Kyle Busch came through with a victory in Saturday night's NRA 500.
It was a very back-and-forth race early. There were 18 lead changes, with seven drivers leading at one point or another.
For Busch, a win is what he’ll feel he deserves after leading much of the race early. Prior to taking the lead late, Busch had led 151 laps. That number grew to 171 laps as he picked up the win.
The difference turned out to be the last pit stop of the race, which came under caution with 20 laps to go. Busch was in the first pit slot, which proved to be a huge advantage. What was even more important was the fact that Busch got out of the pits about a second before Martin Truex Jr., who had been in first place.
Throughout the entire race, drivers needed to make the most of their pit stops. More than a few had problems in the pits and needed to head back quickly because the issues weren’t properly fixed. Busch had a relatively problem-free race, and that allowed him to stay near the lead for so long and eventually make his move late.
Once he took the lead again, Busch never gave it up. He's the deserved winner as Busch ran a complete race from start to finish.
For Truex, it is another tough defeat after what was a very long drought. The last time he won was back in 2007 at the Dover International Speedway for the Autism Speaks 400.
On more than a few occasions, Truex has looked sure to break his losing streak. Then he fades late in the race. Surely that was a big chip on his shoulder as he wanted to maintain his lead, and it's a chip he'll have to continue carrying.
Jeff Gordon found himself near the lead for most of the race. He only led 13 laps, but he deserves to be commended for consistently staying near the leaders. Then with about 24 laps to go, it looked like a flat tire. The problem turned out to be more serious, leading Gordon into the garage.
Greg Biffle came in as the reigning champion. He did very well to move up from his starting position of 33rd, but he never really factored significantly on the outcome. Biffle finished fourth.
With this being a night race, you could see drivers and pit crew members having some problems with the shadows. First it was the sunlight, but the sun went down and evening turned into night. The spotters didn't have a clear view of the track to accurately guide their drivers, and even with lights on their helmets, pit crews had to deal with working in darker areas.
Engine issues were always a big theme for the race. Kurt Busch, Carl Edwards and Dale Earnhardt Jr. all had problems with their cars that forced them into the pits.
While there weren't any major accidents, those engine issues played a large part in the cautions the race had. The yellow flag was being brought out quite a bit as drivers were having numerous problems with their cars.
Leaderboard (You can view the entire leaderboard at NASCAR.com)
|1.|| Kyle Busch
|2.|| Martin Truex Jr.
|3.|| Carl Edwards
|4.|| Greg Biffle
|5.|| Joey Logano
|6.|| Jimmie Johnson
|7.|| Aric Almirola
|8.|| Brian Vickers
|9.|| Brad Keselowski
|10.|| Ryan Newman
Mark Schwab of CBS 19 in Cleveland made light of the race's sponsor:
Anybody watching the NRA 500? I don't suppose they started it with a gun shot...— Mark Schwab (@MarkSchwab) April 14, 2013
Bob Pockrass of Sporting News illustrated how dire the situation was for Bobby Labonte as he wasn't feeling well going into the race:
Labonte told the team he couldn't even really move his arms and was having trouble breathing in the car. He has stomach bug. #nascar— Bob Pockrass (@bobpockrass) April 14, 2013
Jeff Gluck of USA Today kept track of the Danica Patrick watch, and it wasn't very pretty:
Bad night for Danica (35th, -2 laps). She just got left in the dust by bf Stenhouse, who is 39 laps down and has caused two cautions.— Jeff Gluck (@jeff_gluck) April 14, 2013
Despite the disappointing problems late, Gordon still managed to hit a major milestone during the race. Let's just hope Gordon didn't send this tweet from his official account during the race:
It's been a while since Truex has seen Victory Lane, as Matt Willis of ESPN revealed. That number now rises to 210:
Martin Truex Jr. has gone 209 starts since his last win. The only longer streak between wins is Bill Elliott's 226-race skid, ended in 2001.— Matt Willis (@MattWillisESPN) April 14, 2013
Drivers will head to Kansas City for next Sunday's STP 400 at the Kansas Speedway. If you want to see how the NRA 500 affected the points race, you can check out the full standings on NASCAR.com.