A late caution helped Kyle Busch win Saturday night’s Capital City 400 at Richmond International Raceway, his fourth straight spring RIR race victory.
Busch took the lead on pit road after a caution for debris on the backstretch on Lap 386 to put his No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota into Victory Lane over the No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet of Dale Earnhardt Jr., Tony Stewart, Denny Hamlin and Kasey Kahne.
In Friday night’s NASCAR Nationwide race at RIR, Busch was the winning car owner. On this cold and gray night he was the winning driver, breaking a 20-race winless streak to capture his first victory of the season and 24th of his career.
“Great team, great cars and being aggressive when it matters, yet trying to save your tires when you can,” said Busch when asked how he did it. “Man, I don’t know where that last caution came from.”
It was a night of critical errors at the 0.75-mile, D-shaped track and a lack of mistakes played into Busch’s favor.
Mark Martin, who won his first NASCAR Sprint Cup pole in 1981, started from the pole in his Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota.
Martin pulled out at the start, with Kevin Harvick’s Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet in second place. Carl Edwards, who started on the outside pole, slipped back at the start, but passed Harvick on Lap 20. Ten laps later, Edwards went out front for the first time.
NASCAR threw a competition caution on Lap 50, with Edwards leading. Kurt Busch and Jeff Gordon made contact on the restart, with Gordon having to pit for a tire change, going two laps down and coming out 36th.
Edwards continued to dominate early, with another caution waving on Lap 118, after Kurt Busch spun off Turn 2. This time, Edwards won the race off pit road over Hamlin, Harvick and Kyle Busch.
On the charge, though, was Tony Stewart. By the halfway point of the race he was just 0.156 seconds behind Edwards, with Kyle Busch third, followed by Harvick and Jimmie Johnson.
One lap later, Stewart took the lead just as a round of green-flag pit stops began. On Lap 206, Stewart and Edwards pitted together, with Edwards coming out ahead, but both behind new leader Harvick. All told, Edwards led 170 of the first 200 laps.
On Lap 220, Edwards got by Harvick, the pass being made when Harvick and the lapped car of Dave Blaney had contact.
Seven laps later, the third caution came out, this one for debris. The leaders all pitted, with Edwards barely holding the point. Second-place Johnson had a terrible restart, allowing Stewart and Kyle Busch to pass him.
Stewart methodically closed in on Edwards, making the pass for the lead on Lap 251. By that time, Edwards already had clinched the bonus point for most laps led.
On Lap 285, it was Kyle Busch who moved into first place, taking his first lead of the night and pulling Johnson with him into second.
Jeff Burton tagged the Turn 4 wall on Lap 311 to bring out the fourth caution of the evening. Johnson pitted just as the caution came out and appeared poised to take the lead, but he had a tire violation on pit road and got sent to the tail of the longest line.
Then, Edwards was black-flagged for jumping the restart and ordered to serve a pass-through penalty, which killed his shot at victory. Edwards led a total of 210 of 400 laps, but it was all for naught.
Edwards’ gaffe put Stewart into the lead over Kyle Busch, AJ Allmendinger and Dale Earnhardt Jr.
On Lap 386, the caution flew for debris, with the 13 lead-lap cars all pitting for tires. Kyle Busch won the race off pit road, which proved to be the difference.
The green flew on Lap 391, Busch on the inside and Stewart outside. On the restart, Stewart spun his tires, with Earnhardt taking second. And that was all she wrote, with Busch winning easily.
Stewart was miffed about the caution, which he said was for a water bottle. “It was out of the groove, it was there for eight laps,” Stewart said of the debris.
Tom Jensen is the Editor in Chief of SPEED.com, Senior NASCAR Editor at RACER and a contributing Editor for TruckSeries.com. You can follow him online at twitter.com/tomjensen100.