Home / Cup Series / Thinkin’ Out Loud: Kyle Busch Gets a Treat at Martinsville
(Photo: Zach Catanzareti)

Thinkin’ Out Loud: Kyle Busch Gets a Treat at Martinsville

Who’s in the headline – After three other drivers looked like they were headed to the victory, it was Kyle Busch getting his picture taken with the Martinsville Grandfather Clock on Sunday night. The first race to finish under the lights at Martinsville Speedway was a rather uneventful affair until the final 20 laps. Through the final laps, Brad Keselowski, Chase Elliott and Denny Hamlin all were in position to score the win, but circumstances prevented it. Keselowski won the first two stages on Sunday.

What happenedJoey Logano won the pole and led the first 48 laps of the event. After the first restart, it was Keselowski making the pass for the lead. Logano regained the led with another on-track pass for the lead. Jimmie Johnson made a strategy call to take the lead during yellow flag pit stops, but couldn’t hold the lead to the end of the stage and lost it to Keselowski.  Busch led the entire second stage, which went green, until two laps to go in the stage. It was Keselowski with another on-track pass for the lead to grab the stage win.

The final stage saw Kyle Larson spin off Turn 2, hitting nose-first into the inside wall and ending his day. Elliott grabbed the lead for the first time after the seventh restart and was in the mix with Keselowski and Busch for the final 172 laps. With laps winding down, Busch tried to get under Logano in Turn 1 and damaged the left rear quarter panel on the No. 22 car. The subsequent tire rub eventually caused a tire failure and a caution on lap 492. Keselowski took the outside on the restart. Elliott drove Keselowski up the track out of turn two to muscle his way to the lead. Hamlin caught up to Elliott on lap 497, put his front bumper into Elliott’s rear end and drove him into Turn 3, spinning him into the outside wall to take the lead. The final restart saw Busch work under Hamlin out of Turn 4 coming to the white flag, as the No. 18 car took the lead and won his third race of the playoffs.

Hamlin wrecked out of Turn 4 coming to the checkered flag and collected a dozen cars including Kevin Harvick, Johnson, Ryan Blaney and Matt Kenseth. The win was the second time in 138 races in the history of Martinsville Speedway that a last lap pass was made for the win.

Why you should care – The victory guarantees Kyle Busch will be one of the four drivers eligible to win the 2017 Championship 4 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 19. This is the third consecutive year that he will be eligible to win the title. The finish for Elliott has him 26 points below the cut line for the final four. For all intents and purposes, Elliott will have to win at Texas or Phoenix to make the four driver roster with a shot at the title.

This race was the first to end under the lights at Martinsville. The air temperature at the end of the race was 41 degrees with 20 mph winds. Fans on social media are clamoring for a night race at Martinsville. They were lucky it didn’t snow like it was supposed to before the end of the race. Starting a race at night at Martinsville in late October, is worse than running the Firecracker 400 during the heat of the day in July.

What your friends are talking about – The racing world, from Martinsville Speedway garage and parking lots to the Twitterverse and everywhere in between were blowing up over the Hamlin/Elliott incident. Fans continue to beg for more short track racing and this wreck is one of the big reasons. Drivers moved other drivers all day long at Martinsville to gain positions during the race, but they didn’t wreck them. Hamlin wrecked Elliott and the fans in the stands let him know about it.

Chase Elliott, Denny Hamlin Trade Paint, Words After Martinsville

Hamlin has been a longtime hero at Martinsville based on his Virginia roots. Sunday night he was loudly booed throughout his entire post-race interview that appeared on the video screen above the scoring pylon in the infield. Elliott was cheered profusely for his handling of the situation. For anyone who has any doubt about who will be crowned Most Popular Driver after 2017, the answer was on display Sunday night.

On the cool down lap after the race, Elliott door slammed Hamlin into the wall when both drivers’ window nets were down. That has been a big no-no for years in the sport, but NASCAR did not call anyone to the hauler after the race. There were multiple reports after the race that no penalties are anticipated. While that is always subject to change after the suits digest all of the social media backlash, it is a very bad precedent to set.

During his post-race interview Hamlin was somewhat apologetic, although many fans didn’t seem to think he took enough responsibility. After the race was over and Hamlin had some time to check his Twitter feed and the tens of thousands of mentions, he changed his stance a bit. The following sincere apology was issued via Twitter.

https://twitter.com/dennyhamlin/status/924792019309998080

Martinsville Speedway has lights. They fed us a line that they were putting them in as a safety net in case their races ran long so that they didn’t have to cut them short. In less than six months they put out press releases that their fall race would end under the lights thanks to starting at 3 p.m. ET. The weather forecast was for freezing rain and snow Sunday evening. They dodged a huge bullet getting the whole race in. Now there are people talking about running a race completely at night. The insanity needs to stop. Unless they’re going to move the race up to early September, it needs to be run in the daytime.

