The pair flip-flopped in and out of the twelfth spot in the standings as they gained and lost positions on the track, but the decisive stretch of the race came after a caution was called on lap 326, when Michael Waltrip spun on the frontstretch. Vickers restarted seventh, two spots behind Busch, but soon passed his rival and took over the fifth spot, as Busch complained sarcastically about a bad set of tyres for the crucial late-race run.
Vickers had some nervous moments after the final caution of the race on lap 380, when Busch beat him out of the pits. Busch gained two spots on the restart but gave them back over the final 14 laps, while Vickers held the seventh spot.
“We picked a really good night to figure this place out,” said Vickers, whose only top ten at Richmond came in 2004, “[Crew chief] Ryan [Pemberton] and the guys did a tremendous job, and this was probably the best car I've ever had [at Richmond].”
Busch was philosophical after falling short.
“Well, we did all we can do,” he said, knowing that his clutch of early season wins will now count for little in the bigger picture, “We gave a valiant effort, and it was a good night for the M&M's Toyota to come in fifth place. That's what you look for in these deals, but unfortunately it wasn't enough to get ourselves locked in the Chase.
“But it's not just tonight, or it's not just last week that's kept us out. It's been the past 26 races that, unfortunately, some days I didn't do my best, and we didn't have the best cars, or whatever it might have been. So you can look at a whole different scenario or a whole different slew of things, but what it boils down to is we missed.”
Also of note, Regan Smith finished 40th, suffering his first DNF in 54 Cup races.
by Reid Spencer / Sporting News NASCAR Wire Service