When it comes to the short tracks of NASCAR Sprint Cup racing, one driver who absolutely relishes the fastest and smoothest of these tight ovals is Kyle Busch.
For the third consecutive year, Busch and his No. 18 M&M's Toyota Camry wound up in Victory Lane at Richmond International Raceway, capturing the Daniel and Matthew Hansen 400 presented by Crown Royal 400.
On a weekend somewhat overshadowed by Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Denny Hamlin, who won his charity race on Thursday night and the Nationwide event on Friday night, Busch and crew chief Dave Rogers hit on the winning combination with their car.
Good pit stops, great track position, and perhaps the best luck of the 43 competitors propelled the Las Vegas native to his second win of the year, aiding his cause to lock a Chase seed with a quarter of the season completed.
Some of that luck came with some smarts, especially during a restart which he jumped past his teammate Hamlin a hair too much, but backed off quickly enough to avoid a penalty.
"You had to be patiently aggressive, that's for sure," Busch said per Yahoo! Sports' Jay Hart's article. "You definitely had to make sure that you stuck your nose in areas where people or spotters would say that you were there.
"In other areas, you had to back out a little bit knowing these guys were going to drift out to the wall or they were loose. They needed all the racetrack they could get."
On a night where one of the series' most aggressive drivers raced calmly and patiently, other consistently calculative racers found themselves in trouble with the wall...or with each other.
Take for instance, Jeff Gordon, who's a two-time Richmond winner with 83 career Cup wins.
Despite a sixth-spot qualifying effort and running in the top-six for the balance of the 400-lapper, the four-time champion found himself out of the race after being collected by Clint Bowyer and Matt Kenseth with just under 100 laps remaining.
Gordon's 39th-place finish cost him three spots in the standings, dropping him to 16th and in dire need of another victory and a consistent stretch in order to make the Chase this fall.
While Kyle Busch enjoyed his victory, older brother Kurt was just as equally emotionally charged - as in angered, putting his No. 22 Shell/Pennzoil Dodge team out to dry on his radio communication.
Throwing all sorts of expletives and venting more frustration than a stock car leaking fluid, Busch at one point blasted his crew, per AP Sports Writer Jenna Fryer's article, saying, "I can't fix this. Neither can you."
His 22nd place finish relegated him from fifth to sixth in the points chase, with Clint Bowyer breathing down his neck just by five markers.
Feuds and tempers flared at Richmond, with the biggest on-track firework occurring between Juan Pablo Montoya and Ryan Newman. Rather than using driving gloves for sparring, they used their 3400 lb sheet metal laden stock cars to trade paint and words.
Montoya wound up in the 29th spot, dropping him from 9th to 12th in the standings while Newman nabbed the 20th position, going from 7th to 8th spot in the overall points battle.
Perhaps the only other content racers following the 400-lap event were basically the remainder of the top-10 finishers.
Finishing just behind winner Kyle Busch were Denny Hamlin, Kasey Kahne, David Ragan, Carl Edwards, Clint Bowyer, AJ Allmendinger, Jimmie Johnson, Tony Stewart, and Brian Vickers.
Hamlin was overall happy with his runner-up effort, which is his best finish of the 2011 season thus far.
"I'm ecstatic to be honest with you," Hamlin said per Jenna Fryer's article. "You can't be mad with second place. Yeah, I want to win, trust me.
"It burns that you didn't win. But how we didn't win I can live with."
As for Johnson and Stewart, it was a night of salvation, as both championship-winning racers turned what was shaping up as a nightmare in Henrico County, VA into a semi-sweet result with top-10 efforts.
The NASCAR Sprint Cup teams hit up the egg-shaped Darlington Raceway this Saturday night (Live, 7:30 PM ET on FOX) for the Showtime Southern 500, where Denny Hamlin looks to defend his stirring victory of a year ago.
Here's a look at the top-10 point standings (with manufacturer/team/wins/points total) as the Cup circuit prepares for their annual Mother's Day weekend affair in South Carolina:
- Carl Edwards (Ford, Roush-Fenway/1 win, 335 points)
- Jimmie Johnson (Chevy, Hendrick/1 win, 326 points)
- Kyle Busch (Toyota, Gibbs/2 wins, 305 points)
- Dale Earnhardt Jr. (Chevy, Hendrick/301 points)
- Kevin Harvick (Chevy, Childress/2 wins, 300 points)
- Kurt Busch (Dodge, Penske/289 points)
- Clint Bowyer (Chevy, Childress/284 points)
- Ryan Newman (Chevy, Stewart-Haas/277 points)
- Matt Kenseth (Ford, Roush-Fenway/1 win, 276 points)
- Tony Stewart (Chevy, Stewart-Haas/275 points)