It is official, Darrell Wallace Jr. will pilot the No. 43 car for Richard Petty Motorsports full-time in 2018. Wallace has been a young star in the sport for years, looking for the opportunity to compete full-time at the top level. After substituting for Aric Almirola during his recovery from a broken back earlier this year, Wallace was rumored to be a potential driver of a second car for RPM.

Then, when Smithfield announced they were ending their sponsorship at the end of this season, and Almirola also stated he was leaving, it opened the door for Wallace to be in the No. 43 machine. Wallace is a sponsor’s dream. A huge social media presence, a ‘partner in crime’ with fellow young star Blaney, and a proven race winner, he is a great choice. Hopefully his addition to the team will reinvigorate the RPM organization.

Should Denny Hamlin have been black flagged for wrecking Chase Elliott?

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Who is mad AJ Allmendinger has always known that he is a favorite at road courses. He’s also a force most of the times that we head to southern Virginia. This was not one of those days for Allmendinger. An early incident and the subsequent damage could not be fixed enough for him to maintain minimum speed. The end result was a last-place finish and a DNF after just 94 laps. On the plus side, he was home and warm well before the fans were receiving frostbite when the lights went on.

Elliott had another race where he was poised to score his first win. Unlike other races where he’s had that opportunity, this time he drove aggressively and put himself in position to grab his first trophy in the Cup Series. Through no fault of his own, he was taken out of that possibility. Elliott has every right to be pissed off because he was raced dirty by one of the most established drivers in the sport. His win is coming, it just would have been a great story to have had it lock him into Homestead.

Who is happyTrevor Bayne had another one of those days going at Martinsville. He was in danger of going down a lap multiple times and took the wave around to get back on the lead lap. In the end he was part of the final melee on the front straight but made it through to score a sixth-place finish. Bayne has finished much of the season in the teens, but this was one of the few races this year he’s knocked out a single-digit finish.

Clint Bowyer started off the year with a top-three finish at Auto Club Speedway, the fifth race of the season. It looked like his inaugural year with Stewart-Haas Racing would reestablish Bowyer as a driver who would contend for titles. Unfortunately, the year has not played out that way with Bowyer currently 18th in points. Short tracks are still a strong suit for Bowyer, and Sunday was another solid run for him at Martinsville.

When the checkered flag flew:

Kyle Busch won the 43rd race of his Cup career in his 459th career start on Sunday.

This was Busch’s second career triumph at Martinsville.

Busch has been victorious in five races in 2017.

The win puts Busch in the 17th position on the All-Time list.

Martin Truex Jr. came home in second place Sunday for the ninth time in 2017.

Truex has finished in the top two at Martinsville Speedway exactly one time.

On the All-Time runner-up list Truex is tied for 62nd with the likes of Tim Richmond and Alan Kulwicki.

Clint Bowyer rounded out the podium at Martinsville.

This is Bowyer’s fifth top-three finish of 2017.

Bowyer has three career top-three runs at Martinsville.

Rookie of the Race was Daniel Suarez. This is the 15th win of the year for Suarez. Erik Jones has won the award 13 times this season while Ty Dillon has snagged the honor four times. Gray Gaulding has been bestowed the award once.

The victory for Kyle Busch slots him into the season finale at Homestead as one of the four drivers who will have a shot at claiming the championship. The win gives him five additional playoff points, but they mean nothing at this point as those points have no bearing on the championship round. The eight drivers who are left to contend for the title, their rank, points, and playoff points as we head into race two of round three of the playoffs:

  1. Martin Truex Jr. – 4117 – 69
  2. Kyle Busch – 4100 – 47
  3. Brad Keselowski – 4079 – 28
  4. Kevin Harvick – 4053 – 17
  5. Jimmie Johnson – 4050 – 17
  6. Ryan Blaney – 4047 – 9
  7. Denny Hamlin – 4045 – 14
  8. Chase Elliott – 4027 – 6

What is in the cooler (one to six beers where one is a stinker and six is an instant classic)

The racing world is abuzz about the action at the end of the race Sunday, and rightly so. Unfortunately, before that it was an average Martinsville race at best. There were several on-track passes for the lead and strategy did come into play. The outside line was even useful at times to make passes. In the end the action during the final laps added one beer to the race so we’ll give it four ice cold Long View American Pale Ales from Mountain Valley Brewing.

Where do you point your DVR for next week – The second race of the round of eight will be held at Texas Motor Speedway on Sunday, Nov. 5. Coverage begins at 2 p.m. ET on NBCSN. It can also be viewed on the NBCSports App. To listen to the race you can tune into your local PRN affiliate, goprn.com or SiriusXM NASCAR Channel 90.

