The NASCAR STP 500 at Martinsville as it happened

MARTINSVILLE, VA - APRIL 02: Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Miller Lite Ford, leads Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M's Toyota, and Chase Elliott, driver of the #24 SunEnergy1 Chevrolet, during the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway on April 2, 2017 in Martinsville, Virginia. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

Brad Keselowski scored his first career Martinsville win Sunday.  While he led the final 43 laps he wasn’t in cruise mode. Keselowski held off Kyle Busch for the victory breaking a winless drought for Team Penske dating back to 2004, and for Ford dating back to 2002. Here’s how it all went down Sunday at Martinsville Speedway.

With a rainout on Friday, Kyle Larson was awarded the pole and led the field to the green on the outside; Chase Elliott, Martin Truex Jr., Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano filled out the top five.

Larson had the lead by turn 2, Elliott and Keselowski were side by side with Elliott taking second.  By lap 3 Keselowski was looking for second and had the spot; Jamie McMurray followed as Elliott was hung on the outside; Truex soon had fourth, Logano fifth. McMurray rook second on lap 6.  Elliott fell into sixth.  Jimmie Johnson had heavy damage to the front of his car on form the start.

The lead was up to 1.2 seconds by lap 10. It had dwindled to near a half second by lap 18.  Keselowski retook second on lap 19. Larson had caught the back of the field. He was lapping traffic by lap 21.

Keselowski caught Larson in traffic and took the lead on lap 24. He had soon stretched the lead to 1.1 seconds.  Truex took third form McMurray on lap 29.  Larson had fallen to fourth.

Lap 33 top five: Keselowski, Truex, Logano, McMurray, Larson.

Ryan Blaney took fifth on lap 35.  He took fourth on lap 41. Larson had fallen to eighth.  Logano had moved to second.  Truex was third, Blaney fourth and Elliott had recovered to fifth. Larson had fallen to 12th.

Johnson was 9th by lap 65 and looking to move forward more.  The lead for Keselowski was 1.9 seconds.

Ricky Stenhouse spun after contact with Paul Menard entering turn 3 on lap 69 and the first caution of the day came out.

The leaders all pitted on lap 71. Keselowski was out first, followed by Logano, Truex, Denny Hamlin, and Kevin Harvick. Keselowski and Logano were both penalized; Keselowski for speeding, Logano for a crew member over the wall too soon.  Both were sent to the back. Blaney restarted 20th after issues with his pit stop.

The restart came on lap 77 Truex led, followed by Hamlin, Elliott, Kyle Busch and Johnson. Truex held the lead Hamlin maintained second.   Harvick grabbed third, Elliott fourth, Johnson fifth.

Kyle Busch took fifth on lap 81. Blaney had charged to ninth.

Kyle Busch took fourth on lap 86; McMurray took fifth, but Elliott gabbed it back two laps later.

Hamlin took the lead on lap 89.  Kyle Busch took third on lap 91.

Blaney charge to sixth passing two cars on lap 100. McMurray was showing smoke from the left rear after contact with Johnson.  Kyle Busch took second on lap 103. Blaney took fifth on lap 104.

McMurray’s tire let go on lap 106, spun entering turn 3, hitting the wall hard and destroying the car. Caution number 2 came out.

The leaders pitted, while Johnson stayed out.  Hamlin was the first off pit road, followed by Larson, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Austin Dillon; all took only two tires. Kyle Busch with four tires came out fifth.

The top four on the restart had stayed out. Truex, Johnson, Keselowski, and Ty Dillon. Hamlin lined up fifth.

Green came back out on lap 117.  Truex had the lead by turn 1, Johnson, Keselowski and Hamlin followed. Johnson and Keselowski were soon side by side for second.  Hamlin was close behind.

Keselowski had second by lap 120; Hamlin was looking on Johnson for third; he had the spot on lap 121.  Kyle Busch was fifth.

Earnhardt spun on lap 123 exiting turn 2 from 10th after contact with Blaney; caution three flew.  Earnhardt had no damage and contact.  Earnhardt was among the few who pitted.

Green came out on lap 127. Truex took the lead, Hamlin and Keselowski dueled for second. Hamlin made contact with Keselowski and took the spot. The stage ended with Truex in the lead after a wild scramble for the tenth spot.

Top 10 Stage 1: Truex, Hamlin, Kyle Busch, Keselowski, Elliott, Larson, Blaney, Johnson, Austin Dillon and Clint Bowyer.

Kyle Busch, Elliott, Blaney and Logano stayed out, the rest pitted. Austin Dillon was out first with two tires, Truex second with four, followed by Menard with two tires, Larson with four and Hamlin with four.

The top 6 had stayed out, Truex lined up 15th.   The top five: Kyle Busch, Elliott, Blaney, Logano and Erik Jones.

Green came back out on lap 141. Busch took the lead, Elliott fell into second, Blaney third, Logano fourth.  Daniel Suarez sustained heavy damage on the restart and was forced to pit.

Elliott took the lead on lap 146. Logano took third two laps later.  Busch retook the lead on lap 151. Truex was 10th by lap 163. The lead was 1.6 seconds for Busch. Blaney was reporting smoke in the cockpit from a possible left front tire run.

Earnhardt Jr. was sixth by lap 166. He took fifth from Jones on lap 171.

Johnson went to sixth on lap 190.  The lead was just over a second.

In heavy traffic on lap 197, Elliott had caught Busch up front.

Kevin Harvick running 23rd, went a lap down on lap 205. Johnson took fifth on lap 209, Keselowski followed then took the spot from Johnson a lap later.  Keselowski took fourth on lap 222’ Johnson followed.

Larson in 20th was put a lap down on lap 228.

