For the fourth-consecutive year, the spring race at Richmond International Raceway ended with Kyle Busch hoisting the winner's trophy. It is Busch's first win of the 2012 season, the third for Joe Gibbs Racing this season, and the 96th for the organization.
Busch took the lead when Tony Stewart's pit crew stumbled on a pit stop, then Stewart himself spun the tires on the last restart. Dale Earnhardt Jr. also got by Stewart into second but could not run down Busch to potentially pay back the Joe Gibbs Racing driver for their incident in this race in 2008, the last time Busch didn't win.
An irate Stewart was third, ahead of hometown favorite Denny Hamlin - who never led a lap all night - and Kasey Kahne.
Jimmie Johnson finished sixth in spite of a pit-road penalty under the second to last caution flag. Rounding out the top-10 were Michael Waltrip Racing teammates Clint Bowyer and Mark Martin, Brad Keselowski, and Carl Edwards.
On the restart for the caution that saw Johnson's issues. Stewart - the leader - spun the tires and Edwards took off. He was subsequently black-flagged and went to pit road with plenty of angry radio chatter between himself and crew chief Bob Osborne as they debated the validity of the penalty.
Carl Edwards overhauled polesitter Mark Martin on lap 30 and steadily pulled away until the competition caution at lap 50. NASCAR scheduled the caution in response to rain that fell earlier today.
Hometown hero Denny Hamlin had climbed up to the second position after starting seventh. Kevin Harvick ran third, ahead of Kyle Busch and Kasey Kahne. Martin Truex Jr. and A.J. Allmendinger were sixth and seventh, while Martin had backslid to eighth. The top-10 was rounded out by Brad Keselowski and the ailing Marcos Ambrose, who has been battling a sore back and has Trevor Bayne standing by to relieve him should he not be able to go the distance.
There has not been the anticipated amount of early-race action as drivers mostly spent the opening 50 circuits feeling out their race cars on the clean surface in the cool air. Most drivers reported their machines being loose and having a hard time entering and exiting the corners.
Mark Martin was the last driver to take a qualifying attempt, courtesy of his top-of-the-charts practice speed earlier Friday afternoon, and he made it count. The Michael Waltrip Racing driver nipped the time set by Carl Edwards to score the pole for Saturday's Capital City 400 at the Richmond International Raceway. It is Martin's second pole of the 2012 season, as he also led the field to the green flag at the similarly-configured Phoenix International Raceway in February.
Edwards will start second as he looks to recapture the front-of-the-pack consistency that allowed him to tie Tony Stewart for the Sprint Cup title last fall despite the latter's five victories during the Chase.
Kevin Harvick, who sits on the pole for Friday's Nationwide Series race, was third quickest, ahead of A.J. Allmendinger and three-time-defending race champion Kyle Busch.
Jeff Gordon, local hero Denny Hamlin, Martin Truex Jr., Kasey Kahne, and Dale Earnhardt Jr. completed the top-10 qualifiers. Points leader Greg Biffle timed in only 28th, one spot worse than perennial contender Jimmie Johnson.
As far as Georgian racers went, David Ragan was 38th in his Front Row Motorsports Ford, while Reed Sorenson was 43rd fastest in his FAS Lane Racing Ford.
The drivers who will spend Saturday evening flipping hamburgers instead of turning laps on the .75-mile D-shaped oval are Scott Riggs and J.J. Yeley, who turned the two-slowest laps in qualifying.