The Virginia 529 College Savings 250 Nationwide Series race at Richmond International Raceway was very much a tale of two race cars from the start, when Carl Edwards and Kyle Busch clashed for second place at the green flag and the winner of that battle - Edwards - immediately went on to displace pole sitter Brad Keselowski from the lead.
That left Kyle fending off Edwards' Roush Fenway junior team mate Trevor Bayne for third place, with the #18 not looking particularly special at this point. Busch admitted after the race, "I thought at first we were probably a third- or fourth-place car, and then kind of worked on it and made it a second- or third-place car."
A first yellow came out on lap 65 when Blake Koch was nudged into a spin by Aric Almirola. The restart proved eventful, with polesitter Keselowski struggling and ending up in the wall while Kevin Harvick got into Jason Leffler between turns 3 and 4, the net result of which was another rapid caution.
Kyle Busch got one of his patented flying pit stops and took the lead at the restart, but once again Edwards demonstrated that he had the #18 well and truly covered, and Busch lost another place to Trevor Bayne as it looked very much a Ford night.
But Kyle was back in the lead again after the next round of pit stops under caution, which was triggered by Danica Patrick locking her brakes on lap 139 and crashing into polesitter Keselowski, the two of them both a lap down after the #22 had been forced into a lengthy pit stop to have damage from his earlier scrape against the wall attended to.
The restart was short-lived after Almirola tipped Brian Scott, which resulted in an accident with Michael Annett in turns 3 and 4. An incensed Scott had to be held back from approaching Almirola as the field passed by behind the safety car.
Kyle Busch and Carl Edwards were on the front row for the restart, but before Edwards could quite manage to get his nose in front there was a fifth caution for Eric McClure planting the #14 into the wall on lap 159. Busch got a good restart but Edwards was soon back underneath him and soon able to pass him for a comfortable lead. The die was cast, it seemed.
Edwards had a half second over everyone else when the final caution came out on lap 209, which saw Kevin Harvick slam into Trevor Bayne on the backstretch at the end of a simmering ongoing spat between the two drivers. Bayne had just managed to rub Harvick's nose into the wall on the previous lap in response to an early contact, and Harvick was out to make a point when he immediately tipped Bayne nose-first into the SAFER barrier next time around. It put Bayne out of the race and Harvick a lap down after an enforced visit to pit road.
"I don't understand what the deal is or why he would race like that," said a furious Bayne after being forced out of the race. "Harvick is normally a way better racer than that. It is just frustrating when people do stuff like that and it is intentional. He let [Sadler] go and intentionally blocked us to keep me from passing."
Once again Kyle Busch's pit crew put him out in front of Edwards for the restart, and Busch knew that this represented his one and only shot at the lead - so he nailed the restart and leapt away from Edwards, who found himself falling over Ryan Truex as well as his other Roush Fenway team mate Ricky Stenhouse Jr., with whom Edwards's had some on-track spats before in Nationwide races and who wasn't any more inclined this time to let his senior colleague simply breeze past him.
It was a critical delay for Edwards, who finally got underneath Stenhouse out of turn 2 on lap 235 but who now had only 15 laps left to hunt down Busch for the lead. Just at the key moment, the #60 didn't have quite the legs for the challenge and instead it was Busch who claimed the chequered flag 0.696s ahead of Edwards, despite Edwards having dominated and led 160 of the 250 laps of the race, over twice as many as Busch.
"We were able to get off first, and I think Carl came off fourth, so when we had the restart there, he got mired up in traffic there, and that gave us some room to get out," said Kyle, who admitted that coming off pit road first had been crucial. "We were keeping up with Carl, and then, on that final pit stop, my guys really put the pressure on, knowing how quick they'd been on pit road all night - and they did it once again!"
"I just couldn't get to him, and by the time I was in second, I had worked my tires over pretty badly, and I needed a caution to start next to him again," said Edwards, explaining that a problem with the right front tyre getting caught on a fender also caused a hold-up. "But Kyle and those guys definitely earned it."
Full race results and qualifying times