About Mike Neff

Mike Neff
What is it that Mike Neff doesn’t do? The writer, radio contributor and racetrack announcer coordinates the site’s local short track coverage, hitting up Saturday Night Specials across the country while tracking the sport’s future racing stars. The writer for our signature Cup post-race column, Thinkin’ Out Loud (Mondays) also sits down with Cup crew chiefs to talk shop every Friday with Tech Talk. Mike announces several shows each year for the Good Guys Rod and Custom Association. He also pops up everywhere from PRN Pit Reporters and the Press Box with Alan Smothers to SIRIUS XM Radio. He has announced at tracks all over the Southeast, starting at Millbridge Speedway. He's also announced at East Lincoln Speedway, Concord Speedway, Tri-County Speedway, Caraway Speedway, and Charlotte Motor Speedway.

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31 comments

  1. While I’m pissed at the outcome and now want to boycott FedEx, that was the race of the year. Classic Martinsville from beginning to end. I liked having the race start in the day and end under the lights. The All Star Race needs to be moved from Charlotte to Martinsville with it being a midweek event in the summer under the lights. On the poll question, would I want Denny to get a black flag in that situation, yes. However, going back to the “rattlin the cage” race at Bristol in 1999 it has been perfectly acceptable to dump someone on a short-track for the win. I’m just sick of Denny Hamlin. He struts around like he’s the “Dean” of the garage now. Then he pulls that crap. His real legacy to this point is that choke job in the 2010 Championship.

  2. I hope Hamlin doesn’t make it into the final four. I don’t think Hamlin necessarily meant to wreck Chase but that hit, as hard as it was, was uncalled for. Maybe Hamlin is tired of seeing his contemporaries (Kes, Harvick, Busch) win championships while he has a history of choking when all the marbles are on the line. I don’t know.

  3. Everybody does the bump and run at Martinsville (and Bristol). Denny’s only mistake was causing the guy to spin out. Did these same Denny-haters cry foul when Elliot bumped Kesolowski out of the way?

    • I must have missed Kesolowski smacking the wall. I will have re-watch that section of the race.

      • So like I said, the difference is Elliot did a bump’n’run while Hamlin did a wreck’n’run.

        Brad gathered his car back up and continued, while Elliot was not able to.

        • Only because Brad K did not get popped directly in the ass end. What Dennis did was a punk-ass move. He knew exactly what was going to happen there.

  4. Amazing isn’t it that the 66 spun on lap 459 and the 66 has completed all of 444 just after the 48 got lapped so the 48 could get the free pass.

    Amazing that Kyle causes the damage to the 22 that starts the wrecks rolling and wins.

    • I’m surprised no one else is bringing up that KB started the events of the last 10 laps by intentionally wrecking Logano

      • Pretty obvious from the reply I saw, but that is the GIBBS GIRLS in the PLAYOFFS, and Logano gets the shit storm. Not a word, not a word as to who caused it and the obvious WHY!!!!!!!!!!!!! Total BS, but you know short track racing, and then you know when it is a defined purposeful moment, and the bug eyed freak caused it, scott free…nothing to see here, move along! The total narrative shifted to the bad management of PENKSE…lol. MAYBE, maybe not..but at that point in the “race”…that was not the issue. Totally silenced! Amazing as always. Toys..SHHSHH. Denise got caught cause it was Bill’s kid, like if it was Dale Jr. anybody else, not a peep! Fact.

  5. After further review of Martinsville, 6 Fords finish in the top 10 [#14, #2, #4, #6 P3 – 6, #21 P7, #17 P10]. Not to shabby, but lest we forget, Team Penske gave this one away. With 11 to go #2 was leading as #22 drove across #18’s nose. #22 straightened it out & drives on, but with a sever tire rub. Then #22 FAILED to pit & blew a tire with 9 to go, causing a caution. On the ensuing restart, the #2 chose the OUTSIDE lane, on a restart with 5 to go at MARTINSVILLE. As easily predictable, #2 gets run up the track & shoved aside by #24 in turn 1, who passes for the lead. Be it on the CC’s, spotters or drivers, these are TWO blown calls by the Penske Fords, no doubt giving this race away.

    • I don’t know if Logano wanted to pit or not, but he was pinned on the high side of the track by cars going by him on the inside. Could he have made it to the bottom so he could get to pit road? That’s questionable.

  6. i watched the end. had the beginning on but it seemed to take forever for this race to start. i do believe i heard a driver, once they gave the command to start engines, say “about time”. sunday was crazy weather day. here in atl the high temp was 41 and wind chills all day long in the 30’s and the wind was crazy strong here all day long.

    personally feel logano helped manipulate the finish of the race. he should had gotten off the track when he had trouble. martinsville didn’t need a g/w/c finish. because of that finish, how many cars were torn up in that last lap mess on the front stretch.

    i really hope truex is the champion, but with kyle in the field of 4, i have my doubts.

    on a more interesting note, saturday morning i flipped on the tv and they were showing a very condensed version of the 1997 daytona 500 on fs1. sad that in 20 yrs none of the drivers in that field are still driving. their children are now racing, and even some of them are hanging up the helmet. this was the year that hendrick was 1-2-3 for the finish. seeing names like lake speed and jimmy spencer and the burton brothers brought back memories. made me wonder whatever happened to spencer? is he now a master gardner in pennsylvania?

