Martinsville Speedway, Ridgeway, VA — June 10, 2020
Tonight’s Blue-Emu Maximum Pain Relief 500 will make history at Martinsville Speedway. It will be the first Cup Series race to be run under the lights at the last remaining track from NASCAR’s inaugural season. Installation of the lights a few years ago makes the event possible. While other race events have been held at Martinsville after sunset, this is the first time for NASCAR’s premier series.
Ryan Blaney sits on the pole for tonight’s race, Aric Almirola lines up beside him on the front row after the blind draw for starting positions. Sunday’s winner at Atlanta, Kevin Harvick, starts 10th. Brad Keselowski is the defending champion of the 2019 Spring event at Martinsville.
Stage lengths are 130/130/240 laps. The 500 laps are equal to 263 miles around the .526 mile speedway.
Almirola took the lead heading into Turn 1 at the start. But, the race did not stay green long as Austin Dillon cut a tire on the opening lap and the flat caused damage to the panels in the right rear wheel well, bringing out the caution for debris scattered on the track.
Joey Logano drove to the front after the race restarted and held the top spot until the competition caution, mandated by NASCAR, displayed on Lap 61. By that time Logano had lapped all but 18 cars.
Logano led the field off pit road and immediately resumed the lead when the race restarted. Clint Bowyer took 2nd, the remainder of the top 5 was Elliott, William Byron, and Kurt Busch.
Timmy Hill stalled in the middle of the pit road forcing the caution to be displayed on Lap 112. The lead lap cars pitted for fresh tires for the final sprint to the end of the Stage. Corey LaJoie stayed out and inherited the lead, Bubba Wallace only took two tires and will restart 2nd.
Logano made short work of both LaJoie and Wallace. Bowyer and Jimmie Johnson followed Logano past both. Those three drivers finished 1-2-3 under the green and white checkered flag at the end of Stage 1
Stage One Results
|4||19||Martin Truex Jr.|
*Ford Mustang Drivers
Martin Truex Jr. missed the commitment line when entering pit road during Stage ending stops, a big mistake for a veteran driver. He will start at the rear of the field for Stage 2.
Logano, Bowyer, and Johnson exited pit road as the leaders and the trio drove away from the rest of the field on the restart. On Lap 202, Jimmie Johnson passed Logano for the lead.
Will Martinsville be the track at which Johnson breaks his 105 race winless streak. He has 9 grandfather clock trophies for his wins here, 2nd only to Richard Petty who won 15 times at the track.
Johnson held on for the Stage win, with pole-sitter Ryan Blaney fighting his way back to 2nd, and Logano 3rd. The last three drivers that won Stage 2 at Martinsville went on to win the race.
Stage Two Results
*Ford Mustang Drivers
The Final Stage
Johnson and Blaney restarted on the front row for the Final Stage and they raced side-by-side for 3 laps until Blaney edged out front. Logano followed his teammate into 2nd place. A few laps later Harvick and Elliott both passed Johnson, who settled into 5th.
With just under 200 laps to go, Blaney passed Logano for the lead and Brad Keselowski moved into 3rd place. the Team Penske Ford Mustangs were running 1-2-3.
On Lap 325 David Starr spun with some help from Erik Jones bumper bringing out the caution and allowing everyone on the lead lap to pit for fresh tires. Logano exited with the lead followed by Keselowski.
Blaney dropped to 7th after some issues with his pit crew. The front tire changer for Blaney collided with the jackman and dropped his air gun as they were moving from the right side of the car to the left. Costing them the top spot. That error was compounded by a crewman being over the wall too soon as Blaney was entering his pit stall. The penalty? Starting from the rear of the field. Possibly costing Blaney a shot at the victory.
With 150 laps to go, Keselowski was wearing the paint off the nose his car and off the rear bumper of Logano the leader. Keselowski got inside his teammate a few times, but could not complete the pass. As they battled Elliott and Truex joined the battle for the lead.
As the leaders encountered heavy lapped traffic, Keselowski was able to pass Logano by trapping him behind a slower car. Truex took advantage of the move to also get in front of Logano. Just 5 laps later, Truex passed Keselowski to lead for the first time during the evening.
Barring another caution, teams will likely have to pit with between 50 to 25 laps remaining in the race. Not to be, Quinn Houff spun into the outside wall on Lap 396 bringing out the caution. He was 18 laps down at the time. Teams can now finish the race without another visit to pit road.
During yellow flag pit stops, Austin Dillon had to be removed from his car. Dillon was suffering from heat exhaustion, the inner wheel well crush panel damaged by the early tire failure allowed heat from the rear of the car to enter the driver’s compartment.
Ironically Dillon’s team had a relief driver on hand prior to the race as Dillon’s wife was expected to deliver their first baby at any time. The driver was A.J. Allmendinger, winner of last Saturday’s Xfinity Series race at Atlanta. He was released when Dillon started the event and no labor pains where reported at home.
The restart featured Truex and Keselowski on the front row, followed by Logano and Elliott directly behind them. As the front of the pack settled into single file racing, it was Truex, Logano, Keselowski, Alex Bowman, and Elliott as the top 5. The driver to watch? Ryan Blaney made up his deficit from the pit stop penalty and sat lurking in 6th place.
With 50 laps to go, Team Penske was again lined up nose to tail. Blaney had worked his way back into 2nd followed by Keselowski, and Logano. Chase Elliott ran in the 5th position. Blaney trailed leader Truex by three seconds. Would he have enough left in his car to make a run back to the top spot?
With 30 laps to go, Truex had stretched the lead to four seconds, about the length of a straightaway at Martinsville. Without a caution, it appeared Blaney would not be able to catch him.
Truex was never challenged and continued to pull away for his first victory of the season. After crossing the finish line, the speedway turned their LED lights into a flashing strobe display congratulating the winner.
Results of the Blue-Emu Maximum Pain Relief 500 from Martinsville Speedway
|1||19||Martin Truex Jr.||–||500|
|21||47||Ricky Stenhouse Jr.||-3||497|
|25||38||John Hunter Nemechek||-3||497|