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NASCAR Cup: Brad Keselowski wins at Martinsville in milestone race for Penske

Brad Keselowski takes the checkered flag in the STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway on April 2, 2017 (photo courtesy of Getty Images for NASCAR).

Brad Keselowski takes the checkered flag in the STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway on April 2, 2017 (photo courtesy of Getty Images for NASCAR).

By AMANDA VINCENT

Sunday’s STP 500 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway kicked off the 70th anniversary year for the only track from NASCAR’s first season still on the Cup Series schedule. It also was a milestone race for car owner Roger Penske, as it was his 100th race in the series. Team Penske driver Brad Keselowski commemorated the milestones by giving Penske the best gift he could — a race win.
“This is awesome,” Keselowski said. “We’ve ran so good here with the Miller Lite Ford, but something always happens, and we haven’t been able to bring it home. Martinsville is just one of those champion’s tracks. The guys that run well everywhere run well here, and it’s really just an honor to win here and get to compete here. This track is 70 years old, and a lot of legends have won here. It feels great to be able to join them and bring home a clock.”
After several laps of battling Kyle Busch back-and-forth for the lead after the final restart of the race that followed a lap-431 caution, Keselowski took sole possession of the top spot with over 40 laps up front and remained there the rest of the way. Busch was forced to settle for second for leading 274 of the 500 laps that made up the race.
“Just needed a normal set of tires,” Busch said. “We put on a set of tires there at the end that weren’t the same as the ones that we took off, and it just slowed the car down a minimum 0.3 that whole entire last run. We just had no speed in the center of the corner and couldn’t maintain the drive off that we needed to on the long runs, either. We just were hurting it really, really bad, there. Adam (Stevens, crew chief) and everybody on this team did a great job giving me a car capable of winning. It’s just frustrating when you come down pit road and you don’t make any changes and you bolt a set of tires on it and it goes to junk. I hate that happened. We still haven’t finished where we should have this year. We haven’t gotten any finishes that are indicative of where this team’s been running or where we’re capable of running or finishing, and that’s just frustrating, so we’ll continue on.”
Although Busch dominated, he failed to claim a stage win. Martin Truex won the first 130-lap stage of the race, and it was after that first stage that Busch’s dominance began. He led most of the second stage and was the front-runner on the final lap of the stage, but he was on the receiving end of contact from Ricky Stenhouse Jr. who was trying to stay on the lead lap. That contact allowed Chase Elliott to sneak by and take the stage two win. When stage three got underway, though, Busch resturned to the lead.
Elliott finished the race third. Keselowski’s teammate Joey Logano finished fourth to give Penske to top-five finishes in his milestone race. Austin Dillon rounded out the top-five.
Kyle Larson started on the pole for the second-straight race as a result of the cancellation of qualifying on Friday. He led the first 23 laps before losing the lead to Keselowski on lap 24. Several laps later, Logano moved into second. But when the yellow flag waved on lap 70, both Penske teammates suffered pit road penalties, Keselowski for speeding and Logano for his gas man going over the pit wall too early.
Keselowski and Logano got back toward the front and were battling for third when they made contact that sent Logano to pit road for an unscheduled green-flag stop on lap 233. As a result, Logano wound up two laps down. He got back on the lead lap with a free pass during a lap-309 caution.
The yellow flag waved 14 times during the race, with nine of those cautions coming in the final 240-lap stage that accounted for most of the second half of the race. The 13th of those 14 cautions came out as a result of an eight-car wreck with 80-laps remaining. Among the cars sustaining the most significant damage was the No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet of Dale Earnhardt Jr.
“They just stopped, and I couldn’t,” Earnhardt said. “I got into the back of the No. 5 (Kasey Kahne). His bumper knocked the top of the radiator off of it; knocked the fitting off the top of the radiator. We don’t have much of a bumper on there to begin with, keeping the cars as light as we can, and that is about the second or third time I’ve knocked the top off the radiator here. I wish they were a little tougher than that, so we could beat and bang and keep going.”
Finishing sixth through 10th were A.J. Allmendinger, Clint Bowyer, Ryan Newman, Matt Kenseth and Stenhouse.
Follow Auto Racing Daily on Twitter @AutoRacingDaily or like Auto Racing Daily on Facebook (facebook.com/autorcngdaily). Amanda’s also on Twitter @NASCARexaminer and has a fan/like page on Facebook (facebook.com/nascarexaminer)

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Posted by on April 2, 2017. Filed under Breaking News,Featured,NASCAR. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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