He couldn't have done it without a late caution flag, for debris on the back straight, and a pit stop that was faster than Tony Stewart's.
"NASCAR told me about three seconds before the start that I was the leader. I got the best start I could. Tony spun his tires. I don't think it's right. I don't agree with it, but before I get myself in trouble, I'd like to go talk to them (NASCAR officials)."
Crew chief Bob Osborne protested vigorously but the call stood and Stewart inherited the lead again at lap 322.
The second half of the race Saturday developed into what would have been a familiar scene in 2011, except that it was Carl Edwards leading and Stewart in pursuit. Kyle Busch and Johnson remained in striking range.
Pole winner Mark Martin pulled out to a comfortable lead at the outset, his Toyota outrunning the Chevy of Kevin Harvick, the Toyota of Kyle Busch and the Ford of Carl Edwards, who started alongside him on the front row.
"It was a gift, you know," Busch said. "Man, I just don't know where it came from, or what it was. We came down pit road, and (crew chief) Dave Rogers and the crew gave me a great pit stop and the position that led to the win.
Meanwhile, 10 cars picked up laps via NASCAR's charity program, aka the "wave around."
Late caution helps Busch win at Richmond
Busch began the Sprint Cup season's ninth race as one of five drivers with three victories at the track that has been hosting races at NASCAR's Nike Air Force 1 Grey And White premier level since 1953. The other drivers with three Richmond victories are Stewart, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jimmie Johnson and Terry Labonte, who is still technically active but hasn't competed at RIR since 2010. Earnhardt finished second and Nike Air Force 1 Low All Red
The victory was Busch's first of the season. A night earlier, brother Kurt Busch drove a car Kyle owned to victory in the track's Nationwide Series event.
finishing 18th while Truex settled for 25th.
But Stewart's No. 14 knifed back into the lead, passing Busch on the 305th lap.
Stewart third Saturday.
Deeper in the pack, Greg Biffle had managed to get back on the lead lap, and the runner up in points entering the race, Martin Truex Jr., was languishing in 19th, one position ahead of Biffle, as the race reached the three quarter mark. Biffle wound up Nike Air Force 1 Mens Cheap
Jeff Burton's Chevy scraped the wall to bring out a caution flag that scrambled the standings a bit at lap 311. NASCAR officials nailed Johnson's crew for a pit road violation, dropping him to the back of the pack for the restart.
By lap 25, Edwards had moved back up to second and was closing on Martin, whom he passed on lap 30. Martin's No. 55 had fallen to sixth by the time a precautionary yellow flag waved at the end of 51 laps.
Edwards found himself in the lead but was penalized for jumping the restart.
Stewart's tenure at the front was also short lived, as Busch's Toyota slipped past on the back straight of lap 285. Two laps later, Johnson's Chevy relegated Stewart's to third.
As of lap 251, when Stewart took the lead for the first time, Edwards suddenly seemed mortal. Busch and Johnson quickly followed Stewart past the dominant force in the race to that point. Edwards had led 221 of the previous 222 laps.
"It takes a little bit to explain," Edwards said. Air Force 1 For Girls
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