RICHMOND, Va. — By Reid Spencer, NASCAR Wire Service — Brian Lawdermilk/NASCAR via Getty Images photo — Picture perfect.
Coors Light Pole Award winner Kyle Busch led all 250 laps in Friday night’s Virginia529 College Savings 250 NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Richmond International Raceway and beat runner-up and series leader Chase Elliott to the finish line by 1.323 seconds.
Driving a No. 54 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota that was the clear class of the field, Busch won for the fourth time this season, the fifth time at Richmond and the series-best 67th time in his career.
It was the second time Busch has led every lap in a Nationwide Series race, the first coming at Phoenix in 2011 when he led 200 laps after starting from the pole.
“It’s been a while, if you think about it,” said Busch, who hadn’t won a Nationwide race at Richmond since 2011. “We’ve had a lot of bad luck lately, and it feels good, trying to get some mojo back, get ready for tomorrow night (Saturday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race), see what we can salvage there and roll on into the Chase.”
Busch said Joe Gibbs Racing did considerable work on its short-track package after finishing third behind the Chevrolets of Kevin Harvick and Elliott in April.
“All in all, the guys did a great job,” Busch said. “They were really smart about what they needed, what we needed, what I needed.”
Harvick ran third after ceding the second position to Elliott on the race’s final restart on Lap 233.Ryan Blaney came home fourth, followed by Brian Scott and Regan Smith, who fell 19 points behind Elliott, his JR Motorsports teammate in the series standings.
While Busch spent the race comfortably out front after taking the green flag from the pole position, Harvick systematically worked his way forward from the 15th starting position. Harvick passed Blaney for the second spot just before the caution flag flew for the fifth time on Lap 166 because of debris on the backstretch.
But that was as close as Harvick could get.
Busch quickly pulled away to a lead of more than two seconds after the subsequent restart on Lap 172 and continued to pull away. The margin stabilized at roughly 3.3 seconds as Busch and Harvick worked heavy traffic as the laps counted down.
Harvick began to eat into Busch’s advantage before a yellow flag interrupted his progress.
NASCAR called the sixth caution on Lap 226 after Landon Cassill’s Chevrolet brushed the wall in Turn 2, but the restart on Lap 233 produced more of the same for Busch, who blocked Elliott to the inside and took off.
“Kyle had a much better car and was able to take off on the short runs and get way out there,” said Harvick, who thought he might have been able to catch Busch during the final run, if not for the caution.