Kyle Busch took his first victory at Martinsville Speedway in dominating fashion, leading a race-high 351 laps in Sunday’s STP 500. Holding off AJ Allmendinger in the final 11-lap run, Busch scored his 35th career Sprint Cup Series win and first of 2016.
“To be able to finally put it all together is pretty cool,” Busch said. “To lead as many laps as we did, that was really good for us. It was a confidence boost for me, just being up front that much. I’ve never really felt like I had a car to be able to do that in year’s past.”
To join the massive win, Busch completed the weekend sweep as he grabbed the win in Saturday’s Camping World Truck Series event.
“I checked off the Truck Series win yesterday,” Busch said. “I think I have concluded being able to win at all the active tracks that I’ve made a start in the Truck Series.”
Seeing the reigning champion grabbing a victory in command isn’t a large surprise, however, the rest of the top-4 spots speak otherwise. AJ Allmendinger passed Matt Kenseth for second spot on the final restart, finishing in the runner-up spot for his No. 47 JTG Daugherty Racing team.
“I feel like we’ve been at our best at the end of the races,” Allmendinger said, matching his career-best short track finish. “We’ve maximized our finishes, whether they’re top 5 or you’re running 20th and you can get 18th out of it.”
Qualifying sixth on Friday, Allmendinger showcased a large step forward for he and his No. 47 team all weekend, standing firmly as a top-5 contender.
“We’re getting there,” he said. “There’s ups and downs. The biggest thing, especially with a team like ours, is when you have a good racecar, you’ve got to capitalize on it. Fortunately today we were able to do that.”
In Allmendinger’s wake was Kyle Larson who is two weeks removed from a hard crash at Auto Club Speedway. Rebounded strongly from early contact, Larson came home third.
“I’ve always struggled here,” Busch said. “With a good car, I was able to run up front around good drivers. Spent a lot of time around Jimmie [Johnson] and Kevin [Harvick].”
The third-year driver scored his 11th career top-5 finish of his Sprint Cup career. The strong run was backed by a top-5 finish in Saturday’s Camping World Truck Series race, where he finished fourth.
“This is the only track on the circuit where the truck drives similar to a Cup car,” Larson continued. “I think double-duty definitely payed off.”
Another young talent in Austin Dillon continued a hot streak of finishes in 2016, finishing fourth in his No. 3 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet – his first career short track top 5.
“It was pretty challenging,” Dillon said of the race. “I feel pretty good after the race, I’m not physically worn out. My hand is worn out, I got a big blister on my left hand from just turning the wheel. I had to put a lot of wheel in it and turn these things. It’s fun.”
The 500-lap event was led by a Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota for 397 a laps as Matt Kenseth spent 45 circuits out front. For the majority of the afternoon, however, the 44-year-old was within one second of race leader Kyle Busch until the final restart shuffled driver No. 20 back to 15th spot.
Fellow JGR mate Denny Hamlin found much harsher grounds at the ‘paper clip’ as he wheel-hopped his No. 11 Toyota into the Turn 1 wall, ending his day in the 39th spot.
A true feel-good story from Sunday was the run shown by Brian Vickers. The driver subbing for an injured Tony Stewart started the race from third and stayed consistent in the top dozen until the final run brought Vickers into the top 5. Falling two spots to seventh, the driver who has struggled with blood clots in the past six years found much confidence in the all-around powerful weekend.
“We came out strong there in the end,” Vickers said who is slated to run the next race at Texas in the No. 14. “Thought we were going to get a top 5 and then we got out-tired by some of those guys.”
Rounding out the top-10 finishers is Brad Keselowski in fifth, who battled back from an early pit road speeding penalty, followed by Carl Edwards, Paul Menard, Jimmie Johnson and Ryan Newman.
Greg Biffle came home a solid 12th for Roush Fenway Racing while Danica Patrick scored her best finish of the season in 16th.