    • “i really hope truex is the champion, but with kyle in the field of 4, i have my doubts.”

      Me too. I normally like this Chase with its emphasis on winning, but Truex has won just about everything this year. Unless he runs first at Homestead, his whole season is shot to hell for nothing.

      • Truex can still win the POINTS title without winning the last of Brian’s products but I don’t think Brian wants a non-winner to get the title so he will do whatever he has to do to manipulate it. Because he can!

        • I meant running first out of the four competitors, not necessarily first in the whole race. But the last few years, the champion has won the final race.

          • And that’s the way Brian has arranged it. Even down to GWCs because of late event cautions by designated drivers.

    • Totally disagree with you Janice. Logano didn’t “manipulate” the race it was KB (BTW I’m not a Logano fan at all nor a KB fan) and it was a smart move on his part. He’s sitting there back in 4th I believe (I may be wrong) and intentionally pushed his car ahead of Logano’s beating, banging and rubbing Logano eventually wrecking the left rear quarter panel and ultimately causing his flat tire. I’m watching it unfold and was like wow KB is aggressive as heck and is starting trouble so he can get a restart so he can move up in the field I’m guessing. We may have seen an entirely different outcome if KB (a very astute KB) didn’t start the entire chain of events. Why should Logano get off the track? He wasn’t impeding anyone and as the tire went down he moved to the outside groove. He was having a very good run and like any other driver wanted to salvage a good finish so he remained on the track knowing that eventually the tire would give and he could pit under yellow.

      KB is laughing his butt off on the way to Homestead. I’m pulling for Truex … the Gibbs girls (as the KB who comments on this site calls them) are both dicks but we did get the drama Brian promised (he’s also a dick). Peace

  7. While I love the beating and banging that takes place at Martinsville, Hamlin definitely went way over the line. The way the last 100 laps of the race went reminded me why I am glad that I didn’t pick a new driver when mine retired. Had I been a 2, 22 or 24 fan my Monday would be ruined. As it is, I can sit back and enjoy the mayhem while I save a ton of money on t-shirts, die-casts, and the like. In watching the crapshoot nature of the way the race unfolded in the last 100 laps, I can see why the rules as they currently are produce such crapshoot endings that it’s just not worth caring about any one driver.
    Double file restarts are exciting to watch but when the lapped cars used to be in one of the lanes, it allowed the person in the lead, who is often the most deserving, a better chance to maintain that lead. Instead we get mayhem and cheap shots that jumble things up every time there is a caution. Once again, fun to watch if you don’t care who wins.
    Then, at one point, there were 13 cars on the lead lap which means someone like Chase Elliott would have finished 13th at worst if he’d gotten spun out with a couple of laps left, but with the magic of wave-arounds and lucky dogs, there were 25+ cars back on the lead lap by race end resulting in a huge point loss.
    To summarize… great race, fun to watch, I love Martinsville and I’m glad I don’t have a driver.

  8. Not too long ago, the Martinsville fall race was run in late September. Something isn’t just quite right when everyone looks like they are dressed for an NFL playoff game in Green Bay or Minnesota.
    If they want a night race there, get rid of the All-Star Race and put it on the weekend before Memorial Day. Also solves the problem of the spring race being scheduled too early on the calendar.
    Move the fall race back to 1:00 whenever they run it.

    Some decision making on the part of Team Penske should also come into question. When has it ever been a successful move to restart in the outside lane late in a Martinsville race and why was there no clamor for Logano to pit knowing he would be a caution one way or the other?

  9. Why is it that this is the only time DENISE has taken to TWITWORLD to apologize? Plenty of this stuff we have seen from him before and he laughed. DENISE is as phony as a two dollar Bill. Oh wait, all he cares about is pissing off the MILLION DOLLAR BILL fans, aka just like when someone did something to JR., ahem I mean SR. SAME BS. CLYDE stuck up for himself, good for him. others were mocked for the same thing. What BS. CLYDE FOR THE HOMESTEAD CUP!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  10. Denise drives for Toyota and JESUS JOE, rules, decorum, honesty, integrity? PFFFTTT, we don’t need any of that, we are TOYOTA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! The GIBBS GIRLS were all in today with their nastiness. KYLE AND DENISE…what race for them, never mind what havoc they caused, it will be barely a mention. Bet on it.

    TOYOTA, oh a what a feeling! SMH.