Commentary

Kyle Busch sweeps Richmond

Updated: May 3, 2009, 2:21 AM ET
By David Newton | ESPN.com

All times Eastern

RICHMOND, Va.

11:14 p.m.

It's a sweep.

Kyle Busch followed Friday night's victory in the Nationwide race at Richmond International Raceway with a win in Saturday night's Sprint Cup race.

This one came on his birthday. He turned 24.

It was Busch's third Cup win of the season.

Tony Stewart finished second and Jeff Burton checked in third.

11:02 p.m.

Kyle Busch comes out of the caution third but quickly jumps Carl Edwards for second and takes the lead from Jeff Gordon on Lap 352. He's starting to pull away when David Reutimann spins out to bring out yet another caution on Lap 356. Forty laps remaining when the race goes back green. Busch immediately puts some distance between himself and Gordon, who spins his tires on the restart.

10:43 p.m.

My 19-year-old son decided to break the monotony of all the wrecks by shooting me an instant message. Having helped him with several English papers over the past few months, he figured he would help me with tonight's race story.

He wrote, "Hope the writing goes well. If you have any questions about life give me a call.''

If they keep throwing cautions I may have lots of questions.

10:40 p.m.

Caution. Caution. Caution. They can't run five laps without a caution. Jeff Burton, Jimmie Johnson and Kasey Kahne are involved in this one. It's at least the second wreck for each driver. A bad night for all of them. Jeff Gordon is in the lead, but Denny Hamlin will close fast if they stay green. He still has the best car out there.

10:28 p.m.

Caution is out again. Jeff Gordon, who was running third, elects to stay out while everybody else pits. Perhaps he's noticed a trend of a caution every five to 10 laps here lately. Perhaps they're caught off guard. We'll see how this works out.

10:24 p.m.

Here we go again. One hundred laps to go and Kyle Busch is back in the lead, trying to sweep the weekend. He held off Carl Edwards for Friday night's Nationwide victory. Now he's locked in a battle with Ryan Newman for first. He holds on for a few laps, then loses it back to the driver of the No. 39.

10:10 p.m.

Denny Hamlin went from first to seventh under caution, losing valuable spots when his right front tire changer had problems with the lug nuts.

Ryan Newman came out with the lead, followed by Jeff Gordon and Mark Martin.

10:04 p.m.

Kevin Harvick is 11th when a caution comes out for debris on Lap 271. Casey Mears is 20th. This is the first race since team owner Richard Childress swapped their crew chiefs.

Childress said it will take two to three weeks before they will see real results. Asked what he'll do if the change doesn't work, he said, "It will work. There's not an option.''

Meanwhile, the caution allows the field to tighten up as Denny Hamlin begins to check out again.

9:43 p.m.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. doesn't mix it up with Kyle Busch, but he spins out Jeff Burton to bring out the caution.

"I really didn't mean to do that,'' Earnhardt said over his car radio. "I know he's not going to believe it.''

Replied his spotter, "Yeah, watch your mirror.''

Martin Truex Jr. came out of the caution following pit stops with the lead. Ryan Newman was second and Denny Hamlin third.

9:23 p.m.

Look out. Mark Martin is in the hunt. The winner of the Phoenix race, similar to RIR in terms of setups, is pushing Kyle Busch for third. Martin thought he learned a few things in the Nationwide Series race that would help. Maybe he did.

9:10 p.m.

Kurt Busch moves past Denny Hamlin for the lead on Lap 150, but before he can settle in Kasey Kahne spins out to bring out the fourth caution.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. is 22nd. If he wants to have a chance to create any drama with Kyle Busch like last season he'll have to pick it up. Kyle is second behind Hamlin after a round of pits under caution.

Earnhardt and Busch got into it with four laps remaining battling for the lead a year ago. Earnhardt hasn't been close to the top 10, much less the lead. He's not very happy with his car.

8:55 p.m.

Clint Bowyer takes only two tires and comes out of caution on Lap 121 with the lead, but Denny Hamlin retakes the top spot within two laps. Ryan Newman, who also took only two tires, moves up to second.

Maybe teams are toying with tire strategies to see what works best at the end of the race. Four tires looks like the ticket the way Hamlin is pulling away.

8:52 p.m.

Caution is out on Lap 114. Jeremy Mayfield gets into to the wall and flattens his right-side tires. That 41 cars looks a lot like the old Coors Light car that Sterling Marlin drove at what was Chip Ganassi Racing.