STP 500 FINAL RESULTS
|Fin||St||#||Driver||Sponsor / Owner||Car||Laps||Money||Status||Led||Pts|
|1||7||18||Kyle Busch||M&M’s 75th Anniversary (Joe Gibbs)||Toyota||500||running||352||45|
|2||6||47||A.J. Allmendinger||Kroger / Butterfinger / Coffee Mate (JTG-Daugherty Racing)||Chevrolet||500||running||0||39|
|3||17||42||Kyle Larson||Target / Cottonelle (Chip Ganassi)||Chevrolet||500||running||0||38|
|4||29||3||Austin Dillon||Dow (Richard Childress)||Chevrolet||500||running||0||37|
|5||11||2||Brad Keselowski||Miller Lite (Roger Penske)||Ford||500||running||0||36|
|6||25||19||Carl Edwards||Arris (Joe Gibbs)||Toyota||500||running||0||35|
|7||3||14||Brian Vickers||Janssen / Arnie’s Army Charitable Foundation (Stewart Haas Racing)||Chevrolet||500||running||0||34|
|8||4||27||Paul Menard||Libman / Menards (Richard Childress)||Chevrolet||500||running||10||34|
|9||24||48||Jimmie Johnson||Lowe’s (Rick Hendrick)||Chevrolet||500||running||0||32|
|10||5||31||Ryan Newman||Grainger (Richard Childress)||Chevrolet||500||running||0||31|
|11||1||22||Joey Logano||Shell / Pennzoil (Roger Penske)||Ford||500||running||21||31|
|12||14||16||Greg Biffle||Roush Performance (Jack Roush)||Ford||500||running||0||29|
|13||23||41||Kurt Busch||Haas Automation / Monster Energy (Stewart Haas Racing)||Chevrolet||500||running||0||28|
|14||21||88||Dale Earnhardt, Jr.||Nationwide Insurance (Rick Hendrick)||Chevrolet||500||running||0||27|
|15||9||20||Matt Kenseth||Dollar General (Joe Gibbs)||Toyota||500||running||45||27|
|16||28||10||Danica Patrick||TaxAct (Stewart Haas Racing)||Chevrolet||500||running||0||25|
|17||19||4||Kevin Harvick||Jimmy John’s (Stewart Haas Racing)||Chevrolet||500||running||72||25|
|18||16||78||Martin Truex, Jr.||Furniture Row / Denver Mattress (Barney Visser)||Toyota||500||running||0||23|
|19||12||21||Ryan Blaney||Motorcraft / Quick Lane Tire & Auto Center (Wood Brothers)||Ford||500||running||0||22|
|20||10||24||Chase Elliott||3M (Rick Hendrick)||Chevrolet||499||running||0||21|
|21||22||23||David Ragan||Dr. Pepper (BK Racing)||Toyota||499||running||0||20|
|22||2||5||Kasey Kahne||Great Clips (Rick Hendrick)||Chevrolet||499||running||0||19|
|23||15||1||Jamie McMurray||Bad Boy Off Road / Beechcraft (Chip Ganassi)||Chevrolet||499||running||0||18|
|24||27||95||Michael McDowell||K-LOVE Radio (Leavine Family Racing)||Chevrolet||498||running||0||17|
|25||30||15||Clint Bowyer||5-Hour Energy (Harry Scott, Jr.)||Chevrolet||497||running||0||16|
|26||26||44||Brian Scott||Goody’s Mixed Fruit Blast (Richard Petty Motorsports)||Ford||496||running||0||15|
|27||32||6||Trevor Bayne||AdvoCare (Jack Roush)||Ford||496||running||0||14|
|28||33||38||Landon Cassill||MDS Transport (Bob Jenkins)||Ford||495||running||0||13|
|29||35||83||Matt DiBenedetto||Cosmo Motors (BK Racing)||Toyota||495||running||0||12|
|30||31||98||Cole Whitt||RTIC Coolers (Jay Robinson)||Chevrolet||495||running||0||11|
|31||18||13||Casey Mears||GEICO (Germain Racing)||Chevrolet||494||running||0||10|
|32||13||17||Ricky Stenhouse, Jr.||Milwaukee / Fastenal (Jack Roush)||Ford||494||running||0||9|
|33||36||34||Chris Buescher||CSX “Play it Safe” (Bob Jenkins)||Ford||491||running||0||8|
|34||34||7||Regan Smith||Advanced Patient Care (Tommy Baldwin, Jr.)||Chevrolet||491||running||0||7|
|35||38||46||Michael Annett||Pilot / Flying J (Harry Scott, Jr.)||Chevrolet||490||running||0||6|
|36||37||32||Joey Gase||Donate Life (Archie St. Hilaire)||Ford||490||running||0||0|
|37||40||55||Reed Sorenson||Premium Motorsports (Jay Robinson)||Chevrolet||490||running||0||4|
|38||39||30||Josh Wise||The Motorsports Gorup (Curtis Key)||Chevrolet||326||engine||0||3|
|39||8||11||Denny Hamlin||FedEx Express (Joe Gibbs)||Toyota||221||crash||0||2|
|40||20||43||Aric Almirola||STP (Richard Petty Motorsports)||Ford||206||engine||0||1|
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