Kyle Busch claimed his first NASCAR Sprint Cup win of the season by holding off a charging Dale Earnhardt Jr in a short sprint to the finish at Richmond on Saturday night.
It was a fourth consecutive victory at the track's spring event for Busch, who made the most of a quick final stop from his crew to lead the field during the final restart, ahead of reigning champion Tony Stewart.
When the green flag waved for the final nine laps, Hendrick's Earnhardt was quick away while Stewart spun his tyres, surging up to second place to put the pressure on the leader. However, a long brake pedal prevented Earnhardt from challenging Busch.
"Wherever that last caution came from, that was the saving grace, just the luck of the day," said Busch.
"It put us in the right position there coming down pit road behind Tony, and the guys did a fast pitstop, got us the lead off pit road, which was a huge advantage, just being able to give me the control of the restart and not have to wait on Tony or cause myself to spin my tyres or what have you and get behind.
"Once I got out front, I knew I had ten laps, I could abuse the heck out of that thing and drive it for all it was worth and didn't have to save any tyres."
Busch's 24th Cup win completed a successful weekend at Richmond, following his maiden Nationwide Series victory as a team owner, claimed by his elder brother Kurt on Saturday night in a close finish with Denny Hamlin.
Plenty of controversy arose from the fourth and penultimate caution of the race, where Roush Fenway's Carl Edwards was penalised for jumping the restart as he shared the front row with Stewart.
Edwards had yet to pit when the caution waved, while all his rivals had already gone to pit road and most of them were a lap down as a consequence. When almost the whole field took the wave around by virtue of staying out when Edwards pitted, the order changed at the front of the field.
There seemed to be confusion regarding who was leading at the time amid conflicting information, one timing source suggesting Edwards was ahead but a different one saying it was Stewart leading the filed on the restart.
The Roush Fenway Racing driver claimed his team was told by NASCAR it was the leader ahead of the restart and was adamant officials made the wrong call by showing him the black flag, costing him a chance to claim his first win of the season after he had led more than half the distance.
"NASCAR told my spotter about three seconds before the restart that the #99 was the leader," claimed a furious Edwards after finishing 10th. "They put us on the scoreboard as the leader and I realised I was at a disadvantaged position on the outside lane and NASCAR made a little mistake.
"I got the best start I could and Tony didn't start or spun his tyres and NASCAR black-flagged us. I don't know why they black-flagged me. I don't think it is right and I don't agree with it."
Officials confirmed Stewart, not Edwards, was the leader of the race at the time and clarified that the penalty had not been imposed for passing Stewart, but due to jumping the restart by accelerating ahead of the restart zone.
Stewart, who finished third after his poor final restart, having led 112 laps before that, suggested it was due to miscommunication in Edwards' team.
"We were the first one to line up and we were the leader on the board," said the reigning champion. "So I don't know how much clearer it could be that we were the leader. If that was the case then they should have put the caution out and given him the opportunity to choose the lane that he wanted.
"It's a miscommunication between upstairs and the drivers."
JGR's Denny Hamlin finished fourth ahead of Hendrick's Kasey Kahne and a charging Jimmie Johnson, who had to serve a pit road penalty which dropped him to the tail of the lead-lap cars during the same fourth caution.
Once again there were few incidents and long green-flag stretches, but the fifth and final caution, waved due to a plastic bottle lying on the track at Turn 2, allowed for a closer finish than in the past few weeks.
Results - 400 laps: Pos Driver Team/Car Time/Gap 1. Kyle Busch Gibbs Toyota 2h51m06.000s 2. Dale Earnhardt Jr Hendrick Chevrolet + 1.095s 3. Tony Stewart Stewart-Haas Chevrolet + 2.021s 4. Denny Hamlin Gibbs Toyota + 2.545s 5. Kasey Kahne Hendrick Chevrolet + 2.887s 6. Jimmie Johnson Hendrick Chevrolet + 3.375s 7. Clint Bowyer Waltrip Toyota + 4.145s 8. Mark Martin Waltrip Toyota + 4.677s 9. Brad Keselowski Penske Dodge + 4.942s 10. Carl Edwards Roush Fenway Ford + 5.163s 11. Matt Kenseth Roush Fenway Ford + 5.606s 12. Juan Pablo Montoya Earnhardt-Ganassi Chevrolet + 6.106s 13. Paul Menard Childress Chevrolet + 7.331s 14. Jamie McMurray Earnhardt-Ganassi Chevrolet + 16.044s 15. Ryan Newman Stewart-Haas Chevrolet + 16.062s 16. AJ Allmendinger Penske Dodge + 17.425s 17. Bobby Labonte JTG Daugherty Toyota + 17.514s 18. Greg Biffle Roush Fenway Ford + 17.864s 19. Kevin Harvick Childress Chevrolet + 19.219s 20. Landon Cassill BK Toyota + 1 lap 21. Casey Mears Germain Ford + 1 lap 22. Marcos Ambrose Petty Ford + 1 lap 23. Jeff Gordon Hendrick Chevrolet + 1 lap 24. Joey Logano Gibbs Toyota + 1 lap 25. Martin Truex Jr Waltrip Toyota + 1 lap 26. Aric Almirola Petty Ford + 2 laps 27. Regan Smith Furniture Row Chevrolet + 2 laps 28. Kurt Busch Phoenix Chevrolet + 3 laps 29. Dave Blaney Baldwin Chevrolet + 3 laps 30. Travis Kvapil BK Toyota + 3 laps 31. Jeff Burton Childress Chevrolet + 4 laps 32. David Ragan Front Row Ford + 6 laps 33. David Reutimann Baldwin Chevrolet + 6 laps 34. Reed Sorenson FAS Lane Ford + 8 laps 35. Stephen Leicht Falk Chevrolet + 9 laps 36. David Gilliland Front Row Ford + 45 laps Retirements: David Stremme Inception Toyota 139 laps Josh Wise Front Row Ford 127 laps Michael McDowell Parsons Ford 67 laps Cole Whitt Turn One Chevrolet 29 laps Joe Nemechek NEMCO Toyota 28 laps Mike Bliss Humphrey Smith Toyota 23 laps Scott Speed Leavine Family Ford 19 laps