RIDGEWAY, Va.— Brad Keselowski was able to hold off and set sail to give Roger Penske and Ford Performance the victory in Sunday’s STP 500.
“This is awesome. 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,” said Keselowski in victory lane.
This is Ford’s first win at Martinsville since 2002 with Kurt Busch, and Team Penske’s first win at Martinsville since 2004 with Rusty Wallace. This is Keselowski’s second victory in 2017.
The first stage started with an early surge from pole sitter Kyle Larson. Larson was able to lead the first 22 circuits, but as he was battling lapped traffic, Keselowski was able to pass him. That sent Larson dropping through the field. Keselowski was on point until the caution flew on lap 70. During the pit stops, Keselowski was busted for speeding resulting in him starting from the back of the field. Martin Truex Jr. assumed the race lead to go on to dominate and win the stage. Denny Hamlin finished second in the first stage, Kyle Busch finished third, Keselowski finished fourth, and Chase Elliott rounded out the top-five.
Many drivers stayed out at the conclusion of the stage because they pitted 13 laps before hand. To start the second stage, Ky. Busch was the race leader, Elliott restarted second, Ryan Blaney restarted third, Logano restarted fourth, and Erik Jones rounded out the top-five.
The second stage belonged to Ky. Busch. Busch dominated the second stage, but came up short on the playoff point. As Ky. Busch was putting cars a lapped down, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. was trying to stay on the lead lap, but failed to do so. As the stage closed, Stenhouse was able to get on the bumper of Busch coming off the fourth turn on the final lap of the stage. That bump was able to give Elliott the advantage and the stage win. Ky. Busch finished second, Keselowski finished third, Jimmie Johnson finished fourth, and Blaney rounded out the top-five in the second stage.
Elliott won the stage off pit road, Ky. Busch was second, Johnson was third, Keselowski was fourth, and Dale Earnhardt Jr. rounded out the top-five to start the final stage.
The final stage was prominently dominated once again by Ky. Busch. The first laps of the stage were unable to get in a rhythm as the caution flew five times for 25 laps. Once the race was able to get into a rhythm, Ky. Busch was able to lead 65 laps before Keselowski began to close in. The lead swapped between Keselowski and Busch numerous times. The final pass on Busch for Keselowski was the money move. Keseloski was able to move Kyle Busch up the race track and set sail for victory.
Ky. Busch finished second, Elliott finished third, Logano finished fourth, and Austin Dillon rounded out the top-five in the STP 500.
The caution flew 14 times for 95 laps. The lead changed 18 times among 17 drivers. The average speed was 70.139 mph. The time of race was three hours, 44 minutes, and 59 seconds.
Kyle Larson still holds the points lead by four points over Chase Elliott, Truex Jr. is third in points only 32 points behind Larson, Keselowski is 34 points behind in fourth, and Logano rounds out the top-five in points 61 back.
Next up for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series is the O’Rielly Auto Parts 500 from Texas Motor Speedway on April 9th at 1:30 p.m. EST on FOX and Performance Racing Network.
RIDGEWAY, Va.— Tire wear and tire management will be crucial in today’s STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway.
Goodyear has brought a new right-side tire to Martinsville. This new tire was developed to help rubber-in the concrete-asphalt combination at Martinsville. The concrete corners at Martinsville provided a challange for Goodyear because they behave differently and the density of the surface.
Goodyear hopes this tire combination will optimize acceleration, deceleration, and cornering that is required at the track.
Teams have eight sets of tires to use for the STP 500. That is two sets less than what teams had last year.
With Friday’s rains washing away the rubber laid down on the track from one Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series (MENCS) and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (NCWTS) practice.
Two MENCS practices, NCWTS qualifying, and the Alpha Energy Solutions 250 helped rubber in the track on Saturday,
Chase Elliott, the Alpha Energy Solutions 250 race winner, talked about how the complexion of that race changed and expectations for today’s race.
“The temperatures are definitely up from what we typically see in this race. To me, the race track is taking on lots of rubber way quicker than it typically does. Typically, you don’t see rubber laid down in the truck race and don’t see it laid down until halfway through the Cup race. The fact that it is blackening up today, I think will probably lend itself to see some Martinsville of old with guys moving around. It’s going to be darkened up really fast,” said Elliott post-race.
When asked about tire wear on the left side, Elliott showed no concern.
The STP 500 is slated to drop the green flag at 2:13 p.m. EST on Fox Sports 1 and Motor Racing Network.
RIDGEWAY, Va— In his first time at Martinsville Speedway, Daniel Suarez kicked off the first Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series practice by getting a backup car prepared.
