Clint Bowyer Breaks Long Winless Streak at Martinsville

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Returning from the early season Western swing the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series headed to Martinsville Speedway for the STP 500. Everyone was anxious to get back to their Southern roots. The first short track race of the year also gets back to bumping and banging, old-time racing. The story that often comes out of Martinsville is who laid a bumper to who. What drivers are swearing revenge for perceived offenses. And who can capture a coveted grandfather clock? Maybe, NASCAR’s most coveted trophy.

What no one counted on was the race being delayed until Monday due to SNOW. What? Snow in Virginia the week before Easter? Yep, those Northeasters plaguing the Eastern Seaboard blew through Martinsville Saturday evening. Wisely NASCAR shut down activities at the speedway so the area could clean up. Fan safety prompted that decision.

Monday dawned bright and clear. But, still cold. What would that mean on the track? Cold tires don’t stick well. The term slide-job could take on a whole new meaning. In addition, the weather washed out qualifying. So, with starting positions based on car owner season points the short track specialists area dispersed through the field.

Martin Truex Jr.(78) jumped to the early lead from the pole. Five laps in Kyle Busch(18) moved to the front. On lap 27 Denny Hamlin(11) took over first as the leaders began lapping cars at the rear of the field. Kyle Busch still held second. However, Truex had dropped to fifth as the Fords of Brad Keselowski(2) and Joey Logano(22) moved into third and fourth.

Photo Credit: Brian Lawdermilk /Getty Images

A scheduled “competition caution” flew at lap 50 allowing crews to check tire wear and make adjustments while filling up with Sunoco Racing fuel. NASCAR mandated the stop due to the uncertainty of track conditions and the lack of qualifying. Hamlin again resumed the lead as the race went back to green on lap 57 of the 130 laps in Stage 1. Keselowski moved to second as Hamlin began lapping cars again. Despite racing side-by-side with the #2 car on several laps, Hamlin held on for the stage win.

Stage 1 Results

Car Driver Stage Points
11 Hamlin 10
2 Keselowski* 9
12 Blaney* 8
18 Kyle Busch 7
14 Bowyer* 6
4 Harvick* 5
47 Allmendinger 4
41 Kurt Busch 3
22 Logano* 2
48 Johnson 1

* Ford Fusion Drivers

During the stage ending caution, the vehicle exit gate was opened to allow an ambulance to leave the Speedway. A crewman for Chris Buescher(37) was injured and necessitated transportation to a local hospital.

Stage 2

Ryan Blaney(12) exited the pits first after the stage ending caution. Hamlin came out second. On the drop of the green flag, they battled for several laps before Blaney drove away. All three Team Penske drivers holding down spots in the top 10. Never seriously challenged for the lead, Blaney remained out front until taking the green and white checkered flag at the end of Stage 2.

Stage 2 Results

Car Driver Stage Points
12 Blaney* 10
14 Bowyer* 9
18 Kyle Busch 8
2 Keselowski* 7
11 Hamlin 6
4 Harvick* 5
41 Kurt Busch* 4
47 Allmendinger 3
22 Logano* 2
48 Johnson 1

* Ford Fusion Drivers

The Final Stage

With 240 laps in the final Stage of the race pit strategy would now come into play. How would the teams choose to divide the final segment could determine the race winner. Once again Blaney exited the pits first and held the lead briefly at the beginning of the final stage. Stewart Haas Racing continued to show their early season dominance. Only this time instead of Kevin Harvick(4) at the front, it was teammate Clint Bowyer(14).

Bowyer held the lead when the first accident related caution occurred on lap 384. Daytona 500 winner Austin Dillon(3) ran into the side of Jamie McMurray(1) spinning McMurray in turn 2. The incident allowed the field to pit just before green flag stops were about to begin.

The race restarted with 108 laps to go and Bowyer again drove off into turn 1 with the lead. Kyle Busch settled into second, Blaney third, Truex fourth, and Harvick in fifth.

The Finish

Photo Credit: Jerry Markland / Getty Images

Without the dreaded late caution Bowyer cruised to the win a full second ahead of Kyle Busch. Blaney finished third, Truex fourth and Harvick fifth. Three Fords in the top five. Bowyer led all but 4 of the final 219 laps, snapping a 190 race winless streak. Fellow driver’s made their way to victory lane offering congratulations to Bowyer. His victory also was popular with the fans. The party will no doubt last well into the night.

 

 

 

 

Results of the 2018 Auto Club 400

Position Car Driver Behind Laps
1 14    Clint Bowyer 500
2 18    Kyle Busch 1.146 500
3 12    Ryan Blaney 5.825 500
4 78    Martin Truex, Jr. 8.286 500
5 4    Kevin Harvick 10.627 500
6 22    Joey Logano 12.071 500
7 88    Alex Bowman 14.646 500
8 47    A.J. Allmendinger 15.234 500
9 9    Chase Elliott 15.475 500
10 2    Brad Keselowski 15.939 500
11 41    Kurt Busch 16.756 500
12 11    Denny Hamlin 16.858 500
13 21    Paul Menard 19.291 500
14 10    Aric Almirola 21.857 500
15 48    Jimmie Johnson -1 499
16 42    Kyle Larson -1 499
17 20    Erik Jones -3 497
18 19    Daniel Suarez -3 497
19 31    Ryan Newman -3 497
20 24    William Byron -3 497
21 34    Michael McDowell -3 497
22 13    Ty Dillon -4 496
23 37    Chris Buescher -4 496
24 95    Kasey Kahne -4 496
25 38    David Ragan -5 495
26 1    Jamie McMurray -5 495
27 72    Cole Whitt -7 493
28 96    D.J. Kennington -7 493
29 15    Ross Chastain -7 493
30 3    Austin Dillon -7 493
31 55    J.J. Yeley -7 493
32 32    Matt DiBenedetto -12 488
33 6    Trevor Bayne -14 486
34 43    Darrell Wallace, Jr. -14 486
35 51    Harrison Rhodes -18 482
36 23    Gray Gaulding -19 481
37 17    Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. -19 481
38 0    Landon Cassill -289 211

 

Points/Playoff Standings

Position Driver Points Wins
1 Kevin Harvick* 212 3
2 Martin Truex Jr. (2) 249 1
3 Clint Bowyer* 210 1
4 Austin Dillon 148 1
5 Kyle Busch (1) 257 0
6 Ryan Blaney (3)* 233 0
7 Joey Logano* 232 0
8 Brad Keselowski* 226 0
9 Denny Hamlin 217 0
10 Kyle Larson 195 0
11 Kurt Busch* 177 0
12 Aric Almirola* 171 0
13 Erik Jones 152 0
14 Alex Bowman 145 0
15 Paul Menard* 139 0
16 Ryan Newman 135 0
Playoff Cut Line
17 Jimmie Johnson 121 0
18 Chase Elliott 115 0
19 AJ Allmendinger 110 0
20 William Byron 108 0

*Ford Fusion Drivers