Kyle Busch shoved teammate Denny Hamlin out of the way coming to the white flag of Sunday’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race at Martinsville Speedway, and held off a big charge from Martin Truex, Jr. to score the win in the First Data 500.
More importantly, it punches Busch’s ticket to the Championship round next month at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Behind the leaders, a massive crash broke out coming to the checkered flag that gathered up some 20 cars in the melee.
It was a proper ending to the race that saw several drivers shoving each other out of the way over the final nine laps. It began when Busch attempted to shove his way past Joey Logano, damaging Logano’s car, which led to the left rear tire eventually going down on the No. 22 Ford.
On the ensuing restart, Brad Keselowski took the lead with Chase Elliott in pursuit. Elliott raced to the inside of Keselowski in turn three, and shoved Keselowski’s Ford up the track in an effort to take the lead.
That opened the door on the inside for Hamlin to challenge Elliott. As they raced into turn three, Hamlin shoved Elliott from behind, sending Elliott’s No. 24 Chevy spinning into the outside wall to bring out another caution.
That set up an Overtime finish. On the restart, Hamlin had the lead with Busch challenging. Going into turn three, Busch made contact with his teammate. That opened the door for Busch to move to the lead, with Truex, Jr. in pursuit coming to the white flag.
Truex, Jr. ran hard to the inside of Busch on the final lap in turn three, but couldn’t get around as Busch held on to take the win.
“It’s just a great win for this whole M&M’s Halloween Toyota Camry,” said Busch. “Awesome to get to victory lane here at Martinsville. You know I wanted to win Charlotte, Martinsville and Homestead and that’ll make us this year’s champions, so we’ve got one more.
“Just wanted to say our guys did an awesome job preparing this car. We weren’t the best all day, but we put ourselves in the right spots there at the end and there was kind of chaos ensuing and none of it was our fault, we just came out on the right end of the stick.”
Busch said having the chance to race for his second Cup Series championship is “huge.”
“It’s our opportunity to succeed and you know God’s given us every opportunity to go do that,” Busch said. “Joe and J.D. Gibbs, Coy Gibbs, everybody on this Joe Gibbs Racing team, they’re phenomenal. Adam (Stevens, crew chief) and the guys had a great race car for me prepared for this weekend. We tested up here, we came here and we were really good yesterday and we just came out on top today.”
Meanwhile, Elliott and Hamlin continued to make contact on the backstretch on the final lap. That led to both drivers exiting their vehicles on the backstretch and a heated discussion between the two.
“I got punted from behind and wrecked in turn 3 leading the race,” Elliott said. “I don’t know what his problem was. It was unnecessary. I hadn’t raced him dirty all-day long. There was no reason for that and he comes over and talks to me a second ago and tells me he had somebody pushing him into turn 3. I thought that was funny because there was nobody within two car lengths of him into turn 3 behind myself.
“I don’t know what the deal was, but it is so disappointing. We had the best car I’ve ever had here at Martinsville. And had an opportunity to go straight to Homestead and because of him we don’t.”
“Well he said I wrecked him and obviously, you know Ray Charles saw that,” said Hamlin. “Obviously it wasn’t intentional, I wanted to move him out of the way and there was just not enough grip on the race track for him to save it. There’s no difference, he washed the 2 (Keselowski) up the race track as well. I mean, we can play favorites with who we want. Unfortunately this is a ticket to Homestead at stake.”
For Truex, Jr., who came into the weekend fresh off a win in the final Round of 12 race last week at Kansas Speedway, a second place finish is a good start to the Round of 8.
He said that the final laps of Sunday’s race was “just Martinsville.”
“Got inside of Kyle (Busch), just couldn’t get the power down off of (turn) four,” Busch said. “I didn’t want to be the one to knock him out of the way for the win. Maybe I should have, but I don’t know. Those guys kept knocking each other out of the way up there in the front, I’m not sure that’s the way to do it. You know good day for us and we’ll go to Texas next week and see if we can’t continue our mile-and-half runs.”
For Keselowski, who had treated Martinsville as a “must win” to make it to the Championship round at Homestead, his fourth place result was not what he had hoped for after winning both earlier segments of the race.
“I haven’t seen the video,” Keselowski said of the contact with Elliott. “I just knew I got in the corner and he was inside me and we had contact. I haven’t seen anymore of that to really have any clarity to it. The track is just real slick on the restarts for everybody. You saw that. It takes about five laps for anyone to get going or more, especially the leader, but there was a lot of hard fighting here because it’s a short track. That’s what short tracks are kind of about is rooting and gauging. You try not to take anybody out, but you’ve got to sometimes rub a little bit.”
