys brought me here. The Auto Owners Toyota was fast. It was really good all day, just, man, I don’t know what we gotta do to win this race. We probably led more than anyone here ever that’s not won it. It’s crazy, but it wasn’t meant to be tonight.”

Chase Elliott, who needed a rebound race after crashing out in Vegas, did just that with a fourth-place finish. The fourth driver for Stewart-Haas Racing, Aric Almirola, took another impressive finish by rounding out the top five.

“Appreciate Alan (Gustafson) making some good calls overnight,” said Elliott. “Feel like we change about everything before qualifying yesterday, and typically that does not work. Just appreciate everybody’s efforts on my Hooters team to do that and put enough thought process and care into it to wanna get better, and for those guys to do what they did, and make our car drive like it did tonight was really impressive.”

Austin Dillon had another strong run to take sixth place after starting in 26th. Kyle Larson, Jimmie Johnson, Brad Keselowski and Clint Bowyer rounded out the top-10.

Cautions? What cautions?

Unlike the South Point 400 last weekend, there was a distinct lack of caution flags or attrition at Richmond.

Not for the lack of trying though. Denny Hamlin was turned by Ricky Stenhouse Jr. off Turn 4 in the middle of Stage 1. Hamlin managed to right his car before the caution had to be thrown, albeit with damaged tires.

Hamlin pitted, and despite being two laps down, charged back up to finish ninth in the first stage.

Besides the end-of-stage cautions, there was only one yellow flag the whole race. Jeffrey Earnhardt had an accident with 73 laps to go coming through Turn 2. He finished 37th, 13 laps down.

There was also only one car who did not finish, the No. 52 of Gray Gaulding retired with brake issues midway through the final stage.

Big Three back to Top Three

For so much of this season, it has been Busch, Harvick and Truex Jr. battling for wins.

The past few weeks though, the Big Three have not been able to get wins with the playoffs approaching and starting.

But Saturday showed the strength of the Big Three, as the trio combined to lead 295 laps. More than that, all three were fighting for the win at the end of race.

Playoff standings

After a bunch of the playoff drivers had issues in Vegas, they were back in form on Saturday night. Besides Elliott, Hendrick teammate Johnson drove his way to finish eighth in Stage 2 and the final stage.

Heading into the roval race at Charlotte, here’s how the standings stack up (top 12 advance):

*Bold= advanced to Round of 12

  1. Kyle Busch: 2,125 points (1 win)
  2. Brad Keselowski: 2,111 points (1 win)
  3. Martin Truex Jr.: 2,141 points
  4. Kevin Harvick: 2,113 points (57 points above cutoff)
  5. Joey Logano: 2,081 points (25 points above cutoff)
  6. Aric Almirola: 2,079 points (23 points above cutoff)
  7. Kyle Larson: 2,073 points (17 points above cutoff)
  8. Kurt Busch: 2,071 points (15 points above cutoff)
  9. Chase Elliott: 2,066 points (10 points above cutoff)
  10. Austin Dillon: 2,066 points (10 points above cutoff)
  11. Alex Bowman: 2,061 points (5 points above cutoff)
  12. Ryan Blaney: 2,060 points (5 points above cutoff)
  13. Clint Bowyer: 2,056 points (5 points below cutoff)
  14. Jimmie Johnson: 2,0554 points (6 points below cutoff)
  15. Erik Jones: 2,039 points (21 points below cutoff)
  16. Denny Hamlin: 2,031 points (29 points below cutoff)'
Matt Sisoler

Mid-20s sports journalist who loves covering and playing sports such as hockey, baseball, football, soccer and basketball. A lifelong Michigan native besides a six-week span where I was a Wyomingite, I've been a racing fan ever since I was three years old and my babysitting cousin fell asleep with a NASCAR race on and I had no way to change the channel. My passion for the sport grew on my first trip to Michigan International Speedway at age eight. If I could do my life differently I'd be driving one of those cars instead of writing about them. Adrian College Class of 2015 graduate with a Bachelor's Degree in Journalism.

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