RICHMOND, Va. (AP) -- Dale Earnhardt Jr. returned to the series he once dominated and did it more convincingly than ever Friday night, leading 190 laps and easily winning the FUNAI 250 NASCAR Busch Grand National race.
So dominant was the 1998 and 1999 series champion that he built a lead of more than 13 seconds in a span of 60 green-flag laps, and three times pulled away on restarts in the final 30 laps of the crash-filled event.
"It was a great car. This was a lot of fun," Earnhardt said in Victory Lane. "The car would do anything, absolutely anything I wanted it to do."
The victory came in a Chevrolet Earnhardt co-owns with stepmother Teresa Earnhardt, and was the Winston Cup star's second in three Busch starts this year.
The race had 11 caution flags that slowed the pace for 83 laps, and 11 of the 43 cars that started weren't around to see the checkered flag.
Among them was Jimmy Spencer, who swept the Busch races at Richmond last year and seemed the most likely to challenge Earnhardt. But Spencer's engine blew after 168 laps, leaving Earnhardt virtually unchallenged.
Earnhardt had built a lead of more than 13 seconds when Tim Fedewa hit the wall on lap 205, bringing out a caution that erased the lead.
Earnhardt headed for pit road for tires and fuel, and series points leader Greg Biffle, who had been running second, stayed out. Earnhardt emerged from pit road in second place, on Biffle's bumper, when it went back to green on lap 220.
It took Earnhardt half-a-lap to pass Biffle, and Earnhardt quickly used clean air to make another clean break from the pack.
The scene was repeated three more times, with Earnhardt finally building another big lead over the final six green-flag laps to win by 1.250 seconds. It was his 15th career victory in the Busch series.
Jamie McMurray finished second, followed by Jeff Burton, Tony Raines, Jason Keller, Biffle and Hank Parker Jr., and Michael Waltrip.
"I had pretty much the best car I've ever had and I had no chance running with him," McMurray said after the best finish of his career.
Burton, too, said it was a one-man race.
"We were chasing the 8 all night and we had nothing for him," he said.
In the points race, Biffle remained 78 points ahead of Keller and Scott Winner passed Jack Sprague for third, 339 points off the pace.
The race included a terrifying crash by Derrike Cope on lap 68, and another that left two cars charred after hitting the Turn 3 wall.
Cope was heading into the first turn when his car never turned, slamming incredibly hard into the wall. The impact caused the roof to buckle and the windshield appeared to come out as the flaming car skidded around the wall almost to the exit coming out of the second turn.
Cope, who broke his right shoulder blade and the fibula in his left leg, was pulled from the car and placed on a board before being loaded into an ambulance bound for the infield care center.
The rest of the field circled under caution for six laps before the race was red-flagged on the front stretch as the track was cleaned.
After about 15 minutes, a NASCAR spokeswoman emerged from the infield care center and said Cope was alert and had spoken to his wife, but would be taken to the hospital for examination. The announcement drew cheers from the crowd, and the race resumed.
Later, on lap 127, Sprague's car bumped the one driven by Ashton Lewis, sending it spinning and backing hard into the wall, trapping Sprague with nothing to do but plow into what became a ball of flames.
Sprague's car was covered in soot, but he drove it to his pits and then behind the wall for repairs. Lewis jumped out of his car as fast as he could and moved quickly away, leaving it burning in Turn 4.
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