In a Nutshell: There’s just something about Kyle Busch and Richmond that clicks. With a Nextel Cup and Busch Series track record that included nine top-five finishes in 12 races, Busch was clearly a man to beat entering Friday night.
He didn’t disappoint.
Leading a race-high 227 of 250 laps, Busch was up front early and often throughout the Emerson Radio 250 to score his second win of the season. Even when Derrike Cope‘s blown engine brought out a red flag and led to a green-white-checkered finish to the race, the outcome was never in doubt. Getting exceptional restarts with the No. 5 Sta-Green Chevy all night long, Busch saved his best for last, pulling away with ease on lap 251 to win by 0.868 seconds over points leader Carl Edwards. Ryan Newman, Matt Kenseth and Mike Bliss rounded out the top-five finishers.
Who Should Have Won: Kenseth. Looking at the stats, it would seem Busch had this race well in hand; however, there was a time where Kenseth was giving him a run for his money. Taking the lead at lap 143, the No. 17 Ford was up front and pulling away before a wreck changed the course of its night. On lap 160, Paul Menard lost control in turn 1 and hit the wall hard… becoming a moving roadblock just feet in front of the leader.
To take evasive action, Kenseth had to spin out his car, costing him valuable track position. Remaining on the lead lap, Kenseth pitted for tires and made a valuable effort to track Busch back down; but in the end, he could never get higher than fourth place, leaving no challengers for a No. 5 car that was head and shoulders above everyone else.
Three Questions You Should Be Asking After the Race Weekend
1) Did the race need to be red flagged?
Alright, so Cope’s engine blows on the backstretch, and television replays show he immediately went to the inside of the track to get out of the way. The amount of oil and other liquids spread in the racing groove were minimal. With that said, you could even understand a caution flag at the end of the race to make sure nothing was on the track… but a red one? Really?
Why couldn’t the cars just circle under yellow? Red flags were supposed to prevent GWC finishes, but since the red was thrown so late, there was a GWC finish anyway. So, why stop the cars for 10 minutes? The resulting delay was frustrating for both fans and viewers alike, yet another shining example of how NASCAR’s “safety” initiatives have given a whole new meaning to the word ultraconservative.
2) What does the No. 88 team have to do to buy some luck?
For the second week in a row, Brad Keselowski found himself running in the top 20 only to fall victim to a hard wreck not of his making. Now, with two hard wrecks leaving the youngster bruised and hobbling, any momentum generated from his signing to JR Motorsports for the rest of the season is in jeopardy of being lost. Such a shame that a kid with so much potential is becoming an innocent victim each week.
3) Is Edwards’s Busch Series slump finally over?
For the past six weeks, Edwards has seen his once-dominating Busch Series point lead come under fire due to a series of mechanical failures, wrecks, and handling issues with the No. 60 Ford. However, Friday night was all about righting the ship; Edwards ran consistently in the top five for most of the evening, falling just short in scoring his first win of the season on an asphalt track. With his Cup program continuing on all cylinders, there’s no reason not to think the momentum can now be transferred over to both sides.
Worth Noting/Points Shuffle
- Jason Keller celebrated his 416th career start in the Busch Series – leaving him just one from breaking Tommy Houston‘s record – with a 10th-place finish.
- Bliss was the highest finishing Busch Series regular, coming home fifth in the No. 22 Family Dollar Dodge.
- Steve Wallace had his first top-20 finish in nearly six weeks, coming home 18th – on the lead lap – in his dad’s No. 66 Dodge. Most importantly, he didn’t spin out once.
- Edwards’s second-place finish expanded his point lead for the first time in nearly a month. It now stands at 733 over both Kevin Harvick and David Reutimann. Jason Leffler and David Ragan maintain the final spots in the top five.
Buschwhackers in the race: 17
Starting spots taken by Buschwhackers YTD: 510 of 1,197
Buschwhackers finishing in the Top 10: 7
Buschwhackers finishing in the Top 10 YTD: 200 of 280
Races won by Buschwhackers YTD: 25 of 28
Buschwhackers ranked in the Top 10 in the Busch Series points standings: 5
“It’s a lot of fun being able to perform like that. The win raises the guys’ spirits. They’re going to come in pumped up because they won, but they know that the big challenge is [Saturday]… we definitely want to go out there and get that win (in the Cup race).” – Kyle Busch
“A couple of lapped cars got together and spun out and I got on the brakes, but the No. 15 was just so close to me that I couldn’t stop to keep from hitting him. I had to turn the wheel a little bit and my car was real loose and I just spun out. It was hard to recover from that and we just couldn’t quite get it done. We had a great car. I wish we wouldn’t have spun out and had a chance at the No. 5… it’s fun being that guy (on fresh tires, trying to run back down the No. 5 car) but we really needed about 10 more laps and I think we could have gotten it done.” – Matt Kenseth
“We could have got Kyle [Busch], but he had a great car and we did a great job. It was kind of a battle of the grass seed cars, and he got us tonight, but that’s what we needed to do for the championship. It’s just fun to race when you have a car like that.” – Carl Edwards
“The No. 21 just moved up, and I was on the outside of him and he didn’t know I was there, I assume, and it just put us into the wall. I’m certainly not putting all the blame on him. As a rookie driver new to these cars, he’s got to have some help. Obviously, his spotter and crew chief weren’t on top of things. It’s just unfortunate.” – David Ragan on Tim McCreadie
“I got next to the No. 35 [on the track], and the No. 38 dive-bombed the No. 35 and wrecked us both. He makes the same moves every week… I should have known that it was coming. It’s unfortunate for the Navy Chevrolet, but it’s the way it goes.” – Brad Keselowski
Next Up: After 16 straight weeks of racing, the Busch Series has finally found the light at the end of the tunnel. While Nextel Cup’s Chase for the Championship takes the spotlight next weekend, Busch drivers and crew chiefs will watch from their couch – it’s their first weekend off since the middle of May. Their next event is Saturday, Sept. 22 at Dover with the running of the RoadLoans.com 200. The race will be televised at 3 p.m. live on ESPN2, with radio coverage from your local MRN affiliate.
About the author
The author of Did You Notice? (Wednesdays) Tom spends his time overseeing Frontstretch’s 40+ staff members as its majority owner and Editor-in-Chief. Based outside Philadelphia, Bowles is a two-time Emmy winner in NASCAR television and has worked in racing production with FOX, TNT, and ESPN while appearing on-air for SIRIUS XM Radio and FOX Sports 1's former show, the Crowd Goes Wild. He most recently consulted with SRX Racing, helping manage cutting-edge technology and graphics that appeared on their CBS broadcasts during 2021 and 2022.
You can find Tom’s writing here, at CBSSports.com and Athlonsports.com, where he’s been an editorial consultant for the annual racing magazine for 15 years.