2009-05-07 / Sports

Kyle Busch Sweeps Richmond

By Gerald Hodges THE RACING REPORTER

Kyle Busch Kyle Busch RICHMOND, Va. - Kyle Busch celebrated his 24th birthday by winning both the Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series races at Richmond this past weekend.

Busch made his final charge to the front moments after a restart on lap 349 in Saturday night's Crown Royal 400. He got by Carl Edwards for second place on lap 351 and was able to pass Jeff Gordon for the lead one lap later.

"Tonight I had two good restarts," Busch said. "I jumped to the outside early in the race and got by two guys before we even got to turn 1. Then Jeff Gordon slowed us down, I jumped to Carl's outside and got him on that restart. It's just trying to work towards being ready for it. You got to plan ahead. You got to watch what the guys do on restarts. You got to know who is restarting and learn what they do over time."

The victory was the third Cup win of the season for Busch.

Second-place finisher Tony Stewart continues to knock on the door to victory lane. He rallied from the 17th position in the final 50 laps around the .75-mile oval to get his second runner-up effort of the season.

"It was awesome," said Stewart, who opted for four new tires on his final pit stop of the evening while other drivers took just two tires. "I'm not sure we had a second place car, but we got there at the end. We had the luxury of coming in to pit because we were toward the back of the lead lap cars. We got to come in and put four tires on it. We had about 20 or 30 laps left on our tires than everybody else did and that gave us an advantage."

Jeff Gordon took the lead with a call to stay on the track when most of the leaders pitted on lap 308. But his old tires were no match for the fresher ones of other teams as the laps wound down, and he slipped back to eighth.

The race was a nightmare for Gordon's teammate, Jimmie Johnson. He started 15th, but was penalized for speeding on pit road during lap 116 and sent to the rear of the field.

Johnson spun on lap 192, bringing out another caution. He was again penalized for entering pit road while it was closed. The normally cool-headed Johnson ignored the order to drop back to the tail end of the longest line of cars, and was penalized again with a pass-through penalty.

He was involved in a multicar crash on lap 326, but was able to finish the race 32 laps behind the leaders.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. started the race from the 25th position. He never led a lap and finished one lap down in 27th.

Top-10 finishers: 1. Kyle Busch, 2. Tony Stewart, 3. Jeff Burton, 4. Ryan Newman, 5. Mark Martin, 6. Sam Hornish, 7. Jamie McMurray, 8. Jeff Gordon, 9. Casey Mears, 10. Juan Montoya

Top-12 Chase Contenders after 10 of 26: 1. J. Gordon-1441, 2. Kurt Busch-1431, 3. Stewart- 1402, 4. Hamlin-1321, 5. Kyle Busch-1314, 6. Johnson-1290, 7. Burton-1257, 8. Bowyer-1212, 9. Edwards-1204, 10. Newman-1198, 11. Biffle-1193, 12. Kenseth-1187

Kyle Busch holds off Edwards at Richmond

Kyle Busch held off Carl Edwards to win Friday night's Nationwide Series race at Richmond. Top-10 leaders after 9 of 35: 1. Kyle Busch-1414, 2. Edwards 1332, 3. Leffler-1216, 4. Logano-1213, 5. Brad Keselowski 1201, 6. Ragan-1139, 7. Keller- 1063, 8. McDowell-1021, 9. Lagasse 998, 10. Steve Wallace-967

Will Michael stay or go?

Michael Waltrip has been able to attract several good sponsors for his Sprint Cup teams, but his performance hasn't been the best. Currently 24th in points, he has only had one top-10 finish this year.

Prior to the start of the 2009 season, Waltrip said he might hang up his driving helmet if he doesn't perform well enough.

Waltrip, now 46 years old, commented this past weekend that he either has to step up his performance in the Michael Waltrip Racing No. 55 NAPA Toyota or face the decision to replace himself as the driver.

"I just haven't been able to step it up to the next level. I have four wins, but I haven't been able to be in contention for the championship," Waltrip noted. Waltrip went on to indicate that his primary focus was to bring NAPA Auto Parts a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship Title.

In 25 years of NASCAR Cup Series competition and 733 starts, Waltrip has four wins, four poles, 39 top-five and 127 topten finishes.

MWR co-owner Rob Kauffman said it will be Waltrip's decision if he retires from full-time competition after this season.

"He wants to do the best thing for the company," said Kauffman, "NAPA is a fantastic sponsor and partner for us, terrific people, makes a lot of sense for them to be in the sport. … It's a joint decision for sure - not an easy one.''

Kauffman, who put a major investment into MWR as Waltrip's company was struggling financially late in its inaugural Cup season in 2007, said the discussions have begun on whether Waltrip will retire.

"It's a pretty important deci- sion for the company, so on the list of important decisions, it's certainly up there," continued Kauffman. "We'll work with NAPA and come up with the best answer, and they have a long relationship and they are really good people to work with.

"It will be a joint decision. I am the finance guy, but who is the most talented driver? How do you recognize that? I'm not the expert in that. I wouldn't be so arrogant. … We want to win races. That's for sure what we want to do. In terms of a driver, we want somebody who fits with the team."

If Mikey does retire, where will we see him? In the broadcast booth?

Next week: Who is James Finch?

Weekend racing: Next Sunday is Mother's Day. NASCAR never races on Easter and Mother's Day, so the Cup and Nationwide teams will race at Darlington on Friday and Saturday. The Truck teams are off.

Fri., May 8, Nationwide Series Diamond Hill Plywood 200, race 10 of 35; starting time: 7 p.m. (EDT); TV: ESPN2.

Sat., May 9, Sprint Cup Southern 500, race 11 of 36; starting time: 7 p.m. (EDT); TV: Fox.

Racing trivia question: After a brief absence Sterling Marlin is back in Cup racing. Which team does he drive for?

Last week's question: Where is Mark Martin's home town? Answer. Batesville, Ark.

You may contact the Racing Reporter at: hodgesnews@earthlink.net.

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