RICHMOND, Va. (AP) – Kyle Busch celebrated his 24th birthday with a trip to Victory Lane, winning Saturday night at Richmond International Raceway.

The win snapped a monthlong losing streak – an eternity by Busch’s standards – and made him just the second NASCAR driver to win a Cup race on his birthday. Cale Yarborough did it twice, celebrating his March 27th birthday with wins at North Wilkesoboro in 1977 and Atlanta in 1983.

“You guys are awesome!” Busch radioed his crew. “May 2nd, baby! Thank you.”

Busch celebrated the win with his trademark sarcastic bow to the crowd, then swan-dived into the arms of his Joe Gibbs Racing crew once in Victory Lane.

“It’s an awesome win for us,” Busch said. “It’s really exciting to win on my birthday and to have my team guys enjoy it as much as I do. They’re having a good time. We struggled for four weeks. It’s been a struggle for us – we haven’t finished where we want to. We made it happen here.”

The win was his third since arriving in Richmond: He drove to a victory in teammate Denny Hamlin’s charity race at Southside Speedway on Thursday night, and used a pass of Carl Edwards with 22 laps to go to win Friday night’s Nationwide Series race.

For the Cup win, Busch used a quick jump on a late restart to again pass Edwards, then set his sights on leader Jeff Gordon. Busch raced past Gordon on the next lap, then held on for the Richmond sweep.

It is Busch’s series-best third Cup win of the season, and 50th of his career spanning NASCAR’s top three series.

Tony Stewart was second, followed by Jeff Burton, Ryan Newman and Mark Martin.

Busch credited one final caution-free run for being able to hold off Stewart, who had fresher tires.

“Those guys had to run us down,” he said. “We took four tires and then we were going to stay out from then on out. We made the most of the effort. I didn’t think we could do it. I knew we had a good car, not a great car.

“All you have to do is hang around with a good car and let the race fall your way.”

For the second consecutive year, Denny Hamlin led the most laps at his home track but fell short of the win. He led 381 of the first 382 laps last spring, only to finish 24th because of a late tire leak.

Hamlin, who grew up in Chesterfield about 20 minutes away from the track, led 148 laps Saturday night but fell from the front after his crew dropped a pair of lug nuts during a pit stop.

Jimmie’s nightmare

Jimmie Johnson has owned racing in Virginia in recent years, earning the nickname Mr. Martinsville by winning five of the last six Sprint Cup Series races there, and then arriving at Richmond seeking his fourth victory in the last five races here.

He never had a chance Saturday night.

Johnson started 15th in the Crown Royal 400, but was penalized after the third caution flew on lap 116 for going too fast heading onto pit road. His penalty was dropping to the tail end of the longest line, and his problems were just beginning. Johnson caused the sixth caution when he spun in Turn Four on lap 192, and he was penalized for pitting before pit road was opened. Told that he again would have to go to the back of the field, Johnson apparently ignored the order and stayed out on the track.

That got him a pass-through penalty, and when he emerged after heading down pit road under green flag racing at the pit road speed of 40 mph, he was running 36th, three laps down.

Johnson was running 33rd when he was in a multicar accident on lap 326.


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