Clint Bowyer finished in third, with Keselowski in fourth. Kevin Harvick crossed the finish line sliding backwards after being caught up in the final lap melee, coming home in fifth.
Trevor Bayne, Hamlin, Ryan Blaney, Matt Kenseth, and Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. rounded out the top ten.
Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series
Martinsville Speedway – Martinsville, VA
First Data 500 – October 29, 2017
1. (14) Kyle Busch (P), Toyota, 505.
2. (2) Martin Truex, Jr. (P), Toyota, 505.
3. (5) Clint Bowyer, Ford, 505.
4. (7) Brad Keselowski (P), Ford, 505.
5. (13) Kevin Harvick (P), Ford, 505.
6. (34) Trevor Bayne, Ford, 505.
7. (6) Denny Hamlin (P), Toyota, 505.
8. (4) Ryan Blaney (P), Ford, 505.
9. (17) Matt Kenseth, Toyota, 505.
10. (22) Ricky Stenhouse, Jr., Ford, 505.
11. (21) Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Chevrolet, 505.
12. (24) Jimmie Johnson (P), Chevrolet, 505.
13. (25) Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 505.
14. (18) Ryan Newman, Chevrolet, 505.
15. (15) Daniel Suarez #, Toyota, 505.
16. (12) Kasey Kahne, Chevrolet, 505.
17. (23) Danica Patrick, Ford, 505.
18. (10) Aric Almirola, Ford, 505.
19. (20) Michael McDowell, Chevrolet, 505.
20. (19) Paul Menard, Chevrolet, 505.
21. (29) Chris Buescher, Chevrolet, 505.
22. (11) Kurt Busch, Ford, 505.
23. (33) Landon Cassill, Ford, 505.
24. (1) Joey Logano, Ford, 504.
25. (30) Cole Whitt, Chevrolet, 504.
26. (8) Erik Jones #, Toyota, 504.
27. (3) Chase Elliott (P), Chevrolet, 504.
28. (31) David Ragan, Ford, 503.
29. (16) Jamie McMurray, Chevrolet, 503.
30. (26) Ty Dillon #, Chevrolet, 501.
31. (35) * Gray Gaulding #, Toyota, 501.
32. (32) Reed Sorenson, Chevrolet, 500.
33. (36) Corey LaJoie #, Toyota, 500.
34. (40) * Hermie Sadler, Chevrolet, 494.
35. (38) * Kyle Weatherman, Chevrolet, 488.
36. (39) * Carl Long(i), Chevrolet, Accident, 444.
37. (9) Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, Accident, 300.
38. (37) Jeffrey Earnhardt, Chevrolet, Rear Gear, 274.
39. (28) Matt DiBenedetto, Ford, Electrical, 187.
40. (27) A.J. Allmendinger, Chevrolet, Accident, 94.
Average Speed of Race Winner: 74.902 mph.
Time of Race: 3 Hrs, 32 Mins, 47 Secs. Margin of Victory: 0.141 Seconds.
Caution Flags: 11 for 74 laps.
Lead Changes: 16 among 6 drivers.
Lap Leaders: J. Logano 1-48; B. Keselowski (P) 49-78; J. Logano 79-89; J. Johnson (P) 90-113; B. Keselowski (P) 114-134; K. Busch (P) 135-257; B. Keselowski (P) 258-265; K. Busch (P) 266-324; C. Elliott (P) 325-362; B. Keselowski (P) 363-385; C. Elliott (P) 386-458; K. Busch (P) 459; C. Elliott (P) 460-470; B. Keselowski (P) 471-496; C. Elliott (P) 497; D. Hamlin (P) 498-504; K. Busch (P) 505;.
Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led): K. Busch (P) 4 times for 184 laps; C. Elliott (P) 4 times for 123 laps; B. Keselowski (P) 5 times for 108 laps; J. Logano 2 times for 59 laps; J. Johnson (P) 1 time for 24 laps; D. Hamlin (P) 1 time for 7 laps.
Stage #1 Top Ten: 2,18,22,48,78,24,21,5,3,11
Stage #2 Top Ten: 2,18,22,78,24,21,4,20,14,48
Top 8 in Points: 1. Martin Truex, Jr. – 4117 (7 Wins); 2. Kyle Busch – 4100 (5 Wins); 3. Brad Keselowski – 4079 (3 Wins); 4. Kevin Harvick – 4053 (1 Win); 5. Jimmie Johnson – 4050 (3 Wins); 6. Ryan Blaney – 4047 (1 Win); 7. Denny Hamlin – 4045 (2 Wins); 8. Chase Elliott – 4027.