Joe Gibbs Racing continued its dominance at Richmond International Raceway tonight with Kyle Busch capturing his second victory of the season, followed closely by Denny Hamlin in second and Joey Logano in 11th.
Busch started the No. 18 M&Ms Pretzel Candies Toyota in the 20th position and proved strong from the outset once again on the Virginia short track, wasting very little time making his way toward the front. Busch would enter the top ten by lap 31 and was inside the top five just thirty laps later. He was running second when he entered the pits for the first time and great work by the M&Ms crew on the green flag stop gave Busch his first lead on lap 91 once everyone had cycled through the stops. He would swap the top spot several times with his teammate as the race progressed but it was obvious throughout the night that he and his teammate Hamlin were the class of the field as the two battled back and forth at the front of the pack. The night’s final restart would come on lap 313 and an impressive move by Busch to the outside sent him to the front of the field one final time. From there he was able to extend his lead and conserve just enough fuel to capture the checkered flag. It was another dominating performance for Busch and JGR as he would lead a race-high four times for 235 laps en route to victory.
Hamlin entered the night seeking a weekend sweep after winning his own Late Model charity race Thursday night and then dominating the NASCAR Nationwide Series in the No. 20 Sport Clips Toyota on Friday. Hamlin wasted no time moving to the front of the field after starting the No. 11 FedEx Freight in the 11th position. He would move into the top five within the first 50 laps and claimed the top spot on lap 73. Although Hamlin would drop back into the fourth position following the race’s first round of green flag pit stops, he managed to settle into the second position behind his teammate Busch through the midpoint of the race. He would retake the top spot on lap 274. Pit sequences would shuffle the field a bit, but it never took long for Hamlin to weave his way back to the front. Hamlin would settle in behind Busch on what turned out to be the final restart of the night on lap 313 and as the two weaved their way through lapped traffic he was unable to challenge his teammate for the win. The FedEx team would settle for an impressive second-place finish after leading three times for a total of 38 laps.
Joey Logano started the No. 20 Home Depot Toyota in the ninth position and struggled through the early portion of the race to find the proper handle on the car. With few cautions in the first half of the race there was limited time for The Home Depot crew to work on the car. Adjustments by the team at the midpoint of the race made The Home Depot Camry handle better on both the entry and exit of the turns, but he was still unable to drive forward through the field. Logano was running 18th on lap 255 when Jimmie Johnson slid up the track and spun his No. 20 Camry. It took four trips down pit road and outstanding work by the team, but Logano was able to remain on lead lap to restart in the 21st position. A series of cautions allowed the team to continue to work on the handle of his Camry, but a big accident in front of Logano with 100 laps remaining would cause a little further damage despite an impressive display of skills that kept the No. 20 clear of anything major that might have ended his night early. The perseverance shown by The Home Depot crew would pay off as the No. 20 was at its best on the race’s final run to earn an 11th-place finish.
Kasey Kahne finished third behind Busch and Hamlin, while David Ragan was fourth and Carl Edwards rounded out the top five. There were eight cautions for a total of 60 laps and 14 lead changes among 10 different drivers over the course of the 400-lap race.
The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series will head to Darlington next Saturday night. The race in Darlington will begin at 7:30 PM ET with live, high-definition coverage provided by FOX beginning with its pre-race show at 7 PM ET.