Sunday, May 2, 2010

Kyle Busch Wins Richmond Cup Race; Denies Jeff Gordon Trophy in Final Laps

Photo Credit: Jerry Markland/Getty Images for NASCAR

As a NASCAR short track event, the Richmond event was a very tame affair with only two drivers, Sam Hornish Jr and Joe Nemechek, recorded as out because of accidents. 12 lead changes throughout the 400 lap distance also meant long periods of a single driver setting the pace. From pole position, Kyle Busch led the first 143 laps of the event until the #24 car of Jeff Gordon briefly snatched the top spot for a 4 laps. Busch quickly retook the 1st place position for an additional 28 laps. Overall, Kyle Busch's #18 M&Ms Toyota remained in front the lion's share of the Crown Royal Presents the Heath Calhoun 400 leading 226 laps.

On lap 199 Dale Earnhardt Jr's #88 Chevrolet was sideswiped the #98 Ford of Paul Menard causing the Hendrick Motorsports car to suffer a cut tire. Having a mediocre run in the early stages of the Crown Royal Presents the Heath Calhoun 400, the Hendrick Motorsports #88 car was dropped 2 laps off the lead as he was forced to pit under green flag condition. Based on the distance lost and the uneventful nature of the mid-stage of the Richmond race, Earnhardt never recovered and finished 32th place. With NASCAR conceding to changing the current spec Sprint Cup car by reverting back to the spoiler, it's surprising that the razor blade-like front splitter remains on the vehicle.

Hitting a lead stride during the second half of the event, Jeff Gordon rested in control of the Richmond short track uninterrupted from lap 273 for 123 circuits. Gordon led within a long 196 lap long under green flag run which was disturbed on lap 368 by the #19 of Elliott Sadler spinning on the frontstretch.

Within the last 50 laps distance of the 400 lap event, a rather sparse field of stock cars was condensed by three cautions periods. This closure allowed the field to finally mount a challenge on the Dupont #24 Chevrolet. On the first one of these late race restarts, Gordon launched perfectly as than 2nd place Jeff Burton in the #31 Chevrolet was unable to hold the runner-up spot to the challenge of Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch.

When caution came out 12 laps after the restart for Sam Hornish Jr and David Ragan spinning into turn 2, Kevin Harvick held second place over Kyle Busch with Jeff Gordon still leading. Going for his first victory since the Texas Motor Speedway race in 2009, Gordon again showed performed another powerful take-off to leave the #29 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet behind to duel with the hungry Kyle Busch. With 14 laps left in the race, Kyle Busch gained the upper hand on Kevin Harvick taking the second place spot just before caution fell for the 7th and final time in the races when Sam Hornish Jr's #77 Dodge slid hard into the backstretch wall. The caution ultimate setup a 5-lap shootout between the lead car of Jeff Gordon and the ultra-fast Kyle Busch.

Lane choice turned out the be a final deciding factor as Jeff Gordon elected to stay on the inside for the restart. The restart was a dead heat as both Jeff Gordon and Kyle Busch read the green flag perfectly. Heading into turn 1, Kyle Busch on the outside was able to maximize his roll through the corner as an advantage over the #24 car. With four laps remaining, Busch regained the 1st place position for the final time as he took victory for the second year in a row in the spring race at Richmond International Raceway.

Photo Credit: Al Bello/Getty Images

Jeff Gordon finished second for his highest placement in a 2010 NASCAR Sprint Cup race. Losing in the late laps of Las Vegas and Martinsville rounds prior to the Richmond International Raceway race, Gordon and the #24 Dupont Chevrolet looks at this race as being another missed opportunity to celebrate in victory lane this year.

In 3rd, Kevin Harvick mounted a strong enough run to unseat the #48 Chevrolet of Jimmie Johnson from the lead in the NASCAR Sprint Cup points standings. In contrast to several races this season in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series where Kevin Harvick overcame deficits of unremarkable qualifying runs, Harvick in the #29 Chevrolet remained in the front since the start of the race. In retaking the points lead, Harvick now stands 10 points ahead of Johnson heading into Darlington next Saturday night.

Crown Royal Presents the Heath Calhoun 400
NASCAR Sprint Cup
Final Results

Pos # | Car # |Driver | Sponsor/Car Make
1) 18 Kyle Busch       M&M's Toyota
2) 24 Jeff Gordon DuPont Chevrolet
3) 29 Kevin Harvick Reese's Chevrolet
4) 31 Jeff Burton Caterpillar Chevrolet
5) 99 Carl Edwards Scotts EZ Seed Ford
6) 42 Juan Pablo Montoya Target Chevrolet
7) 56 Martin Truex Jr. NAPA Auto Parts Toyota
8) 39 Ryan Newman Army Medicine Chevrolet
9) 47 Marcos Ambrose Bush's Best Baked Beans / Kingsford Toyota
10) 48 Jimmie Johnson Lowe's / KOBALT Tools Chevrolet
11) 11 Denny Hamlin FedEx Ground Toyota
12) 33 Clint Bowyer BB&T Chevrolet
13) 17 Matt Kenseth Crown Royal Ford
14) 12 Brad Keselowski Penske Dodge
15) 00 David Reutimann Aaron's Dream Machine Toyota
16) 20 Joey Logano The Home Depot Toyota
17) 43 A J Allmendinger Valvoline Ford
18) 2 Kurt Busch Miller Lite Dodge
19) 1 Jamie McMurray Bass Pro Shops / Tracker Boats Chevrolet
20) 83 Brian Vickers Red Bull Toyota
21) 9 Kasey Kahne Budweiser 25th Anniversary Ford
22) 16 Greg Biffle 3M Ford
23) 14 Tony Stewart Office Depot / Old Spice Chevrolet
24) 6 David Ragan UPS Ford
25) 5 Mark Martin / Chevrolet
26) 36 Casey Mears H.D. Segar Inc. Insurance Chevrolet
27) 98 Paul Menard Schrock / /Menards Ford
28) 7 Robby Gordon / James Otto / Whitney Duncan Toyota
29) 26 David Stremme Air National Guard Ford
30) 78 Regan Smith Furniture Row Racing Chevrolet
31) 37 David Gilliland Taco Bell Ford
32) 88 Dale Earnhardt Jr. National Guard / AMP Energy Chevrolet
33) 71 Bobby Labonte TRG Motorsports Chevrolet
34) 34 Travis Kvapil Long John Silver's Ford
35) 82 Scott Speed Red Bull Toyota
36) 77 Sam Hornish Jr. Mobil 1 Dodge
37) 38 Kevin Conway Extenze Ford
38) 19 Elliott Sadler Reynolds Ford
39) 46 Terry Cook The Atlantic Company Dodge
40) 09 Mike Bliss Phoenix Construction / Graceway Chevrolet
41) 32 Reed Sorenson Braun Racing Toyota
42) 64 Tony Raines Gunselman Motorsports Toyot
43) 87 Joe Nemechek NEMCO Motorsports Toyota

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