RICHMOND, Va. — While Kyle Busch celebrated his first Sprint Cup Series win of the season, Tony Stewart and Carl Edwards both believed a victory was taken from them Saturday at Richmond International Raceway.
Stewart was upset because a caution for debris — he claimed it was for a bottle of soda or water that wasn't an on-track hindrance — erased his lead with 13 laps remaining. He led the leaders down pit road for a final stop, and Busch beat him back onto the track.
Busch also easily pulled away from Stewart on the restart with nine laps to go, and Stewart was also passed by Dale Earnhardt Jr. to fade to third.
"When the caution is for a plastic bottle on the backstretch, it's hard to feel good losing that one," Stewart said. "And we gave it away on pit road. So, we did everything we could to throw it away, got taken away from us."
Edwards thought the same thing after NASCAR penalized him for jumping the restart with 81 laps remaining.
It capped a confusing sequence in what had been a calm, quiet race through the first 300 laps. But a caution after Jeff Burton hit the wall scrambled everything, and only 15 cars were shown on the lead lap when racing resumed.
Edwards lined up next to Stewart for the restart, and his spotter had told the driver that he was the leader. But NASCAR said Stewart was the leader, and when Edwards sailed past him on the restart, NASCAR threw the black flag.
Edwards questioned the call to crew chief Bob Osborne, and neither seemed to understand why Edwards was penalized. Told by Osborne it was for both passing the leader before the restart, and jumping the restart, Edwards said it was impossible to do both at the same time.
NASCAR eventually clarified that Stewart was the leader, but Edwards left too early.
Edwards, who ultimately finished 10th, watched a replay of the start before going to talk to NASCAR. He insisted his spotter had been told by NASCAR he was restarting the race as the leader.
"I thought NASCAR made a mistake, they lined us up wrong, and I was at a disadvantage being on the outside," Edwards said. "So I thought, 'I'm getting the best start I can get right now. I got the best start I could get, looks like Tony waited or spun his tires, so they black-flagged me.
"I still don't understand why they black-flagged me."
Busch capped a perfect weekend Saturday night by winning the spring race at Richmond for the fourth consecutive year.
The victory snaps a 22-race winless streak for Busch, and came a day after he went to Victory Lane for the first time as a Nationwide Series team owner. Kurt Busch drove his younger brother's car to its first victory Friday night.
The win also broke a tie between Kyle Busch and Richard Petty (1971-73) in consecutive wins in the Richmond spring race.
"Is that some sort of record? I'm hoping it is," Kyle Busch said. "It means so much that we're able to come to this place every time and know that we can have a decent car."
Kyle Busch said he had some sympathy for Stewart, who led four times for a race-high 118 laps. Without the final caution, Busch said he didn't have a chance at the win.
"Stewart was phenomenal," he said. "I hate it for him that we had a caution like that. He deserved to win the race. But I can't say enough about us just getting our lucky break there and getting a chance to win."
Busch also credited his Joe Gibbs Racing team for a strong final pit stop.
"Gave me a great pit stop, got me out front, gave me the lead so I could restart the race how I wanted to," he said. "That was the win right there."
Earnhardt, who couldn't get close enough to Busch to challenge for the win, did move within five points of leader Greg Biffle. But Earnhardt also credited some late-race luck for his finish.
"Really happy to come home with second. We were running about fifth all night, and just got lucky on that restart to be on the inside and get a couple spots," he said. "We just kind of got lucky there at the end on a couple things to gain a couple extra spots."
Carl Edwards finished 10th in Saturday's Sprint Cup race in Richmond. Edwards, a Columbia native, is in ninth in the points standings with 287, 51 behind leader Greg Biffle.