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Kyle Busch pulls off a surprise Richmond 400 win, amid confusion and controversy

Kyle Busch pulls off a surprise Richmond 400 win, amid confusion and controversy

Kyle Busch, finally winning again (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)




   By Mike Mulhern

   Controversies and confusion dominated here Saturday night, in a rather strange Richmond 400.
   It wasn't quite as dramatic as his Daytona Shootout victory, but Kyle Busch – without a NASCAR regular tour win since last August at Michigan – won an odd one to end a drought that had raised some questions about his fire-in-the-belly this season.
   "I don't know where that last caution came from, but that was our saving grace," Busch said of the key yellow with 14 laps to go in the 400-lapper at this three-quarter-mile track.
   Has Busch been simply too calm at the wheel this season, after so many controversial run-ins last season? "A calmer person? Yeah," Busch said. "A calmer race car driver? I'm not sure."
   Busch wasn't that strong during the three-hour race.
   However crew chief Dave Rogers says his game plan for the regular season is to play for the playoffs:
   "It's early in the season; we're just trying to get lined up for the second half. We've been criticized for starting the season so strong and yet finishing the season so weak. So we're doing development early in the season, and hopefully we can end strong."
   But it was key scoring-penalty controversies that changed up the three-hour race.
   One took Jimmie Johnson out of contention, on a night he had a potentially winning car.
   A second one took Carl Edwards out of contention, in a race he dominated, leading by far the most laps. And Edwards went to the NASCAR hauler after the race to protest.
   A third one took Tony Stewart out of the game, in the final miles.

   The view from the Richmond trenches (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)


  Stewart was cruising to what would have been his third race of the win when the yellow came out with 14 laps to go. That set up a final round of pit stops for fresh tires, and Busch won the race off pit road, to get the inside line for the restart.
   Stewart spun his tires on the restart and faded to third, while Busch pulled away, chased unexpectedly by Dale Earnhardt Jr., who came up six lengths short.
   Johnson's demise came on pit road, where his tire changes made a couple of mistakes. The first mistake, leaving a tire blocking Paul Menard, led to some questions between the two crews. The second mistake was the really costly one, when Johnson's right-rear tire man lost control of the tire after changing it. That led to a standard NASCAR penalty, sending Johnson to the rear of the field for the restart. He managed to rally to sixth.
   But it was the Edwards controversy that was the sharpest. It came on a late restart when Edwards said he was told he was the leader of the race, though lined up on the outside of Stewart. When Edwards took off at the green, he was quickly blackflagged by NASCAR for jumping the restart.
   Bob Osborne, Edwards' crew chief, vigorously protested, to no avail.

  Bob Osborne, Carl Edwards' crew chief, vigorously argued with NASCAR over the confusing penalty that cost Edwards a shot at the win (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

   Edwards, who came into the race amid questions about his seemingly conservative driving style this spring, and who was thus apparently aimed at dispelling those questions, was confused and disappointed at the surprising turn of events that took him out of the game.
   It was not immediately clear to many at the track who was in fact leader of the race at that moment.
   NASCAR afterwards insisted that Stewart, not Edwards, was the leader.
  "I do not need to say something stupid," Edwards said cautiously after crawling from his car after finishing ninth. "Sometimes when I'm frustrated I say stupid things….
   "Right before that start, my spotter was told by the NASCAR official that 'the 99 is the leader.'
   "I had a split-second to decide what I was going to do. I was thinking 'Okay, NASCAR made a mistake in lining us up (with Stewart on the inside).' And I was at a disadvantage, on the outside. So I thought 'Okay, I'm going to get the best restart I can.'
   "It looked like Tony waited, or spun his tires.
   "I still don't understand why they blackflagged me. They said we were the leader; I restarted the best I could, from the disadvantaged position I was in.
   "So I don't know if NASCAR is going to take the stance that we shouldn't have started the race first…or that I jumped the start.
   "But if they're saying I jumped the start, that would be real frustrating, because I restarted the same way all night.
   "It's really tough when they say 'you're the leader,' and then they blackflag you. I've never been blackflagged like this in my career. I don't think they've done something like this without first giving a warning."

  A nice crowd on a chilly, soggy evening at Richmond International Raceway (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)
   Stewart said he didn't have any question about who the leader was:
   "We lined up first, and we were the leader on the board…I don't know how much clearer it could be that we were the leader," Stewart said.
   "If he was the leader, they should have put the caution flag out and given him the chance to line up again and chose the lane he wanted.
   "It was miscommunication between upstairs and the drivers."

   But Stewart was not pleased with the final caution that cost him the lead and the race:   
   "When there is a caution for a plastic bottle on the backstretch, it's hard to feel good about losing that one," Stewart snapped.
   "It was out of the groove and had been sitting there for eight laps.
   "We did everything we could to throw it away…and then we got it taken away from us. We gave it away on pit road; we've got some work to do on pit stops right now."

  Coach Joe Gibbs with his winning driver (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

NASCAR should be penalized for inconsistencies.

NASCAR should be penalized for inconsistencies. There appears to be mass confusion when it comes cautions, cars already on pit road, wave arounds, debris, etc. etc. I'll start with the debris issue, why don't us viewers see the debris anymore, Fox used to circle the debris, then show us viewers the exact spot. In addition, I've witnessed on many occasions where water bottles have been thrown onto the track, cars would run over them, but yet no yellow flags raised by Nascar. I don't know who is to blame for this Carl Edwards vs Tony Stewart debacle. Either the pylon was incorrect, #99 crew member was incorrect with his information pertaining to Carl in the lead or Tony Stewart likes to play "here kitty kitty mind games" with other drivers???? I really believe having received criticism from fans around the globe over boring races and unexciting finishes, Nascar decided to up the ante this evening with a wide variety of mass confusion and disarray. Either they clean up their act in the Control Booth, because driver's and team personnel, they are unable to read the minds of Nascar officials. I believe Nascar fixes these races to please the fan outcry. If NASCAR's confused how must the driver's and team personnel feel.

Kyle Busch Lucky Dog on Restart

I thought that when you were the Lucky Dog/Free Pass you were to start at the end of the longest line??? So on the same restart as Jimmy Johnson going to the back for his penalty & Carl Edwards jumping the start, Kyle Busch pits & gets 4 fresh tires, gas then takes himself right up there to restart in the 5th position???? It is not the first time he has not gone to the back like every other "lucky dog".


The last caution was just plain NASCAR controlling the end of the Race, they are killing racing, need to let them race, smaller; tracks.The whole thing is becoming a joke. Did you see the stands not full? I will not go to a race, and do not watch many on TV anymore, NASCAR is a JOKE.

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