Martinsville is one of the classic tracks on the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series schedule. Once again the track provided a classic short track race with plenty of dented sheet metal, changes for the lead, close passes and possible raised blood pressure. Denny Hamlin, driver of the No. 11 FedEX Camery, made good use of some of the yellow cautions to maintain a lead and dash to the checkered flag. It was his fifth win at Martinsville.
The race started with Joey Logano on the pole of the STP 500 in the No. 22 car for Penske Racing. Logano held onto the first place spot for only a few laps before the predicted lead changes started. Logano won the Camping World Truck series race at the track on Saturday. The win came off a restart in which Logano said felt good because it gave the driver a win in all three of NASCAR’s top tier series, according to The Sporting News. Logano said he had a good start and the tires hooked up good.
Towards the end of the NASCAR race, with 34 laps to go Tony Stewart and Cole Witt took the field to the green flag. Stewart did not pit and took the lead holding for several laps after the restart. Witt faded quickly and managed to let faster cars with fresh tire move by. Eventually, the fresher tires on several cars proved too much for Stewart as he was passed by Denny Hamlin, Matt Kenseth and Brad Keselowski. The three drivers battled all day long for the front spot.
From there, Hamlin was able to run the remainder of the race using lap traffic to keep Kesekowski in check. Keselowski tapped Hamlin coming out of turn four as the slower car of Landon Cassil held Hamlin up. It was a move that put a huge wobble in Hamlin’s car out of the turn onto the straight away giving Keselowski a split second to try for the win.
However Hamlin was able to collect the car and make a sprint for the checkered flag. Hamlin said he appreciated Keselowski’s fight for the win and that despite the bumping the two drivers raced a clean ending. “Hat’s off to Brad,” Hamlin said during the post race show on Fox Sports1, “I mean, he had an option… but he took the later.”
The top five driver, following Hamlin and Keselowski, were Joey Logono, Matt Kenseth, and David Ragan, according to NASCAR.com. Danika Patrick finished her best finish of the year in the seventh spot with fan favorite Dale Earnhardt Jr coming in with a disappointing thirty six place finish. Earnhardt had shifter problems, which led him to try to install a new shifter himself while in the car. He fell back further following an accident.
By Kent Whitaker