Kyle Busch claimed his second NASCAR Sprint Cup Series win of the season at Dover International Speedway, and second of the weekend, after the duel for victory ended with a penalty for Jimmie Johnson a few laps from the end.
The Joe Gibbs Racing driver and the reigning champion – who also won the Nationwide race on Saturday and had been in contention for the win in Friday's Camping World Truck Series race at the track as well – looked set to battle for the win in the closing stages of the race, but Johnson, who led the most laps during the race, was penalized for going too fast on pit exit following his last stop and while fighting for the lead on pit road with Busch.
Once Johnson served his penalty under green flag conditions, Busch was left with a healthy lead over Richard Childress Racing's Jeff Burton and he cruised to the finish line during the last 33 laps to take his second win of the weekend, as he had dominated on Saturday in the Nationwide Series event.
Busch came actually close to winning the three races of the weekend at the track known as the "Monster Mile," but he ran out of fuel while fighting for victory in the Trucks race on Friday after leading 172 of the 204 laps.
Johnson dominated most of Sunday's race, only looking vulnerable to Busch on restarts, when on cold tires the Hendrick driver struggled for a few laps before being able to bring his tires up to temperature. Every time Busch passed him on a restart, Johnson would be able to re-pass him for the lead, setting the scene for what looked to be an exciting finish. However, the reigning champion's mistake in the pits left victory on a plate for the 25-year-old, who had to battle communication issues after his radio apparently came unplugged early in the race, plus a loose car in most of the long green-flag runs, as only five cautions came out during the race.
"We came out right there at the right point," said Busch. "I think we were going to beat [Johnson], but I don't know. The 48 was really, really fast today.
"We were so loose. I guess it's a good thing I can drive a loose racecar because I had to hang on to it. We weren't the best in the beginning. We worked on it at the end. About lap 250 or 260 we really started coming on."
A disappointed Johnson would only be able to finish 16th and a lap down to the winner, taking the blame for the penalty that probably cost him his fourth victory of the year. The Hendrick driver was up front during 225 of the 400 laps scheduled and was in the lead when he pitted for the final time.
"I had been leaving the pit box really good each time and there are some cues there from the spotter and we need to be able to calculate where we need to check up to be doing the right thing," said Johnson, who was caught at 40.09mph in segment six of eight on pit road, the absolute limit being 39.99mph. "Evidently I just got out of the pits much better than I did any other time.
"As I got to my mark I heard my spotter and saw my [dashboard] lights, and I was conservative because I didn't want to make any mistakes in the end and I saw Kyle was going to beat me so I just kind of gave up that final segment off pit road and I got nailed."
Burton came one place closer to winning for the first time this year, taking his best result of the season with a distant second place. He ran most of the race in the top five but never showed enough the threaten the leading duo, finishing half a second ahead of Matt Kenseth, who made a two-tire stop to gain track position early on and was able to remain near the front after that.
The race was actually one of the best for Roush Fenway Racing this year, with Biffle finishing sixth and Edwards eighth, although it was Joe Gibbs Racing that had the best day with Denny Hamlin in fourth and Joey Logano rounding out the top 10, besides Busch's victory. Gibbs now outweighs Hendrick Motorsports with five victories to three so far this season.
Kevin Harvick had a solid day finishing seventh from 30th on the grid, which was enough for him to remain at the top of the drivers' standings, where Busch now trails him by 69 points.
AJ Allmendinger looked strong early on, almost matching Johnson for pace at one point, but a missing lug nut caused a delayed pit stop and then a suspected rear tire problem forced the Richard Petty Motorsports driver to make an unscheduled stop which dropped him a lap down. He was able to get it back but would lose it once again in the end, finishing 14th.
Earnhardt Ganassi Racing had a troubled afternoon with both drivers ending their string of good runs with suspension issues. Both Juan Pablo Montoya and Jamie McMurray were forced to go to the garage due to broken track bar mounts, which failed both within a few laps of each other.
Casey Mears, who filled in for the sidelined Brian Vickers, did enough to finish the race right ahead of his Red Bull teammate Scott Speed, taking 22nd place.
Next weekend, the Sprint Cup Series teams will compete in the non-points All-Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Pos Driver Car Laps
1. Kyle Busch Toyota 400
2. Jeff Burton Chevrolet 400
3. Matt Kenseth Ford 400
4. Denny Hamlin Toyota 400
5. David Reutimann Toyota 400
6. Greg Biffle Ford 400
7. Kevin Harvick Chevrolet 400
8. Carl Edwards Ford 400
9. Tony Stewart Chevrolet 400
10. Joey Logano Toyota 400
11. Jeff Gordon Chevrolet 400
12. Martin Truex Jr Toyota 400
13. Ryan Newman Chevrolet 400
14. AJ Allmendinger Ford 399
15. Mark Martin Chevrolet 399
16. Jimmie Johnson Chevrolet 399
17. Clint Bowyer Chevrolet 399
18. Brad Keselowski Dodge 398
19. Kurt Busch Dodge 398
20. Kasey Kahne Ford 398
21. Paul Menard Ford 398
22. Casey Mears Toyota 397
23. Scott Speed Toyota 396
24. Regan Smith Chevrolet 396
25. David Gilliland Ford 395
26. David Ragan Ford 395
27. David Stremme Ford 395
28. Elliott Sadler Ford 394
29. Travis Kvapil Ford 393
30. Dale Earnhardt Jr Chevrolet 390
31. Robby Gordon Toyota 386
32. Jamie McMurray Chevrolet 354
33. Kevin Conway Ford 351
34. Sam Hornish Jr Dodge 312
35. Juan Pablo Montoya Chevrolet 283
36. Marcos Ambrose Toyota 222
37. JJ Yeley Dodge 127
38. Joe Nemechek Toyota 67
39. Bobby Labonte Chevrolet 65
40. Mike Bliss Chevrolet 36
41. Dave Blaney Toyota 36
42. Michael McDowell Toyota 33
43. Johnny Sauter Chevrolet 29