Suarez hit the wall going into the third turn resulting in the back end of the car being damaged.
“It just wheel hopped. I don’t know what was going on with my brakes. It was something weird. On the first run I felt something similar. Something was weird with my brakes and I just wheel hopped and here we are,” said Suarez after the accident.
However, things have changed drastically this week for Suarez.
Joe Gibbs Racing announced that Dave Rogers would be taking an indefinite leave of absence. Scott Graves was announced as the crew chief until Rogers comes back.
Suarez found out about Rogers at the same time as everyone else early Wednesday evening.
“I pretty much got to know this almost at the same time as you guys. It was something that took me as a surprise and actually it took him as a surprise as well.”
Suarez understands and respects Rogers and the decision he has made. However, he does not know when the return of Rogers will be.
Luckily for Suarez, he will be working with Graves, his crew chief in the NASCAR Xfinity Series. Suarez and Graves were able to win the championship in 2016.
It was important for Suarez and Joe Gibbs Racing to put somebody in that knows the style of Suarez.
“I had some input for sure to put Scott in the seat because I know Scott. I know what he can do. I know what we’ve done together. It was important to put somebody there that I knew already.”
What does Graves know about Suarez?
“I was expecting to race with him more than 14, 15 times in XFINITY stuff this year so we know him very well. He knows what I need to be fast. He knows my weak points as well. I think having Scott jump into the Cup program I think is important. And I hope we don’t have to get back any. I hope we stay the same or even forward. And try to move from there.”
In his rookie season, Suarez sits 19th in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series points standings. He comes into Martinsville with back-to-back top-10 finishes.
RIDGEWAY, Va— Officials from NASCAR and Martinsville Speedway have announced that all on track activity for the remainder of the day has been cancelled.
Ever changing weather played into the decision by NASCAR and Martinsville on Friday. However, the weather for the remainder of the weekend looks perfect.
The field for the STP 500 for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series will be set by the rule book. The field will be set by owner’s points giving Kyle Larson the pole, while Chase Elliott will start second.
Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series drivers will hit the track on Saturday beginning at 11:00 a.m. EST for the first of two practices of the day.
RIDGEWAY, V.a— The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series arrives at Martinsville Speedway for the first short track race of the 2017 season. The STP 500 will be broken up into two 130 laps stages and a 140 lap shootout to the finish.
There are currently 38 drivers scheduled to arrive at Martinsville for the STP 500. The field is considered full due to the 36 charter teams being present at the speedway.
There have been 60 different pole winners throughout the 70 year history of Martinsville. 49 drivers have made their way to victory lane. 21 races have been won from the pole with Jimmie Johnson being the last driver to do so in 2013. In 1996, Jeff Gordon set the race record at 82.223 mph. Joey Logano set the qualifying record back in 2014 at 100.201 mph.
Kevin Harvick will be without Rodney Childress this weekend due to the team rescinding their penalty from Phoenix with the trackbar mount. Childress will only miss this weekend while Daniel Knost will pilot the No. 4 team.
“Well, Rodney Childers is going to get a one-week vacation. Obviously with everything that has happened, basically we got in trouble for a part that was drawn a certain way and didn’t appear that way on the car. The way that NASCAR works now is you submit drawings for pretty much every part on your car,” said Harvick. “It has to meet certain specifications and that part didn’t meet it, so Rodney’s going to get to go on vacation this week. I know this is probably one of the most painful weeks for him to go on vacation because Martinsville really hasn’t been our best track. He and everybody at Stewart-Haas Racing, and especially everyone on our No. 4 team, put a lot of effort into trying to go in a different direction”
Brad Keselowski will see the return of the Paul Wolfe following their decision to repeal their penalty from Phoenix where they had failed weights and measurements in post-race inspection. The team decided this week to repeal following their analysis of the car. Wolfe has only served one of three weekend suspensions.
The defending race-winner of the STP 500 is Kyle Busch.
“We’ve run well the last couple of times at Martinsville and we’re definitely pumped about getting back there. I’m hoping we can have a really good car there again this time around like we did last spring. We led a lot of laps and we were really fast. Hoping that some of those things we were able to push through there a year ago at Martinsville we’ll be able to do this time around with our M&M’s Camry,” said Busch.
Cup drivers are scheduled to have one practice session on Friday at 11:30 a.m. EST. Qualifying will also be held on Friday at 4:30 p.m. On Saturday, there will be two practice sessions at 10:00 a.m. EST and 1:30 p.n. EST. The STP 500 will begin at 2:00 p.m. EST. All coverage of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series will be broadcasted on Motor Racing Network and Fox Sports 1.