Kurt Busch dominated once he took the lead and won the rain-delayed NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Richmond International Raceway on Sunday.
Busch led 291 of the 400 laps on the 0.75-mile oval, and outran Stewart-Haas Racing teammate Kevin Harvick over the final dozen laps to end a 35-race winless streak.
The race looked much like the Xfinity Series event Friday night in which Denny Hamlin led 248 of 250 laps and only lost the lead during green flag pits stops. This time, there were actual green flag lead changes, but only two — when Busch passed Joey Logano after 94 laps to take the lead, and when Jamie McMurray passed Busch after 262 laps. Busch regained the lead under caution and never relinquished it.
The driver, who missed the first three races of the season while serving a suspension for conduct off the track, won for the 26th time in his career, likely putting him into the Chase for the championship.
“It's an unbelievable feeling when you pull deep from within and you go through troubles and you know, when you're accused of something and things go sideways, your personal life doesn't need to affect your business life,” said Busch, who was suspended after being charged with domestic violence. He was reinstated after a district attorney in Delaware declined to press charges.
Harvick finished second and Jimmie Johnson rallied from a No. 36 starting spot to grab third. McMurray was fourth and pole-sitter Logano, who led the first 94 laps, was fifth.
Rookie Chase Elliott, making his second start in NASCAR's premier series, finished 16th.
McMurray's pass came during a series of green flag stops, and when a caution came out on lap 270, only three cars were on the lead lap, including Busch, who had just pitted. He stayed out, regained the lead and slowly pulled away from Justin Allgaier, who got up front because of the green flag stops.
The day was especially disappointing for Hamlin, who grew up about 20 miles. Hamlin began fading immediately, went a lap down after 236 laps and finished 22nd.