Kurt Busch's career looked in steep decline at the end of 2011 when he was let go by Penske Racing, but on Friday night at Richmond International Raceway he showed that there was plenty of life left in him yet, by clinching victory in the Virginia 529 College Savings 250 race under the floodlights.

It had been a dramatic finish, with Busch having to battle all the way to the line with Denny Hamlin and the two even going sideways before finally crossing the finish line side-by-side with only 0.062s between them.

"It was unbelievable racing with him," said Busch of Hamlin's last-minute strike. "I was pacing myself and pacing myself, and boom! - he came out of nowhere at the end."

Almost as ecstatic and emotional about Kurt's victory was his younger brother Kyle, whose Kyle Busch Motorsports organisation owns and operates the #54 car that the Busch Brothers drive in Nationwide events. The Richmond victory marks the team's first win in the series since they first started fielding an entry this season.

"This is the most emotional I've ever been for a win," admitted Kyle. "When you're behind the wheel, it's a lot easier to do. When you're standing here [in pit road] watching the guy behind you close in on you ..."

"To get KBM its first win, this is unbelievable," offered Kurt." It's harder than you think, putting a program together," he added, saying that it wasn't about a team muscling its way to the front but instead "you have to think your way to the top."

Kurt's victory at Richmond certainly validates the decision Kyle made to bring his brother on board with KBM. Many had questioned whether the flammable combination could possible work given the brothers' turbulent history over the years, but it appears that some extra years and a shared hunger for victory has allowed them to bond just fine after all.

Busch had been strong all evening, his first series turn in front consisting of 36 laps of the three-quarter mile tri-oval from lap 167, and then resurfacing to run up front from lap 222 all the way to the chequered flag on lap 250.

But it had been polesitter Kevin Harvick who led the most laps of everyone, leading for all but eight of the first 100 laps and ultimately out in front for 158 laps in total before finally having to settle for third at the line, having lost touch with the leading duo and ending up almost 6s off the battle for the win.

Denny Hamlin, by contrast, led for only six laps the entire evening, which included lap 2 when he used his front row starting position to briefly nip in front of Harvick.

Hamlin's chances of success hit a setback on lap 117 when he missed his pit box while coming in under the third and final caution of the night triggered by a spin by Jason Bowles (the only other yellow flags having been a debris caution on lap 25 and a spin by JJ Yeley on lap 69.) That put him down in 24th place, and with no more cautions for the rest of the night - over half the race - he had to earn all the positions out on the track.

He'd managed to do just that by the time the last round of green flag pit stops cycled through, leaving him with race leader in his cross hairs for the final 25 laps of the race. With the two of them incredibly close and pushing to the very limit, Hamlin wasn't quite able to get the job done by the time the race reached its conclusion: "He won fair and square," said Hamlin, adding that he had been "just one lap too late."

Hamlin could have won the race the old school way, by giving him a tap and moving him out of the groove, but he hadn't wanted to win that way given that car owner Kyle Busch is his Sprint Cup team mate at Joe Gibbs Racing.

"I could have moved him up and gotten him out of the groove, and it would have been over with," agreed Hamlin said. "But Kyle's a teammate and [KBM general manager] Rick Ren and those guys have built a great program, so I wanted it to be fair."

Reigning Nationwide champion Ricky Stenhouse Jr. was the highest-placed series regular in fourth place just ahead of fellow championship contenders Sam Hornish Jr. and Elliott Sadler.

In eighth place was 18-year-old Ryan Blaney making his series d?but in impressive fashion, overcoming three painfully slow pit stops along the way. Blaney's father is current Sprint Cup series driver and former World of Outlaws Champion Dave Blaney.

But in terms of drivers making their Nationwide Series d?buts, it was X-Games champion and superstar motor stuntman Travis Pastrana's first appearance in a national-level NASCAR race that claimed all the press attention on Friday night, as he progressed to a respectable 22nd position two laps off the lead. That was after incurring a late pit lane speeding penalty during the evening, which had meant that he had not been able to achieve his media-baiting goal of beating Danica Patrick in his first outing - she finished exactly one place ahead on the night.

"I'm actually really happy with how we ran today," insisted the irrepressible Pastrana. "I know it's going to be a really long time, but I believe we can be a top-20 driver this year and top-10 next year and hopefully shoot for wins the year after."

Pastrana had originally meant to run his first Nationwide Series race in 2011 at Indianapolis, but an ankle fracture during the X-Games the day before sidelined him for the rest of the season. That had only allowed the press attention to build and Pastrana had admitted before the race that it was "A lot of press. A lot of hype ... I'm just a ball of nerves."

Pastrana acknowledged the help and advice he'd received from some of the NASCAR stalwarts in preparing for Friday's d?but.

"Jimmie said: 'You know what? Who cares what anyone else thinks? Just go out there and have a good time,'" said Pastrana of the words of wisdom he'd got from five-time Cup champion Jimmie Johnson. "It kind of loosened things up."

Another multiple Cup champion, Jeff Gordon, also felt that Pastrana was fitting in just fine, even if the daredevil had taken to sporting a dubious-looking mullet hair crop.

"Travis can get away with just about anything," Gordon told reporters. "He's one of those cool, funny guys that people love to see him in whatever he's doing. He's certainly great for the sport, and I'm excited to have him here."

Full race results, qualifying and practice times, and championships standings available.


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