MARTINSVILLE, Va. – Wow. No one saw that coming.
After a Hendrick Motorsports driver led the vast majority of the race, it was Ryan Newman who celebrated his 16th career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series victory in the 63rd annual Goody’s Fast Relief 500 at Martinsville Speedway.
Sunday’s win marked Newman’s first victory and 11th top-10 finish in 21 races at Martinsville.
Newman joked prior to the race that he hasn’t been able to win the infamous Grandfather Clock trophy, even though he and his wife, Krissie, built a log cabin in 2007 and purposely left room for the trophy.
However, if it wasn’t for good fortune, Newman wouldn’t have been able to bring home the ‘Grandaddy’ of them all.
Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson were running first and second with just two laps remaining, when Clint Bowyer made a dive into the inside lane, making it three-wide, which sent both Gordon and Johnson spinning.
“I didn’t get the best restart. I spun the tires a slight bit, but when I saw him (Bowyer) go down to the inside of me, I knew we were all in trouble,” said Gordon.
Ryan Newman, who was running fourth at the time, quickly moved up to first when the caution came out. He then held off AJ Allmendinger over another two-lap overtime, to win the Goody’s 500.
“Well, the first green-white-checkered, I told the guys on the radio, I said, ‘Listen, good job today. I’m not sure if I can bring it back,’ and that’s when the whole deal happened in Turn 1,” said Newman.
“I need to thank (Rick) Hendrick as well for their support. Their engines are phenomenal.”
Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished third in Sunday’s event, while Matt Kenseth and Martin Truex Jr. rounded out the top-five.
“We were pretty good. We weren’t as good as those three Hendrick cars and sometimes the 11 [Hamlin], especially on a short run, but for us at Martinsville it was pretty good,” said a pretty enthusiastic Kenseth.
There were a total of seven cautions during the 500-lap race, for a total of 56 laps. The fewest at Martinsville since Sept. 22, 1996, which coincidentally also had seven cautions.
Kyle Busch brought out the first caution of the afternoon, as Busch cut a right-front tire sending him into the wall of the third turn on lap 99.
The next 147 laps were fairly uneventful, as Gordon seemed to dominate during that leg of the race.
Dave Blaney brought out the second caution, due to hitting the wall of turn 2.
Juan Pablo Montoya, Kasey Kahne, Travis Kvapil, all brought out cautions as well, even though those weren’t as controversial as the one that came out on lap 498.
For several laps leading up to the sixth caution of the afternoon, David Reutimann was running well off-pace compared to the other cars on the track.
Reutimann eventually stalled on the track with just three laps remaining, setting up the first of two green-white-checker finishes.
The question will remain for quite sometime, as to why Reutimann didn’t exit the track when he was running under the minimum speed limit?
“I just don’t know what the No. 10 (Reutimann) was thinking with a broken swaybar and driving around there at 15 mph for two or three laps. Come to pit road; hell, how many laps down are you? Get on pit road. Get out of the race. It shouldn’t have ended like that. It was unfortunate,” said a frustrated Junior.
According to Jeff Gluck of SB Nation, one driver has even called for the suspension of Reutimann.
“The 10 car stopping on the racetrack was chicken shit. To me, he should get a week off for doing something like that,” said Keselowski after the race.
Keselowski was one of the many drivers who lost positions due to the late caution, dropping from fifth to ninth in the running order.
Greg Biffle retains the points lead, but only by a mere six points over Junior.
There is a four-way tie for fourth in the standings, which includes, Stewart, Kenseth, Harvick and Truex.
The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series will take a week off next weekend, before heading to Texas Motor Speedway on April 14, 2012.
Goody’s Fast Relief 500 – Unofficial Results:
1. Ryan Newman
2. AJ Allmendinger
3. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
4. Matt Kenseth
5. Martin Truex Jr.
6. Denny Hamlin
7. Tony Stewart
8. Aric Almirola
9. Brad Keselowski
10. Clint Bowyer
11. Carl Edwards
12. Jimmie Johnson
13. Greg Biffle
14. Jeff Gordon
15. Marcos Ambrose
16. Regan Smith
17. Bobby Labonte
18. Brian Vickers
19. Kevin Harvick
20. Jamie McMurray
21. Juan Pablo Montoya
22. Jeff Burton
23. Joey Logano
24. David Ragan
25. Casey Mears
26. Paul Menard
27. Travis Kvapil
28. David Gilliland
29. Landon Cassill
30. David Stremme
31. Hermie Sadler
32. Ken Schrader
33. Kurt Busch
34. Dave Blaney
35. David Reutimann
36. Kyle Busch
37. JJ Yeley
38. Kasey Kahne
39. Joe Nemechek
40. Michael McDowell
41. Josh Wise
42. Scott Riggs
43. Reed Sorenson