To win on a short track, one must be tough and withstand all challenges, all bumps and have a good car. Kurt Busch had all that in the final laps of the STP 500 as he scored a Grandfather clock at Martinsville Speedway on Sunday afternoon. It marks Busch’s 25th Sprint Cup Series victory as he ends a 83-race winless drought. More importantly, this is his first win with Stewart-Haas Racing.
“It always seemed like they’d beat me – the Hendrick guys – 24,48. If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em,” Busch said in victory lane. “I have a Hendrick chassis prepared for SHR. These guys did a great job preparing this car. It’s a dream come true to have Gene Haas call you and want you to drive and go for wins. It’s an unbelievable situation to win for Haas Automation.”
At about the lap 40 mark of the race, the picture was quite different for Busch as he thought his chances were done following heavy contact with Brad Keselowski on pit road. Things then got worse as after spending 30 laps behind the wall to fix the damage, Keselowski came back on track and made contact with Busch several times before the pair split up.
Busch got far back in traffic at the time, but slowly worked his way up through the field and was able to take the lead with 28 laps to go. Busch didn’t pull away as Johnson made his way back by. Though Busch had the final say as he made the move on Johnson and took the lead with 11 laps to go, never looking back.
“We’re not worried about that as we’re in here in victory lane as a winner and that’s what matters,” Busch commented post-race.
Jimmie Johnson ended up second for 22nd top-10 finish in 25 races at Martinsville Speedway.
“When he got back by me, I was hoping he’d wear his stuff out and I got back by him but couldn’t hold him off,” Johnson commented. “Just a little too loose there. I hate it. we had a fast car and wish we could’ve got this win for Rick’s 30th anniversary.”
Dale Earnhardt Jr. made his way through the field after a poor qualifying effort to finished third and retake the points lead, nine points ahead of Matt Kenseth.
“We had to save tires which got us up there,” Earnhardt said. “Coming down to the end, ran the tires off of there and ust didn’t have the car there. Still a great run to have.”
Joey Logano ran upfront throughout the day on his way to finish fourth.
“We just didn’t have a enough,” Logano summarized. “I thought the 48 was the best car all day but we were all switching back an forth. At least this is the first time in two weeks that we’ve finished where we deserve. We got to keep running consistent and the call will come.”
Marcos Ambrose rounded out the top five as he backed up his top five finish from Bristol earlier this year. Matt Kenseth finished sixth, followed by Kevin Harvick, Aric Almirola, Clint Bowyer and Paul Menard. Pole sitter Kyle Busch finished 14th as none of the Joe Gibbs Racing cars showed promise for the win during the day, except for Kenseth a little near the beginning.
As mentioned previously, Brad Keselowski ended up finishing 30 laps down as a result of the pit road incident.
“Typical Martinsville. Everybody has to give and take and he came in here too hard,” Keselowski commented. “I saw Kasey Kahne and checked up for him and Kurt drove through us. I’m getting tired of wrecklessness……He pretty much tore the right front suspension off so thanks Kurt.”
McMurray also suffered a poor finish despite his strong start to the year virtue of heavy contact with the wall after contact from Dale Earnhardt Jr.
“There was a lap car in front of, kind of jumbled up the pack,” McMurray said. “I thought the 88 would be more a little patient with me. It’s hard to understand on tv how slick it is out there and he got into me a little there. I thought he would’ve backed off but he didn’t and I went around.”
Earnhardt apologized afterwards for the contact, saying that he got up on the curb and had no where to go.
After a thrilling battle at the short track, the Sprint Cup Series drivers now head to the Lonestar State for a battle on the 1.5-mile Texas Motor Speedway oval.