EditorsNote: rewords last graf
Kyle Busch, who was forced to start 39th in the 40-car field after being penalized for unapproved alterations to his car prior to the race, came all the way back to win the Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond (Va.) Raceway on Saturday night.
The victory in the second event of the 10-race Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs gives Busch and his No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota an automatic berth in the second round, which will begin after next weekend’s event on the infield road course at Charlotte Motor Speedway in Concord, N.C.
The win was Busch’s sixth at the Richmond short track and gave him a season sweep at the Virginia location. It was also his seventh win of the season and the 50th of his Cup career.
“Even though we started dead last, come up through the field and win this thing? That’s right Rowdy (his nickname) Nation, all for you, baby,” Busch said.
Finishing second was Stewart-Haas Racing’s Kevin Harvick, also a seven-time winner in 2018. That podium finish comes a week after he crashed out of the Playoffs-opener at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
“Too close for my comfort,” said Busch, who had watched a sizable lead shrink over the final 10 laps but who survived to join last weekend’s winner, Brad Keselowski, as being locked into Round 2. “I thought we were a little bit better than that on the long run. I know Harvick, that’s kind of his specialty, but we had a really, really good race car tonight.”
Said Harvick, “I started driving him back down there at the end, but, just a good night. You want to win but I think this has been one of our worst race tracks and we were able to have a good night.”
Third at RR was Martin Truex Jr. of Furniture Row Racing, the series’ defending champion.
“We were kind of used up at the end,” said Truex, who led a race-best 163 laps. “Man, I don’t know what we’ve got to do to win this race. We’ve probably led more than anyone here ever who’s not won it. It’s crazy.”
Rounding out the top five were Chase Elliott of Hendrick Motorsports and Aric Almirola of Stewart-Haas.
Harvick started from the pole and held the lead until he was passed by Truex 41 laps into the race. Truex hung onto the lead and went on to win the first of the race’s three stages. He then led all the laps in the second to win that stage.
A week ago in the Playoffs opener at Las Vegas, wrecks took a big toll on the field of contenders. At Richmond, none of the 16 contenders wrecked.
The drivers in trouble after Saturday night’s race are Clint Bowyer, seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson, Erik Jones and Denny Hamlin. They will head to the Charlotte race — after which the Playoff field will be trimmed to 12 drivers — below the cutline and likely needing a victory to advance.
—Field Level Media