Kyle Busch beat Jeff Gordon on the final restart at Richmond International Raceway to claim his first Sprint Cup victory of the season.
The Joe Gibbs Racing driver got himself an early birthday present, Busch turning 25 on Sunday, thanks to the right strategy and a couple of strong restarts in the closing stages of the race, which saw him climb from sixth to first place in the last 20 laps of the 300-mile event.
Busch took advantage of the fourth caution of the day to pit for four new tires when he was running in fourth place, while those ahead of him stayed out on the track, having pitted just a few laps earlier before Elliott Sadler blew a tire to bring the yellow flags out.
By the time the next caution was waved three laps later with 21 to go, Busch was up to fifth place and on the restart he instantly moved up, making his way up to second when the final caution came out for an incident involving Penske's Sam Hornish Jr on the backstretch.
On the last restart with 5 laps to go, Busch restarted from the outside and made his grip advantage work for him as he passed Gordon out of turn two and then pulled away to take his first win with new crew chief Dave Rogers.
Busch had led most of the first half of the race and lapped almost everyone in the field except for the top-10 at one point. He then lost that edge starting the second half of the event, while still staying in the top-five, but when he pitted for his final set of tires, he was once again the pacesetter.
"For some reason we missed the handling of the car there in the middle of the race but it was phenomenal in the beginning, I couldn't have asked for anything better," said Busch. "We just kept plugging away, we never gave up and the guys on pitroad made some really good stops while I just kept driving what I had.
"When [crew chief] Dave [Rogers] made the call for tires with about 30 to go we just got going on restarts there."
Before the last few caution periods, Jeff Gordon looked to be on his way to his first win of the season, but once again he came up short in the end. He seemed in control when Busch started struggling, leading almost the other half of the race, spending 144 laps up front.
His decision to stay out and favour track position probably cost him an 83rd career victory when there were numerous late cautions, having come close already several times in the past few weeks.
"Kyle was really good on restarts and his car was really strong tonight," said Gordon. "You didn't want to have to race him on a shootout like that. We came out second. I had a great race with Harvick, all the guys really all night.
"...A little disappointed again that we are coming up short but we are getting plenty of practice at this green-white-chequered and these shootouts at the end. Hopefully when it counts later in the season, we'll make it count."
Kevin Harvick, who also stayed out during the final cautions was a strong third, recovering well from some delayed pit stops in the first half of the race. His finish allows him to jump back to the lead in the drivers' standings.
"It's fun to [have] been racing for wins," said Harvick. "That's what we're here to do and we've done that several times this year and after winning last week and being close this week, we've led the points at the end of 10 weeks now so there is no reason we can't make it after the last 10."
Jeff Burton led for 20 laps in the second half of the race and finished fourth, also gaining some ground in the points after crashing last week at Talladega. Behind him Carl Edwards made steady progress in the closing stages, being among those pitting for tires in the late cautions. He finished fifth, claiming his best result of the year thus far and leading his first laps of the season as well.
Juan Pablo Montoya ran strong all day in the top ten and finished sixth in the end, taking four new tires on the final caution and making up five places in the last five laps.
Reigning champion Jimmie Johnson, who didn't enjoy one of his best outings at Richmond, crossed the finish line out of control after making contact with Clint Bowyer while racing to the checkered flag for 10th place, which he got in the end. He is now 10 points behind Harvick in the drivers' standings.
Pos Driver Car Laps
1. Kyle Busch Toyota 400
2. Jeff Gordon Chevrolet 400
3. Kevin Harvick Chevrolet 400
4. Jeff Burton Chevrolet 400
5. Carl Edwards Ford 400
6. Juan Montoya Chevrolet 400
7. Martin Truex Jr Toyota 400
8. Ryan Newman Chevrolet 400
9. Marcos Ambrose Toyota 400
10. Jimmie Johnson Chevrolet 400
11. Denny Hamlin Toyota 400
12. Clint Bowyer Chevrolet 400
13. Matt Kenseth Ford 400
14. Brad Keselowski Dodge 400
15. David Reutimann Toyota 400
16. Joey Logano Toyota 400
17. A.J. Allmendinger Ford 400
18. Kurt Busch Dodge 400
19. Jamie McMurray Chevrolet 399
20. Brian Vickers Toyota 399
21. Kasey Kahne Ford 399
22. Greg Biffle Ford 399
23. Tony Stewart Chevrolet 399
24. David Ragan Ford 399
25. Mark Martin Chevrolet 399
26. Casey Mears Chevrolet 399
27. Paul Menard Ford 398
28. Robby Gordon Toyota 398
29. David Stremme Ford 398
30. Regan Smith Chevrolet 398
31. David Gilliland Ford 398
32. Dale Earnhardt Jr Chevrolet 397
33. Bobby Labonte Chevrolet 397
34. Travis Kvapil Ford 396
35. Scott Speed Toyota 393
36. Sam Hornish Jr Dodge 387
37. Kevin Conway Ford 387
38. Elliott Sadler Ford 385
39. Terry Cook Dodge 92
40. Mike Bliss Chevrolet 86
41. Reed Sorenson Toyota 80
42. Tony Raines Toyota 69
43. Joe Nemechek Toyota 42