It did not take long for Brad Keselowski to drive to the front in the STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway. Rain washed out qualifying, so the field lined up based on the series points standings. Keselowski started fourth and took the lead on lap 23. Teammate Joey Logano took the green in fifth and joined Keselowski at the front a few laps later.
Unfortunately, it did not take Team Penske long to go to the rear of the field either. Both Keselowski and Logano were penalized for too fast on pit road during the first caution period at lap 72. Sending both cars to the back of the pack. The two fastest Fords had to battle all day long to regain track position. Keselowski returned to the top spot just after the 400-lap mark.
While Keselowski had the fastest car all day, Kyle Bush led 274 laps. Bush and Keselowski swapped the lead several times over the final 100 laps. With Keselowski taking over for good on lap 458. Scoring his second victory of the year. In addition, car owner Roger Penske got the win in his 1,000th career start in NASCAR’s Cup Series.
The first short track race of the year produced the anticipated bump and run moves. The conclusion of both stage one and stage two generated exciting finishes. Kyle Busch’s run of bad luck continued. After leading for most of the second stage he tangled with Ricky Stenhouse Jr. on the final lap. Stenhouse, fighting to stay on the lead lap, tapped Busch enough to get him loose. Before Busch could regain control, Chase Elliott passed him for the stage win. Capturing the playoff point that is awarded. Along with the 10 championship points given to the stage winner.
Busch finished second, while Elliott took third. Logano recovered to take the fourth position, Clint Bowyer finished seventh, and Stenhouse 10th. Giving the Ford Fusion driver’s four of the top 10 finishing positions.
Keselowski and Logano hold down the fourth and fifth spots in the playoff standings. Ryan Blaney, in the Wood Brother’s Ford, sits seventh, Clint Bowyer is eighth. Bowyer’s Stewart-Hass Racing teammate Kevin Harvick is 10th. The Blue Oval drivers hold five of the first 10 spots. Nevertheless, it’s early in the season with plenty of great racing still on tap. Trevor Bayne occupies the 15th spot and Richard Petty Motorsports driver, Aric Almirola is one position out of the playoffs. Just 12 points behind.
King Richard was honored in pre-race ceremonies. His association with STP helped build the brand while also building the sport of stock car racing. The iconic number 43 carried the STP Red and Petty Blue paint scheme that was so often seen in victory lane. Richard, a 15-time winner on this track, referred to Martinsville as “kinda like our home track. Being that our shop is not that far from here.”
Next week it’s a shootout in the State of Texas. As the O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 roars to the green flag at 1:30 Sunday at Texas Motor Speedway.