Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Kyle Busch Wins Richmond

RICHMOND, VIRGINIA – The SPRINT Cup race at Richmond last Saturday was full of surprises. Qualifying was uneventful with Mark Martin edging out Carl Edwards for his second pole of the season. The race was a different story. Edwards, Johnson and Stewart all looked impressive for much of the race, with Edwards looking to have the edge leading more than 200 laps. But with 82 laps to go, the surprises began. Following a caution, the leader board showed Edwards to be in first place. Edwards also claimed that NASCAR had informed his spotter that he was the leader, and restarted as the leader. Tony Stewart however was officially deemed the actual leader, so Edwards was black flagged and penalized with a stop-an-go, eliminating him from contention. “Right before that start my spotter Jason Hedlesky was told by the NASCAR officials ‘the 99 is the leader,’” Edwards said. “Jason told me, I had a split second to decide what I was going to do, and I thought NASCAR made a mistake and lined us up wrong. I was at a disadvantage being on the outside so I thought ‘I’m getting the best start I can get right now.’ I got the best start I could get and it looked like Tony either waited or spun his tires so they black flagged me. He continued, “I still don’t understand why they black flagged me. They said we were the leader so I restarted the best I could, given the disadvantaged position I was in...”
It appeared to be Stewart’s race to win at this point, until a caution for debris with 14 laps to go stops the action. During the ensuing pit stop, Stewart took too long of a stop giving Kyle Busch an opening that he took. With Busch in front on the restart, Stewart was also passed by Dale Earnhardt Jr. Stewart later commented that there was no need for the final caution as it appeared that there was only a plastic water bottle on the track, hardly a hazard to the racers. All-in-all, a third place finish by Stewart was impressive since he had several mishaps during the race, but he wasn’t too happy, “Well, when the caution is for a plastic (water) bottle on the backstretch, it’s hard to feel good about losing that one, I mean. And we gave it away on pit road. So we did everything we could to throw it away; it got taken away from us. That’s the best car I’ve had a Richmond in a long time. So I’m really proud of that and (crew chief) Steve Addington and I’m proud of our guys. But we’ve got some work to do on pit stops right now. I don’t know what their malfunction was but I’m pretty ticked off about it tonight.”
On the other hand, Richmond has been good to Busch, “I’m not sure exactly what it is about Richmond that fits my style. When I first went there in the Trucks I was terrible and then they repaved the place. I went there in a Nationwide car with Hendrick Motorsports and pulled off a win right away. It’s been a good track for me ever since then with both the Nationwide and the Cup Series and I have just taken a liking to it. You have to be so technical there. The speeds are really high, but yet it’s a short track. You really have to be on top of your game to be sure that the car stays under you.”
There was also some action at the RCR pits stemming from a pit stop incidence after which RCR crew-member Erik Pringle was reprimeanded by Crew Chief Slugger Labbe. “After the pit stop, our front tire carrier went over to the 48 pit stall and pushed another crew member over the wall from the 48 team, and I don’t condone that. He was mad because when he was jumping over the wall to carry tires, the 48’s right rear tire landed in our pit box and he landed on top of it. He fell down and our right front tire went rolling across pit road. So that’s whatever everyone saw.” Labbe, lives by a code he’s learned during his 25-year tenure in racing: “Never leave your pit box, never go in anyone else’s pit box and let the crew chief fight your battles.”

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