[media-credit name=”Brad Keppel” align=”alignright” width=”236″][/media-credit]Virginia may be for lovers but that was not the only emotion running high at Richmond International Raceway. Here is what was surprising and not surprising from the 58th Annual Capital City 400 Presented by Virginia is for Lovers.
Surprising: While Kyle Busch is no stranger to Victory Lane in the spring race at Richmond, it was still surprising to see the pure joy and raw emotion he exhibited after the checkered flag flew.
The win, Busch’s first of the 2012 season, along with the victory of his team and brother Kurt in the Nationwide race the night before, just seemed to send Kyle Busch over the moon.
“It means so much that we’re able to come to this place every time and know that we can have a decent car again and again,” the driver of Joe Gibbs Racing No. 18 M&Ms Toyota Camry said. “It wasn’t the best car but it was really good.”
“It was a gift,” Busch continued. “We just kept fighting, kept ourselves up there in track position, kept the fenders clean, the right side clean and kept us in the game all race long.”
This was Busch’s 24th victory in 266 Cup races. The win, his fourth consecutive at Richmond, broke a tie with Richard Petty, who held that record from 1971 to 1973.
Not Surprising: While it is never surprising that tempers flare at this Virginia short track, this time drivers were not as mad at each other as they were at NASCAR.
Both Tony Stewart, who was bitten by a late race caution for debris and problems on pit road, and Carl Edwards, who was penalized by NASCAR for jumping the restart after leading the most laps, were very unhappy campers at race end.
“When the caution is for a plastic bottle on the backstretch, it’s hard to feel good about losing that one,” Stewart said. “And we gave it away on pit road.”
“So we did everything we could to throw it away and it got taken away from us,” Stewart continued. “We lost it for a caution for a plastic bottle, so you tell me how you’d feel.”
Edwards was equally frustrated after being black flagged for jumping the restart. He and his crew chief Bob Osborne argued their case with NASCAR in the hauler after the race.
“We had to just agree to disagree and that’s the way it is,” Edwards said. “They run the sport and they do the best job they can.”
“I drive a race car and do the very best job I can,” Edwards continued. “This whole thing is very frustrating. I don’t feel like we did the wrong thing.”
The driver of the No. 99 Ford EcoBoost finished tenth, while the driver of the No. 14 Mobil 1/Office Depot Chevrolet finished third. Both drivers held serve in the point standings, with Stewart remaining in eighth and Edwards in ninth.
Surprising: Fans of the No. 24 Dupont Chevrolet witnessed another surprisingly bad run by Jeff Gordon and company. While the team managed to qualify decently, in sixth, they fell back immediately after the green flag flew, then ending up cutting a tire to finish a miserable 23rd.
This was Gordon’s sixth finish of 21st or worse in the last 11 races. The four-time champ is currently mired in the 17th position in the point standings, out of Chase contention at present.
Not Surprising: While none of the Hendrick drivers scored the elusive 200th win for Mr. H, that most popular one, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., had another solid run at the short track.
In spite of brake issues, Junior scored the runner up spot. This was his 11th top-10 finish at Richmond and his seventh top-10 finish in 2012.
“We had some brake problems all night long,” the driver of the No. 88 National Guard/Diet Mount Dew said. “Kind of tried to overcome them best we could.”
“We were maybe a fifth place car,” Dale Earnhardt, Jr. continued. “I’m really happy to gain a couple of spots there at the end with that caution and get some more points.”
Speaking of those precious points, Junior currently sits in the same points position as where he finished the race, second. He is now just five points back from points leader Greg Biffle.
Surprising: Rolling tires, not tire wear, was one of the most surprising factors influencing the race at Richmond, especially for five-time champ Jimmie Johnson.
The driver of the No. 48 Lowes Chevrolet was penalized to the tail end of the lead lap due to his pit crew losing contact with a rolling tire. Yet, in spite of the mistake, Johnson finished sixth and remained philosophical about it all at race end.
“Stuff happens,” Johnson said. “It’s racing.”
“Unfortunately we had a tire get away from us and had to serve that penalty and go to the back,” Johnson continued. “But the good news is we had a very fast race car.”
“I certainly wish we didn’t have that mistake, but when you’re in this deal long enough mistakes happen,” Johnson said. “I don’t want to beat anybody up.”
Not Surprising: It was not surprising to see the majority of Michael Waltrip’s team continue their good runs. The best of the bunch this race was Clint Bowyer, who brought his No. 15 5-Hour Energy Toyota home in the seventh spot.
Nipping at Bowyer’s heels was veteran and pole sitter Mark Martin, who scored an eighth place finish in his No. 55 Aaron’s Dream Machine Toyota.
“I’ve never seen a guy (Rodney Childers, crew chief) improve one of my cars that much in one race,” Martin said. “You’ve got to be able to do that.”
“I’m really impressed,” Martin continued. “They did a great job.”
Surprising: Although Greg Biffle was sporting the ‘Give Kids A Smile’ promotion on the outside of his No. 16 EM Ford, it was surprising that there were no smiles from inside that race car. Biffle struggled most of the night and finished a disappointing 18th.
“It was a tough night,” Biff said. “We never recovered from our poor qualifying run and struggled with the turn and forward drive.”
“We just didn’t have the turn and the drive that we needed,” Biffle continued. “It is frustrating.”
Not Surprising: It was not surprising to hear the disappointment in Denny Hamlin’s voice after not winning at his home track. The driver of the No. 11 FedEx Freight Toyota finished fourth.
“Yeah, I’m a little disappointed,” Hamlin said. “We just never really hit it today.”
“We had times where we were competitive and we just got behind on one run,” Hamlin continued. “So, we just couldn’t recover from that.”
Surprising: It was surprising to see Trevor Bayne in his fire suit on the pit box throughout the race, waiting in the wings to see if Marcos Ambrose would be in need of his services.
But the young Daytona 500 winner never got to climb aboard as the driver of the No. 9 Stanley Ford drove through his back pain to finish 22nd.
Not Surprising: To no one’s surprise, Brad Keselowski, behind the wheel of the Blue Deuce, was the highest finishing Dodge in the Capital City 400, scoring ninth place.
Also, not surprisingly, Kes and his crew are all about clawing their way into Chase contention with top-10 finishes.
“We just keep knocking top 10s out,” Paul Wolfe, crew chief of the No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge, said. “That’s what we need to do to continue to gain points right now and put ourselves in position to get into the Chase.”