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Late caution propels Busch back onto victory lane

Edwards got a great restart ahead of Jimmie Johnson (who absolutely did not!), Tony Stewart, Kasey Kahne and Kyle Busch, already back to fifth place. Edwards was threatening to pull away into the distance, but Stewart hung on and over the next dozen laps challenged hard for the lead - and finally won it down the inside of turn 2 on lap 250, after which Edwards fell back to fourth as a result of losing the clean air that had suited the #99 so well up till then.

Stewart on the other hand almost had the reverse problem: after the #14 had been mighty at navigating traffic to get to the front, now it was there it seemed pegged by the challenge of Busch's #18 and Johnson's #48. The two of them finally made their move past the current Cup champion on lap 286, leaving Stewart speculating that he had a tyre going down on him although not sure enough of the problem to take to pit road ahead of the next round of pit stops.

A few cars that had stayed out during the last caution to get a lap back through the wave-around had to pit first, among them Joey Logano, Casey Mears and Marcos Ambrose - the Australian having made the start despite suffering from back-spasms before the start that had led Richard Petty Motorsports to line up Trevor Bayne as a possible mid-race replacement for Ambrose should he be unable to see out the full 400 laps.

Kyle Busch was among those sounding the official starting gun on lap 307 for what was looking like being just a bit too early to the final round of pit stops of the night. Denny Hamlin, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Tony Stewart and Jimmie Johnson were also in over successive laps, but Carl Edwards missed his entry at just the moment when Jeff Burton managed to find the wall in turn 4 and give it a sharp hit.

With NASCAR trying not to affect the race with a caution in the middle of a round of pit stops, officials tried not to immediately bring out the caution for Burton's hit but then found that the impact had left debris on the track that could not be ignored, and that there was no option but to throw the yellow.

Edwards had been the only driver not to have pitted before the caution, but with only four cars classed on the lead lap it didn't seem like much of a big deal for him to come in under the caution. Certainly not as bad as the turn that Jimmie Johnson's race had just taken: a penalty imposed after one of his crewmen rolled a tyre unattended toward the pit wall put him at the back of the field for the restart.

"I think a wheel got away or something on the pit stops," Johnson confirmed. "Equipment leaving the pit box required us to go to the tail end of the lead lap. We had a couple of little mistakes like that today unfortunately. We had a really fast race car."

In the meantime, Kyle Busch was able to pull off a cunning move: although off Edwards' lead lap when the caution initially came out, he was classified in the lucky dog position and promoted back up - allowing him to then follow Edwards onto pit lane for a second 'free' pit stop for fuel and new tyres, while still lining up for the restart in third place. behind Edwards and Stewart.

Or was it Stewart and Edwards? This was no minor query of style or etiquette: in fact, it was about to decide the race. Edwards was told that he was on pole for the restart and despite his own private doubts he acted accordingly as the green flag came out; but NASCAR had a different view of the situation. They had Stewart listed as the leader, and that meant Edwards had technically jumped the start.

"Right before that start, my spotter Jason Hedleskey was told by NASCAR officials that the #99 was the leader," he said later. "Jason told me and I had a split second to decide what I was going to do. I thought, okay, NASCAR made a mistake and they lined us up wrong.




Related Pictures

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Tony Stewart, driver of the #14 Mobil 1/Office Depot Chevrolet, leads the field during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Capital City 400 at Richmond International Raceway on Saturday. (Photo Credit: Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Kyle Busch takes his fourth chequered flag in a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Richmond International Raceway on Saturday. (Photo Credit: Drew Hallowell/Getty Images)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet SS finished in fifth place and Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Designate A Driver Chevrolet SS finished in third place Sunday, September 21, 2014 in the Chase Challenger 16 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, New Hampshire. Both Johnson and Harvick are in the Chase which continues in next week`s Challenger 16 race. (Photo by Garry Eller/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Jamie McMurray, driver of the #1 Belkin/Wemo Chevrolet SS finished in fourth place and Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet SS finished in fifth place Sunday, September 21, 2014 in the Chase Challenger 16 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, New Hampshire. Johnson is in the Chase which continues in next week`s Challenger 16 race. (Photo by Garry Eller/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Designate A Driver Chevrolet SS finished in third place Sunday, September 21, 2014 in the Chase Challenger 16 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, New Hampshire. Harvick is in the Chase which continues in next week`s Challenger 16 race. (Photo by Garry Eller/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kyle Larson, driver of the #42 Target Chevrolet SS finished in 2nd place and Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Drive To End Hunger Chevrolet SS finished in 26th place Sunday, September 21, 2014 in the Chase Challenger 16 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, New Hampshire. Gordon is in the Chase which continues in next week`s Challenger 16 race. (Photo by Christa L Thomas/HHP for Chevy Racing)
David Ragan, driver of the #34 Taco Bell Ford, and Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Ground Toyota, are seen on the track after crashing during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on September 21, 2014 in Loudon, New Hampshire. (Photo Credit: Jerry Markland/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Miller Lite Ford, loses control of the car after making contact with Matt Kenseth, driver of the #20 Dollar General Toyota, during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on September 21, 2014 in Loudon, New Hampshire. (Photo Credit: Will Schneekloth/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s Toyota, drives with damage to his car after crashing during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on September 21, 2014 in Loudon, New Hampshire. (Photo Credit: Robert Laberge/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell-Pennzoil Ford, leads Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s Toyota, during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on September 21, 2014 in Loudon, New Hampshire. (Photo Credit: Chris Trotman/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Dale Earnhardt, Jr., driver of the #88 Diet Mountain Dew Chevrolet SS qualified for eleventh position September 19, 2014 for Sunday`s Chase Challenger 16 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, New Hampshire. Earnhardt, Jr. is in the Chase which continues with the Challenger 16 for this and next week`s race. (Photo by Alan Marler/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe’s Chevrolet SS qualified for sixth position September 19, 2014 for Sunday`s Chase Challenger 16 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, New Hampshire. Johnson is in the Chase which continues with the Challenger 16 for this and next week`s race. (Photo by Christa L Thomas/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Designate A Driver Chevrolet SS qualified for third position September 19, 2014 for Sunday`s Chase Challenger 16 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, New Hampshire. Harvick is in the Chase which continues with the Challenger 16 for this and next week`s race. (Photo by Christa L Thomas/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Carl Edwards, driver of the #99 Aflac Ford, practices for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on September 19, 2014 in Loudon, New Hampshire. (Photo Credit: Chris Trotman/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kyle Larson, driver of the #42 Target Chevrolet, speaks at a press conference following practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on September 19, 2014 in Loudon, New Hampshire. (Photo Credit: Sarah Glenn/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s Toyota, smiles at Clint Bowyer, driver of the #15 5-hour Energy Toyota, during qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on September 19, 2014 in Loudon, New Hampshire.  (Photo Credit: Jared Wickerham/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Designate a Driver Chevrolet, practices for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on September 19, 2014 in Loudon, New Hampshire. (Photo Credit: Jeff Zelevansky/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 Diet Mountain Dew Chevrolet, prepares for practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on September 19, 2014 in Loudon, New Hampshire. (Photo Credit: Jared Wickerham/NASCAR via Getty Images)

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