Who’s in the headline – Kyle Busch went from winless at Martinsville to a two-time winner in one weekend. He dominated the race, leading 352 of the race’s 500 laps. It was the most by a race winner at the short track since Bobby Hamilton won the event in 1998.
Busch chose the inside line for the final restart of the race with 11 laps to go. He pulled away to the lead and was never really threatened by runner-up AJ Allmendinger over the final 10 circuits.
What happened – Joey Logano started on the pole and led the first 21 laps. Unfortunately, once his handling started to go away, he fell back into the pack and was never a factor the rest of the day. Paul Menard had a strong run all day, leading 10 laps and coming home with an eighth-place finish. Kevin Harvick led twice for the second most laps, but was shuffled out of contention on a lat- race restart and finished with a disappointing 17th-place run. Matt Kenseth led three different times for a total of 45 laps but was hung on the outside on the same late-race restart and crossed the line in an equally disappointing 15th. While he didn’t lead, Allmendinger equaled a career-best oval track finish with a runner-up run.
Why you should care – In 2015, Busch had to run very conservatively when he came back from his injury to avoid poor point finishes that could have knocked him out of the Chase. With one win in the books already, he can take more risks now and potentially crank out more victories to add to his career total of 35.
The strength that Allmendinger has shown the last couple of weeks also gives hope to the little guys. The possibility is very real that he could point his way into the title Chase if he continues on this positive run.
What your friends are talking about –
Brian Vickers has one more scheduled race in the No. 14 car for Tony Stewart. After that point, he is unsure what the future holds. There are discussions and rumors that he may run the Indianapolis 500. Depending on Stewart’s return, he could run another race or two for Stewart-Haas Racing. While it is hard to have an uncertain future, a driver who didn’t have a ride before Stewart’s ATV accident is happy with whatever he is offered.
Denny Hamlin is in favor of posting race purses again as part of the box score from events. Many drivers contracts used to be tied to a percentage of the purse. When the charter system debuted, they had their contracts reworked to accommodate the new scale. Drivers now know what everyone is getting, so there isn’t much of a reason to keep it from the fans. NASCAR has stated they are reviewing the policy.
There was a fire at the Richard Petty Museum this week, but it was quickly contained and the damage to the property was minimal. The Petty family issued a statement that they were very grateful for the first responders who took care of the situation so rapidly and professionally.
With all of the buzz around the Concussion movie with Will Smith and the recent suicides of several professional football players, the occurrence of people donating their brains to research after they pass away is increasing for those athletes who have sustained concussions during their career. The first driver in NASCAR to join the growing list is Dale Earnhardt, Jr. He missed a pair of races in 2012 thanks to multiple concussions that season.
Forbes released their annual rankings of NASCAR teams and drivers based on estimated earnings. There was no surprise that Hendrick Motorsports, with an estimated $375 million in total asset value, topped the list. At the bottom was BK Racing, which was valued at an estimated $24 million last year. Earnhardt and Jimmie Johnson were the top earning drivers with $23.5 million and $22.2 million, respectively.
Who is mad – Kenseth ran near the front all day and worked with his teammate Busch on multiple restarts to keep the duo up front throughout the race. With 11 laps to go, Busch took the inside lane and Allmendinger kept Kenseth outside as the field circulated for the first couple of laps after the restart. In the end, Kenseth could not get down in line until he fell all of the way back to the mid-teens and scored yet another disappointing finish this season.
Clint Bowyer started 30th and finished 15th, three laps down. When the checkered flag flew, he was out of his car, across the track and on the road home before Busch pulled his car into Victory Lane. The season has not started well for Bowyer’s single-year effort with HScott Motorsports. It is obvious that he’s far from pleased with how things are progressing so far.
Earnhardt qualified poorly and was back in the pack when the green flag flew. On Lap 5, David Ragan got into his left-rear tire and sent the No. 88 car for a loop. Earnhardt went a lap down in the subsequent green-flag run and had to battle almost the entire day to get back on the lead lap. He was finally the Lucky Dog on the fifth caution of the day on Lap 313. He was running lap times consistent with the leaders most of the race, but could never get the proper track position. In the end, he came home 14th with a car that seemed capable of much more.
Who is happy – Allmendinger is obviously quite pleased with the start to his season. He has back-to-back top 10s and now a top 5 this year. His best season ever saw two top 5s (twice). His average finish is 14.8, which is the best of his career to date. Things are gelling well with his first-year crew chief Randall Burnett, and he very well could be in contention for the title after Richmond this fall.
Kyle Larson has struggled to replicate his fabulous first full season in Sprint Cup from 2014, when he had eight top 5s, 17 top 10s and finished 17th in points. He has shown some speed early this season with new crew chief Chad Johnston. If he’s able to finally break into Victory lane this season, the rumblings of best driver without a win could go away and the potential for championship runs might finally be realized.
Austin Dillon continues to show strength in his No. 3 car this season. Sunday, he scored his second top five of the season, the most he has had in any of his full seasons in Cup. He has run strong on mile and a half tracks for his entire career, but a top 10 at Phoenix and a top 10 again at Martinsville bodes well for a return to Victory Lane by the Richard Childress Racing organization.
When the checkered flag flew:
Kyle Busch scored his 35th victory of his career on Sunday which keeps him in 21st on the all-time list. He is one win behind Matt Kenseth for the top 20.
Busch is also fourth among active drivers behind Jimmie Johnson, Tony Stewart and Kenseth.
This was Busch’s first win at Martinsville in the Cup series.
This is his first triumph of 2016.
Busch led the most laps in his win since Bobby Hamilton led 378 in April of 1998.
AJ Allmendinger crossed the line in second. That ties his best career oval finish and is second only to his win at Watkins Glen.
Allmendinger is tied for 123rd on the all-time runner-up list with two.
This is Allmendinger’s second career second place run at Martinsville.
This is the best finish of the season for Allmendinger in 2016.
Kyle Larson came home in third place for the first podium run of the season.
Larson has finished in the top 3 seven times in his career.
This is the first finish better than 19th at Martinsville in five attempts for Larson.
Ryan Blaney was 19th, the highest finishing rookie, and was awarded the Rookie of the Race.
What is in the cooler – It can be difficult to give a great rating to a race that saw one driver lead 70% of the laps. However, the racing in the pack on Sunday was exceptional and the tire fall-off allowed drivers to have strength early or late in runs. As a result drivers were coming and going throughout the event and strategy ultimately played a role. It wasn’t a barn burner but it was a solid race that deserves four cold Foothills Brewing Seeing Double IPAs.
Where do you point your DVR for next week – Back to a mile and a half track next week as the series heads to the Lone Star state for the Duck Commander 500 at Texas Motor Speedway. The race is Saturday night at 7:30. It can be seen on Fox. It can be heard on local PRN affiliates and SiriusXM NASCAR Channel 90.
A daily email update (Monday through Friday) providing racing news, commentary, features, and information from Frontstretch.com
We hate spam. Your email address will not be sold or shared with anyone else.