Kyle Busch posted a remarkable fourth consecutive Richmond spring race win.
Michael Waltrip Racing continued its 2012 hot streak with another strong qualifying effort. Part-timer Mark Martin posted the quickest time in qualifying and put his Aaron's Dream Machine sponsored Toyota on the pole.
Ford was represented on the front row by Carl Edwards. The second row completed the manufacturer diversity as Kevin Harvick was third in his Chevrolet and A.J. Allmendinger started fourth in a Dodge.
Richmond spring race ruler Kyle Busch completed the top five qualifiers.
Drop Of The Green
The green flag flew under chilly overcast skies. Mark Martin got a good start and lead the field to the green as Carl Edwards slipped on the outside. Martin lead lap one over Kevin Harvick and pulled out to a couple of car length lead while the top five quickly dropped into single-file.
Carl Edwards' car came to him and he got past Harvick for second and then ran down Martin for the lead. Edwards took over the top spot on lap 31 and then the rest of the early going as this race remained green all the way to the competition caution NASCAR scheduled for lap 50 because of the rain.
When the racing resumed Carl Edwards set sail and dominated the first half of the race and beyond.
The last few weeks NASCAR Sprint Cup racing has featured more green flag racing than not. Auto Club Speedway in California only had one caution all race long and that one was for the rain that ended the race.
The series then rolled on to Martinsville which saw only seven cautions. Seven may sound like a lot compared to the other races on this list but this was the first time that Martinsville featured a single-digit number of cautions since 1999. (25 races ago)
That trend continued this week in Richmond as the action, excitment and close racing that the television crew guaranteed would happen never materialized. There was a competition caution at lap 50, a caution for Kurt Busch's spin that wasn't necessary and then one caution for debris.
This has many fans in a uproar because cautions bunch up the field and create better battles and more passing. I think that at least some of the fans are also missing the bent sheet metal and dramatic crashes (these fans are the same ones that think Talladega provides the best racing.)
Chasing The Checkers
A fourth caution flew setting up a full fuel run to the checkers. There were just 82 laps remaining when the green flag fell. This caution would prove to be the key to the race.
During the pit stops Jimmie Johnson had trouble. His crew member rolled the right rear tire back to the wall. It wasn't controlled by a crew member all the way to the wall so he was penalized and sent to the rear on the restart.
Carl Edwards jumped out to big lead on the restart. Unfortunately it was *too* good and NASCAR black flagged Edwards for jumping the restart. This race was well within his grasp but this black flag erased any hope he had of winning this event.
Tony Stewart inherited the lead when Edwards served the penalty and was running away from the field when another caution with fourteen laps to go set up a dash-for-cash and likely cost Stewart the win.
Stewart claimed in his post-race interview that the caution was for a plastic bottle on the backstretch. Did NASCAR jump the gun on throwing that caution in response to the criticism of the low caution counts in recent races?
Kyle Busch's team got him off pit road first with Tony Stewart second. Kyle was on a big winning streak having won the last three spring Richmond races. With less than ten laps to go he was on the virge of making it four in a row.
Nine laps remained when the green flew. Kyle Busch got a good restart and put a couple of carlengths between himself and Dale Earnhardt Jr. who followed Busch on the bottom through to second.
Junior drove it hard but didn't have anything for Kyle Busch. Kyle cruised home for his fourth consecutive spring Richmond race win. Remarkable.
- Kyle Busch
- Dale Earnhardt Jr.
- Tony Stewart
- Denny Hamlin
- Kasey Kahne
- Jimmie Johnson
- Clint Bowyer
- Mark Martin
- Brad Keselowski
- Carl Edwards
Point leader Greg Biffle finished back in 18th place which allowed second place finisher Dale Earnhardt Jr. to put a serious dent in his point lead. Junior is now just five points behind Biffle.
The 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Standings: