CP MOTORSPORTS - KURT BUSCH RUNS AWAY WITH RICHMOND WIN
The wait and frustration is over.
Kurt Busch snapped a 35 race winless streak by dominating the field in Sunday's rain rescheduled Toyota Owners 400 from Richmond International Raceway.
Busch, suspended for the first three races of the 2015 Sprint Cup series season, dominated the rain-delayed race by leading 291 of the scheduled 400 laps. The victory becomes the 26th of his Sprint Cup career and second Sprint Cup win at Richmond.
Busch believes the strength of his team is what propeled him to Victory Lane.
"Today is a great day of total team execution," Busch said. "It starts with building a fast race car back at the shop then coming to the race track and fine tuning it. Really a great effort from team communication because we felt like we were a fifth place car after practice and the way that the team looked at things. We even qualified better than we thought, and there was still this realization of 'Hey, let's continue to fine tune it. Let's not ignore the lack of speed that we don't have. Let's go for it all.' That's what Tony Gibson did along with Johnny Klausmeier, our engineer, and everybody chipped in did."
Busch was able to hold onto the lead following challenges from Stewart Haas Racing teammate Kevin Harvick, who finished second, and fourth place finisher Jamie McMurray.
Harvick, who battled tire issues early in the race, was the only other driver within three seconds of Busch at the time of the checkered flag. Even with his early season success, Harvick still thinks about the race Richmond might have been.
"I'm just really happy for everyone at Stewart Haas Racing, especially Kurt and Tony Gibson and all those guys on the 41 car," Harvick said. "In turn I'm a little bit frustrated just for the fact that I thought we had a car that was capable of winning the race. We just got so far behind with one set of tires there and fell all the way to the middle of the pack luckily we had a good enough car to get it back. Really happy with the way things went just ran out of time there at the end."
McMurray was passed for third place by Jimmie Johnson late in the race but managed to pass Busch on a long green flag run at one point in the race. However, McMurray's speed was nowhere to be found on short green flag runs during the race which is where the race ended.
"In order for us to have a shot at winning we just had to have a long green flag run at the end," McMurray said. "The tires seemed to be a little bit inconsistent that we had this weekend. We had a set in the middle of the race that seemed to be a long ways off, and the set I got at the end seemed a little bit off. Overall we just didn't have a car that would take off for the first 25 to 30 laps. It had to go green for a while."
Tony Gibson, crew chief for Kurt Busch, missed last week's race at Bristol while he was battling Kidney Stones. Gibson has been with Stewart Haas Racing since the team's inception in 2009 believes the team made great strides to be more successful over the course of the weekend.
"We didn't have a car to win the race," Gibson admitted. "So when you don't have a car that can win the race, you have to execute and think about things that are going to be better for long run speed and that's what we did. Today we executed, we did a good job overnight making changes. Kurt is so involved in our changes that we do; he's in the loop 100 percent, and we don't do anything unless we discuss it with him. As a group we go through it. So I think that's the bond we share with Kurt that a lot of drivers don't have with their teams is how involved the driver is with our setups and the way we're going to move forward so hopefully we can win four or five more."
No. 1 qualifier Joey Logano finished fifth just ahead of Kasey Kahne in sixth. Last week's winner at Bristol, Matt Kenseth, finished seventh followed by Jeff Gordon, Clint Bowyer and Martin Truex, Jr, rounding out the top ten.
Defending Xfinity series champion Chase Elliott made his second career start and finished on the lead lap in 16th place.
As the Sprint Cup series heads to Talladega Superspeedway next weekend, defending champion Kevin Harvick continues to control the Chase for the Championship points standing with a 58 point lead over six-time champion Jimmie Johnson.