On a night when Ryan Newman vowed to pay back Juan Pablo Montoya, Jimmie Johnson was called a "[bleeping] moron," Kurt Busch cursed the world and Martin Truex Jr. told his entire pit crew they're "fired," the coolest head on the track at Richmond International Raceway was … Kyle Busch?
For 200 laps, the Crown Royal 400 was a race a librarian could have been proud of. Barely any hijinks, only two cautions (both for debris), everything nice and quiet. Then on Lap 236, Montoya, exacting revenge from an earlier scrape, took out Newman, and the entire complexion of the race changed.
From there, the race turned into a bizarro affair. An impatient Johnson, battling a junky race car all night, plowed into Joey Logano a few laps later. Then Casey Mears spun, Brad Keselowski got Landon Cassilled and finally Jeff Gordon and a host of others were involved in a pile up that ended most of their nights.
"Some of the best drivers in this series are driving like [expletive] tonight," Tony Stewart said over his radio.
Laps 1 through 235 had two cautions. Laps 236 through 301 had six.
If you were scanning drivers' radios, you hoped your kids were tucked away in bed.
Here's a printable sample:
Newman: "We'll take care of it after the race."
Then there was this:
Greg Zipadelli, Logano's crew chief: "The 48 [Johnson] was just a [bleeping] moron there."
Truex, to his pit crew: "You're all [bleeping] fired, every G-- d--- one of ya!"
And Kurt Busch, well, let's just say he would have had Eric Cartman blushing.
All the while, Kyle Busch remained the picture of poise. I repeat, Kyle Busch remained the picture of poise. He started 20th, charged to the front by Lap 90, then led or was near the front the rest of the way.
At one point, Busch gave up the lead on pit road to teammate Denny Hamlin, the only driver who could stay with him. On the ensuing restart, Busch jumped in front of Hamlin too soon, which is normally a penalty. But Busch, recognizing the situation, backed off the gas, allowed Hamlin and a handful of other cars to pass him, and NASCAR never called him in to serve a pass-through penalty.
Busch recovered, charged back to the front and cruised to victory – leading 235 of 400 laps. The only thing that could have tripped him up was running out of fuel, but that didn't happen until after his burnout.
When the checkered flag did fly, all eyes immediately turned to the garage where, conveniently, Newman's and Montoya's stalls were a mere 12 feet apart. Montoya, who finished 29th, arrived first, got out of his car, hopped onto a golf cart and was whisked away. Newman, who wound up 20th, took a stroll to the NASCAR hauler "to see how this situation is going to be handled."
"I don't know that you can have that," Newman said of Montoya's retaliation. "I mean, I know that he ran up on me off of [Turn] 2 there and I clipped him. I mean, I'm not going to try to dump myself into the wall. But to retaliate the way he did just didn't show much class."
Montoya didn't get any backing from the second- and third-place finishers, either.
Hamlin, who wound up second, said that anytime he sees damage on Montoya's car, he knows exactly what's coming. "I think he's a helluva driver, but you can't wreck everyone every time you get in an accident. Accidents happen. Guys make mistakes. Why hold grudges?"
"Makes it tough to get in the Chase, too," added Kasey Kahne, who wound up third, his best finish of the season.
As for Busch, the win was his second of the season, which pretty much assures him of a berth in the Chase by way of the newly installed wild card. Not that he's going to need it. He's up to third in the standings, has led the most laps in four of nine races, finished first, second or third in five of them and has led 719 laps – 454 more than anyone else.
Afterward, he had this to say: "You had to be patiently aggressive, that's for sure. You definitely had to make sure that you stuck your nose in areas where people or spotters would say that you were there, and in other areas you had to back out a little bit knowing those guys were going to either drift out to the wall or they were loose, they needed all the racetrack they could get. You had to bide your time as much as you could yet put your nose in there when you needed to. "
Patiently aggressive? Back out a little? Bide your time? Is this really Kyle Busch?
Bizarre. Simply bizarre. But get used to it. It seems Rowdy's finally figured out how to lead a ton of laps, keep his nose clean and win races, which, if you're trying to beat him, makes for a very scary combination.