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The Final Word – Kurt rises to the top at Richmond as Roush-Fenway continues to free fall

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Rain changed the Saturday night race at Richmond into a Sunday afternoon affair. Was it worth the wait? For Kurt Busch, the answer was “yes.”

After Joey Logano set the pace over the initial 94 laps, Busch came through to dominate all but 15 of the final 306 circuits to take his first of the season. After his forced three event delay to start this campaign, his 26th career decision lofts him into a Chase place. All he has to do is keep within the Top Thirty, and he looks free and clear in that department.

Not so for Tony Stewart. After finishing well at Bristol, he clipped Dale Earnhardt Jr. and in the aftermath his jalopy failed to fire. Stewart was out, in 41st, and now just four points ahead of Sam Hornish Jr. in the fight for 30th in the standings. As for Danica Patrick, who also did well the previous week, she was back down in 25th on Sunday. At least Kevin Harvick continues to roll along, coming home right behind his victorious teammate.

Last year, the Penske pair swept Richmond. Logano’s ride faded after his fast start though he managed to claim fifth. Brad Keselowski lost a cylinder and faded to 17th. Three of the Hendrick drivers had Top Ten days though Junior finished 14th. As for Roush Fenway, who have been tanking like an unarmed Sherman attempting to cross a lake, all sank. None were among the Top Twenty.

Denny Hamlin was 22nd on Sunday, yet won the XFINITY race on Friday night. Of greater note was the fact the two teenagers, Erik Jones and Chase Elliott, were fourth and fifth. Jones is registered to drive the trucks, where he is three for three in Top Tens, has won on the junior loop in taking another five Top Tens in eight attempts, and could be Kyle Busch’s stand-in after this weekend in Cup. Not bad for a kid who won’t turn 19 years old for another month.

So, was Sunday’s race worth the wait the rain imposed upon us? Well, if you were a channel surfer, having no idea what the race meant to the Stewart-Haas crew, or to Penske, or Roush-Fenway, or even Hendrick, you might have stuck with it for five or ten minutes. A visual spectacular it was not, even though the cars looked pretty.

That changes this week, as next up we have the Sunday race at Talladega, a must watch for even the most transient NASCAR observer. You watch that race like you would the Formula One race from Monaco, not believing any sane person would be behind the wheel in any of these entries. Some wags might suggest there is good reason for their disbelief.

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Ron Thornton
A former radio and television broadcaster, newspaper columnist, Little League baseball coach, Ron Thornton has been following NASCAR on this site since 2004. While his focus may have changed over recent years, he continues to make periodic appearances only when he has something to say. That makes him a rather unique journalist.

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