Kurt Busch claimed the first victory of his 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup season in commanding fashion at Richmond, leading 291 of the 400 laps.
Busch has shown impressive form since returning to competition after missing the first three events due to suspension during an off-track legal case, and headed to Richmond as the driver who had led the most laps in 2015 without taking a win.
He changed that in the rain-delayed Richmond race. The 2004 champion started third and was rarely challenged after moving into the lead just before one-quarter distance.
During a long green flag run in the middle third, he was caught and passed by Jamie McMurray, before the leaders pitted with about 140 laps remaining.
Just laps later, the race went under caution when Brett Moffitt glanced the wall and Busch made a decisive move on the out-of-sequence Brad Keselowski to unlap himself.
That put Busch in the box seat for the final phase of the race, and he never looked back, despite a handful of late cautions.
He eventually finished 0.755 seconds clear of Kevin Harvick to book his place in the Chase.
"It's an incredible feeling," Busch said. "The way everything came together, it felt like we were building, building and building towards a great finish like this."
Harvick put a move on McMurray at the final restart and the latter eventually finished fourth, having run as low as 30th after having to pit twice during the early competition caution due to loose wheel nuts.
Third went to Jimmie Johnson, who started 36th, the five-time champion's march through the field matched by Kasey Kahne, who took sixth from 40th.
Polesitter Joey Logano led the opening 94 laps before fading somewhat mid-race, and eventually finished fifth.
Fellow front-row starter Denny Hamlin struggled and was 22nd, while Keselowski was a frontrunner for most of the afternoon but dropped a cylinder and finished 17th.
RESULTS - 400 LAPS:
|1||Kurt Busch||Stewart-Haas Racing||Chevrolet||3h05m16.s|
|2||Kevin Harvick||Stewart-Haas Racing||Chevrolet||0.754s|
|3||Jimmie Johnson||Hendrick Motorsports||Chevrolet||2.944s|
|4||Jamie McMurray||Chip Ganassi Racing||Chevrolet||3.229s|
|5||Joey Logano||Team Penske||Ford||3.917s|
|6||Kasey Kahne||Hendrick Motorsports||Chevrolet||4.304s|
|7||Matt Kenseth||Joe Gibbs Racing||Toyota||5.335s|
|8||Jeff Gordon||Hendrick Motorsports||Chevrolet||6.205s|
|9||Clint Bowyer||Michael Waltrip Racing||Toyota||7.120s|
|10||Martin Truex Jr.||Furniture Row Racing||Chevrolet||7.472s|
|11||Ryan Newman||Richard Childress Racing||Chevrolet||7.726s|
|12||Kyle Larson||Chip Ganassi Racing||Chevrolet||8.699s|
|13||A.J. Allmendinger||JTG Daugherty Racing||Chevrolet||9.497s|
|14||Dale Earnhardt Jr.||Hendrick Motorsports||Chevrolet||10.384s|
|15||Paul Menard||Richard Childress Racing||Chevrolet||11.135s|
|16||Chase Elliott||Hendrick Motorsports||Chevrolet||11.311s|
|17||Brad Keselowski||Team Penske||Ford||12.212s|
|18||Justin Allgaier||HScott Motorsports||Chevrolet||15.063s|
|19||Carl Edwards||Joe Gibbs Racing||Toyota||16.229s|
|20||Aric Almirola||Richard Petty Motorsports||Ford||1 Lap|
|21||Greg Biffle||Roush Fenway Racing||Ford||2 Laps|
|22||Denny Hamlin||Joe Gibbs Racing||Toyota||2 Laps|
|23||David Ragan||Joe Gibbs Racing||Toyota||2 Laps|
|24||Trevor Bayne||Roush Fenway Racing||Ford||2 Laps|
|25||Danica Patrick||Stewart-Haas Racing||Chevrolet||2 Laps|
|26||Landon Cassill||Hillman Smith Motorsports||Chevrolet||2 Laps|
|27||Austin Dillon||Richard Childress Racing||Chevrolet||2 Laps|
|28||Ricky Stenhouse Jr.||Roush Fenway Racing||Ford||2 Laps|
|29||Brett Moffitt||Michael Waltrip Racing||Toyota||4 Laps|
|30||Casey Mears||Germain Racing||Chevrolet||4 Laps|
|31||David Gilliland||Front Row Motorsports||Ford||4 Laps|
|32||Alex Bowman||Tommy Baldwin Racing||Chevrolet||4 Laps|
|33||Michael Annett||HScott Motorsports||Chevrolet||5 Laps|
|34||Reed Sorenson||Front Row Motorsports||Ford||5 Laps|
|35||Sam Hornish Jr.||Richard Petty Motorsports||Ford||6 Laps|
|36||Cole Whitt||Front Row Motorsports||Ford||6 Laps|
|37||Matt DiBenedetto||BK Racing||Toyota||6 Laps|
|38||Jeb Burton||BK Racing||Toyota||7 Laps|
|39||Alex Kennedy||Circle Sport||Chevrolet||8 Laps|
|40||Jeff Green||The Motorsports Group||Chevrolet||14 Laps|
|41||Tony Stewart||Stewart-Haas Racing||Chevrolet||Accident|
|42||Josh Wise||Phil Parsons Racing||Ford||Engine|
|43||Joey Gase||Go FAS Racing||Ford||Accident|
|-||J.J. Yeley||BK Racing||Toyota||Withdrawn|
LEADING CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS:
|3||Martin Truex Jr.||315|
|8||Dale Earnhardt Jr.||271|
PROVISIONALLY IN THE CHASE: Kevin Harvick, Jimmie Johnson, Joey Logano, Brad Keselowski, Denny Hamlin, Matt Kenseth, Kurt Busch