Almost everybody pits. Jimmie Johnson, who was in the top 10, is penalized for being too fast entering pit road. He'll fall all the way back to 22nd. Juan Pablo Montoya is the Lucky Dog and gets back on the lead lap.

8:43 p.m.

Lap 90 and we are in green-flag stops. The Richard Petty Motorsports Dodges are the first down pit road. Greg Biffle isn't far behind in a Ford. Carl Edwards pits on Lap 92 after coming from 37th to 20th. Denny Hamlin comes in on Lap 95 to relinquish the lead. Most of those behind him follow.

Green-flag stops are over on Lap 99 and Hamlin is back in front.

We're almost halfway to the halfway point needed to make this official in case the rain comes back.

8:32 p.m.

Jeff Gordon puts Kasey Kahne and Bobby Labonte a lap down 67 laps in. This was supposed to be one of Kahne's better tracks. He got his first win here a few years ago. Maybe it's time for Richard Petty Motorsports to go with the new engine. They just don't have the power.

Denny Hamlin takes the lead from Gordon on lap 73. Could we see him pull away like last season?

8:16 p.m.

Thirty laps in and Jeff Gordon is pulling away from second-place Denny Hamlin, who dominated this race last year before a late flat tire left him parked on the wall.

Pole-sitter Brian Vickers has dropped to fourth.

Carl Edwards is the big mover. He started 37th but has moved to 28th. His crew made major changes on the car after the garage opened at 1:30 p.m., so keep an eye on him.

7:58 p.m.

The race starts under yellow to give the track more time to dry and rubber in. No competition yellow is planned after 20 to 30 laps as often is the case after rain.

Birthday boy Kyle Busch officially is 24.

7:41 p.m.

Moment of silence for David Poole.

Loud "Gentlemen, start your engines!'' command by Russ Friedman, a two-time Purple Heart recipient for which the race is named.

An even louder roar of engines.

The race will begin within a few minutes of the scheduled start time, something few would have imagined two hours ago.

7:16 p.m.

Jet dryers are on the track and cars are being pushed onto pit road through fans lined up for driver introductions. The sun is trying to peek through the clouds over Turns 3 and 4. Fans are starting to fill the stands, although the traditional sellout is unlikely.

6:44 p.m.

It has become tradition for media members to watch the Kentucky Derby from the infield center on Richmond weekend. This one was no different.

"Go No. 9!" said a Dodge manufacturer rep who used to work with Kasey Kahne and the No. 9 Dodge.

"Does this constitute a green-white-checkered finish?" shouted another onlooker.

Looked to me like the No. 15 was a little loose, but what do I know?

The No. 8 won, something you won't see at Richmond. That number has been scratched.

6:30 p.m.

An empty seat is at the end of the row behind me at the Richmond International Raceway infield media center. Taped to the ledge above it is a picture of David Poole attached to the front of the bulletin from his funeral service held Thursday.

"That's cool," Jeff Burton said when he came through the media center Friday.

Poole died of an apparent heart attack Tuesday at the too-young age of 50. His absence has been felt all week, but never more than on race day. Whether arguing some point about the sport or complaining about the food, his presence always was heard in the hours leading to the green flag.

Several Sprint Cup teams will honor his memory in today's Sprint Cup race with stickers on their cars. Hendrick Motorsports was the first to step up. Richard Childress Racing and Stewart-Haas Racing were quick to follow.

The drivers and owners didn't always agree with Poole's opinion, but they respected the man.

Tracks will honor him the rest of the season with an empty seat in the press room, sort of like the missing-man formation in the Air Force. It wouldn't surprise me if Lowe's Motor Speedway named the media center or press box after him.

Yes, the media center is a little quieter today than normal, but it's doubtful Poole would want it that way. He would tell everybody too much fuss has been made over him, that it's time to get on with the racing.

Godspeed, David.

***

Puddles of water dot the garage. The first of several downpours hit the area around 1:45 p.m. Another came around 4, followed by another shortly after the drivers' meeting at 5:30.

The chance of rain for the race is 60 percent, but track president Doug Fritz assured team owner Roger Penske the show would go on.

"There's one more front moving through before the race and then we appear clear," he said as he made his way around the puddles.

David Newton covers NASCAR for ESPN.com. He can be reached at dnewtonespn@aol.com.

David Newton | email

ESPN Carolina Panthers reporter

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