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Early birthday present

Kyle Busch, who took the lead on a restart with five laps to go, pulls away from the pack on the final lap on his way to winning the Heath Calhoun 400, his 17th career Sprint Cup victory.

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Kyle Busch, who took the lead on a restart with five laps to go, pulls away from the pack on the final lap on his way to winning the Heath Calhoun 400, his 17th career Sprint Cup victory.

RICHMOND, Va. — Kyle Busch snapped a 21-race losing streak — an eternity by his standards — with a late-race pass at Richmond International Raceway that denied Jeff Gordon yet another victory.

Busch embarrassed the field early in Saturday's Heath Calhoun 400 — at one point, there were only eight cars on the lead lap — but then his car faded a bit. That put Gordon in position for the win, a spot he has been in at least three other times this year.

Once again, though, he was denied. Three late cautions gave the challengers a chance to chase Gordon down, and Busch capitalized with a pass on the final restart to stretch the four-time NASCAR champion's winless streak to 38 races.

"I don't even remember what just happened," said Busch, who turns 25 today. "I drove it down into Turn 1 and hoped it stuck. I knew I had to baby it into Turn 3 and finally got to clear Jeff. We set sail there from there."

Indeed he did, as Gordon had to hold off Kevin Harvick to keep second place.

Since Gordon's last victory, at Texas last year, he has finished second eight frustrating times.

"I've been doing this long enough to know that they don't give out trophies for leading any lap other than the last one," he said.

Early on, two early cautions for debris allowed everybody to catch up to Busch under the "wave around" rule, and Busch finally had some competition.

He still led 221 of the first 229 laps. Gordon eventually took command, leading 144 late laps, but knew he'd have to withstand a slew of late cautions.

After just three cautions through the first 364 laps, there were three in the final 36 laps.

"Of course, it's never easy," Gordon grumbled over his radio.

He ought to know the scenario by now — two other times this year, at Martinsville and Phoenix, Gordon led only to have a caution, and the ensuing double-file restart, cost him a possible win. Las Vegas also slipped away from Gordon late as teammate and fellow four-time series champion Jimmie Johnson passed him.

This time, Sam Hornish brought out the last yellow with a spin, and Gordon had Busch on his outside for a restart with five to go.

Busch completed his pass coming out of Turn 3, then pulled away in his Joe Gibbs Racing entry for his first win since Bristol in August.

The slump that followed led JGR to replace Steve Addington, who won 12 races with Busch, with Dave Rogers as Busch's crew chief. After guiding Busch to Victory Lane at Richmond, where Busch also won last May, the decision was vindicated.

"I can't thank Dave enough," Busch said. "It's just unbelievable to be back in Victory Lane. A lot of people doubted what we were doing but I never did."

Harvick, the new points leader by 10 over Johnson, was third, followed by Richard Childress Racing teammate Jeff Burton.

FAST FACTS

Gearhead stats

Winner's average speed: 99.567 mph

Time of race: 3 hours, 47 seconds

Margin of victory: 0.755 seconds

Caution flags: 6 for 37 laps

Lead changes: 12 among 8 drivers

Lap leaders: Ky.Busch 1-140; J.Gordon 141-144; Ky.Busch 145-172; Newman 173-176; Ky.Busch 177-229; Burton 230-249; J.Gordon 250-266; Harvick 267; Truex 268; Edwards 269-270; Stewart 271-272; J.Gordon 273-395; Ky.Busch 396-400.

Sprint Cup points

Through 10 of 36 races. The top 12 drivers through 26 races make the Chase for the Championship.

Driver Pts. Back

Kevin Harvick 1,467—

Jimmie Johnson 1,457 10

Kyle Busch 1,358 109

Matt Kenseth 1,348 119

Greg Biffle 1,334 133

Jeff Gordon 1,305 162

Denny Hamlin 1,265 202

Kurt Busch 1,255 212

Jeff Burton 1,247 220

Mark Martin 1,242 225

Carl Edwards 1,227 240

Clint Bowyer 1,216 251

Note: Points unofficial; NASCAR posts official standings today.

Early birthday present 05/01/10 [Last modified: Sunday, May 2, 2010 5:23pm]
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