Kyle Busch came into the weekend looking to win his first grandfather clock, but he’s leaving Martinsville with two as a dominant performance on Sunday put Busch in victory lane after leading 352 of 500 laps.
Joey Logano started on pole today with Kasey Kahne alongside in second. Logano led the opening 21 laps of the race before surrendering the lead to Paul Menard. Once Logano lost the lead, he continued to fall through the field, even going a lap down just 75 laps in the race. It proved to be a difficult day for Logano who went in to finish on the lead lap in 11th.
Busch got to the lead for the first time of the day just 32 laps into the race when he moved past Menard to take the top spot. The lead would be traded several times throughout the day between Busch, Kevin Harvick and Matt Kenseth, but it would be Busch that would hold on for the win.
“I can’t say enough about this whole JGR (Joe Gibbs Racing) team on this side,” Busch said. “This M&M’s Camry was awesome in practice yesterday. We had a really good car through practice and Adam (Stevens, crew chief) made some really good adjustments overnight to keep us where we need to be in order to run up front all day, led a lot of laps, probably led the most laps there and to win here in Martinsville is pretty cool – finally get to take a clock home. A lot of people said I didn’t deserve yesterday – maybe I don’t – but I certainly got one today.”
After running well inside the top-10 all day, AJ Allmendinger tied his career best oval finish of second today. Both of Allmendinger’s second-place finishes at oval tracks have come at Martinsville. Allmendinger was coming off a eighth-place run at Fontana two weeks ago.
“Overall, just solid. You know, Randall Burnett, first-year crew chief, Ernie Cope coming aboard, they’ve made a huge difference,” Allmendinger said. “My crew chief last year, Brian Burns, kind of going down back to his engineering role and Tony Palmer, that was the engineer last year, being kind of the second race engineer, everybody has just embraced their roles. It’s made this team a lot of fun to be around, Tad and Jodi Geschickter, they’ve really put that extra effort into the race team this year to get the personnel.”
Kyle Larson got his best finish of the season with a solid third-place effort. Larson ran the Truck race yesterday in preparation for today. His third-place finish today bettered a fourth from yesterday at a track Larson has had little success at in the past.
“It was a solid weekend for myself, also,” said Larson. “I was able to do double duty this week, and I think that definitely helped me get my rhythm early in the weekend and better myself each time I was on the track. Our car was way better than it has been here in the past. I felt like I learned a lot throughout that race.”
A breakout season for Austin Dillon continued today as the young Richard Childress Racing driver finished fourth following heated battles with his teammate Paul Menard all race long. Dillon ran towards the back half of the top-10 for most of the day, but a late race restart helped Dillon move past some of his competitors for his second top-five of the season. Dillon has never finished a Sprint Cup season with more than one top-five to this point.
“It was fun. I was excited,” Dillon said. “To start 29th and to drive up through there like we did is a testament to these guys and effort they put in. I struggled at this track qualifying. Seemed to race well, I just have never really been good qualifying or practicing. We did a lot to help me as a driver today. Man, it was just a career day for the Dow Chevy here at Martinsville. Looking forward to races to come. I learned a lot today.”
Brad Keselowski had to overcome an early pit road speeding penalty to finish fifth on the day. When the second caution of the day came out just before the 100-lap marker for a spin by Michael Annett, both Keselowski and Hamlin were pegged for speeding on pit road. Keselowski entered the pits second, but had to restart at the tail end of the field, but the No. 2 team wouldn’t let an early mistake mar their race.
“It was a good Martinsville race. We had a lot of speed with the Miller Lite Ford on the long runs, but just not quite enough on the short runs to make anything of the Gibbs cars,” Keselowski said. “They were really strong all day. All in all, I’m real proud of my team. We’re starting to get this place where we’re real consistent and can run up front and that’s a good feeling.”
Carl Edwards, who was a lap down for about three quarters of the race came home with a quiet sixth-place finish. Edwards was followed by Brian Vickers in seventh. Vickers’ top-10 was his first since October 2014. Paul Menard, Jimmie Johnson and Ryan Newman closed out the top-10 finishing order. It was the first time since Kansas in 2014 that all three RCR cars finished inside the top-10.
Despite leading 45 laps in the race and starting on the outside of the front row on the final restart with less than 20 to go, Matt Kenseth finished 15th. Kenseth was stuck on the outside and struggled to make his No. 20 work on old tires to maintain his position. Kevin Harvick also struggled on the final restart, dropping to 17th after leading 72 laps.
Five-time Martinsville winner Denny Hamlin’s day ended early on lap 221 when the Virginia driver wheel hopped his No. 11 car into the wall. Hamlin apologized to his crew over the radio saying that he had never done that before at Martinsville.
“It’s my first time ever doing it (wheelhopping) here, so it’s a little embarrassing,” said Hamlin. “But I mean we were the fastest car those last 30 laps and we got back to the top-five and I was making up a lot of my speed on entry. As the tires wear, the rears get hotter, less grip, you can’t brake at the same amount and I just – it was really out of the blue. I didn’t ever have a hint of it up until that moment, so a bit of a rookie move on my part.”
The Sprint Cup Series heads to the Texas Motor Speedway next weekend where Kyle Busch looks to add to his win count and his score his second Cup win in the Lone Star state.