ThatsRacin

NASCAR: Brad Keselowski dominates quiet Martinsville race for 2nd win this season

Brad Keselowski (2) was dominant at Martinsville Speedway on Sunday, winning for a second time this season.
Brad Keselowski (2) was dominant at Martinsville Speedway on Sunday, winning for a second time this season. AP

This one was about as clear-cut as it gets.

A handful of laps into Sunday’s STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway, Brad Keselowski bumped his Penske teammate Joey Logano and took the lead. Normal stuff.

So he led... and kept leading... and just kept leading. More than 400 laps — Chase Elliott briefly stole it away after about 300, only to give it back 50 laps later on pit road — and Keselowski’s No. 2 car just kept purring along.

And while Elliott, along with Ryan Blaney at times and Kyle Busch at others, tried to catch up, they ultimately just ended up hurting each other. A caution with 55 laps to go threatened to upend that balance, but to no avail — Keselowski won the race off pit road, keeping him in front as he’d been all day.

Elliott made things interesting over the last 15, at one point even inching up to Keselowski’s bumper, but didn’t have enough left to pass the No. 2. And so went Keselowski’s second win of 2019, in one of the quieter Martinsville races in recent memory.

Race breakdown

Stage 1: Logano started on the pole, but Keselowski bumped him from behind and then took the lead six laps into the race. Keselowski never relinquished that edge, leading 124 of 130 laps in the first stage to collect his first stage win of the year.

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Stage 2: Keselowski absolutely dominated, leading every green flag lap of the second stage. Blaney got closest toward the end of the stage, but still didn’t have enough to get by the No. 2.

Stage 3: Elliott briefly took the lead away from Keselowski on lap 324, but gave it back about 50 laps later on pit road after a caution for Matt Tifft. Another caution, this time for Ross Chastain on lap 445, again gave Elliott and Kyle Busch a chance to pass the No. 2 on pit road, but they couldn’t. Keselowski didn’t get as far away thereafter, but managed to hold Elliott off in the final laps.

Three who mattered

Keselowski: He led for practically the entire race, and while that doesn’t always translate into a win, he was by far the most deserving car on Sunday.

Elliott: He couldn’t quite do what his Hall of Fame dad failed to — win at Martinsville — but he led his first laps of the season and stayed close to Keselowski better than anyone else.

Kyle Busch: He couldn’t finish another weekend sweep, but a third-place finish is still good enough to carry his momentum into Texas next weekend — he still hasn’t finished worse than sixth this season.

Observations

Before this weekend, Keselowski’s previous career-high in laps led at Martinsville was 143 in the fall 2015 race. He nearly tripled that with his 446 on Sunday, which also were the most laps he’s ever led in a race in his career (previous high was 312 at Texas in 2015).

Since winning the fall 2016 race at Martinsville, Jimmie Johnson has yet to record a Top 10-finish at the track. He ended up 24th on Sunday, and still does not have a Top 5 in six races this season.

Nice gesture from the speedway to honor the late Glen Wood, a co-founder of Wood Brothers Racing who died in January. Wood was from nearby Stuart, Va., and the speedway has opted to name the first turn tower at the track “Glen Wood Tower” in his honor.

They said it

“It’s just one of those days you dream of as a race car driver.” – Keselowski.

Brendan Marks is a general assignment sports reporter for the Charlotte Observer covering the Carolina Panthers, Charlotte Hornets, NASCAR and more. He graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and has worked for the Observer since August 2017.
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