Logano lost a left rear tire on lap 232 and was forced to pit. He came back out on lap 235 in 30th, two laps down.

The lead for Kyle Busch was just was over two seconds. It was over 4 seconds by lap 241.

On lap 255, Kyle Busch was fighting his way through lapped cars; he made contact with Stenhouse. He got past Stenhouse, but Stenhouse came back and hit Busch exiting turn 4; Elliott was able to charge past and win the stage, Busch hung on for second.

Top 10 Stage 2: Elliott, Kyle Busch, Keselowski, Johnson, Blaney, Earnhardt, Matt Kenseth, Jones, Trevor Bayne, Kasey Kahne.

The leaders all pitted.  Elliott was out first followed by Kyle Busch, Johnson, Keselowski and Earnhardt. Blaney had issues on his stop and came out 17th.

The green came out on lap 273. Busch took the lead on the outside, Elliott fell into second.  There was still smoke coming from a left rear tire rub for Busch.  Keselowski was third, Johnson fourth.

NASCAR called a caution, number 6, on lap 279 for debris. Hamlin, Larson and Blaney among those few who pitted.

Green came out on lap 283. Kyle Busch went back to the lead as Elliott and Keselowski were side by side behind.  Kenseth was close behind.

Keselowski had second by lap 288.

A crash in turn 1 on lap 289 brought out caution seven.  Austin Dillon made contact with Jones, and was hit by Hamlin.  cars behind caught some damage from getting stacked up, the worst being Kurt Busch.  All were able to continue and those with damage pitted.

Green came out on lap 295.  Busch took the lead, as Keselowski fell into second’ Kenseth was looking for third from Elliott. Elliott held him off.

Caution came back out again, number 8, on lap 296 for Kurt Busch who had too much damage, and slid into the wall in turn 3.  Hamlin, and Blaney were among those who pitted.

Green came out on lap 303. Busch went back to the lead, Keselowski, and Elliott lined up behind.

Blaney pitted with heavy damage on lap 305 after contact with Logano. The incident started after Danica Patrick and Chris Buescher got together and Buescher was sent up into Blaney.

Gray Gaulding spun exiting turn 1 on lap 309, caution nine flew.  Logano got the free pass and was back on the lead lap. Several cars deeper in the field pitted including Earnhardt, the leaders stayed out.

Green came out on lap 314; Busch led again, Keselowski fell into second.  Elliott, and Kenseth lined up behind.  Johnson was fifth.

Johnson took fourth on lap 323. AJ Allmendinger took fifth from Kenseth on lap 330.

Caution 10 came out on lap 334 when Reed Sorenson had a left rear tire go down entering turn 3 and spun.

The leaders all pitted with the exception of Hamlin and Stenhouse, both of whom were on the lead lap.  Busch was out first followed by Keselowski, Elliott (who slowed to let Keselowski by), Johnson, and Kenseth.

Hamlin and Stenhouse were the leaders when the green came back out on lap 339. Hamlin jumped to the lead but Busch shot by with fresh tires and retook the lead; Elliott followed. Kenseth also got around Hamlin for third Keselowski for fourth.  Larson took fifth.  Hamlin took sixth, Stenhouse fell back to 11th.

Hamlin was 13th, Stenhouse 16th, two laps later.

Larson took fourth on lap 350. Kenseth went back by on lap 354, Johnson followed.  Allmendinger and Earnhardt soon followed and Larson was 8th.  The lead up front was just over a second. There were 22 cars on the lead lap.  Logano was back in the top 10 by lap 365.

Logano was 8th by lap 375.

Keselowski was looking for second by lap 381. Jones pitted with a flat tire on lap 383.

Jeffrey Earnhardt lost a right front tire exiting turn 2 and hit the wall on lap 391, caution 11 came out.

The leaders all pitted. Busch was out first, Elliott second, followed by Keselowski, Kenseth and Johnson.  Bayne, Aric Almirola, and Earnhardt were penalized for speeding. Earnhardt re-pitted with a possible loose lug nut.

Green came out on lap 399. There were 21 cars on the lead lap.  Busch too the lead, Keselowski fell into second Elliott worked past Johnson for third.  Up front, Keselowski was on the rear bumper of Busch.  Behind Bowyer was fighting hard and was soon in sixth.

Keselowski was able to get the lead on lap 405.

Caution 12 came out on lap 406 when Matt Dibendedetto lost a left rear tire and hit the turn three wall hard. Harvick got back on the lead lap.  Allmendinger, Harvick, Stenhouse and Jones were among the few who pitted.

The green came out on lap 414. The front two were side by side through the entire lap Busch was finally able to grab the lead exiting turn 2 on the next lap.  Elliott, Johnson, and Kenseth followed. Behind them several cars were involved in a crash. Caution 13 came out.  Hamlin and Patrick got together entering turn three; behind Earnhardt got into the back of Kahne, and Almirola spun out. Earnhardt went to the garage and was done for the day.  Also damaged was Bayne.  Larson pitted as did Allmendinger.

The restart came on lap 426.  Busch took a clear lead on the inside.  Elliott fought off Kenseth to third.

Keselowski dove into turn 3 to retake the lead on lap 428.

Truex in 7th was spun in turn 3 on lap 431 and caution 14 came out. He had no damage and continued.  Kenseth and Truex pitted.  Logano was fifth.

The restart came on lap 437; Keselowski chose to restart on the outside lane. He took a clear lead and Busch and Dillon battled for second; Busch had the spot by the end of the laps.  Elliot was fourth, Bowyer fifth.

The top four were all within a second of each other.

Busch was looking for the lead and had it on lap 444. The top four were still within a second.

By lap 448; the top two were nose to tail and had broken away.

Elliott was looking for third by lap 452.

Keselowski retook the lead on lap 457.  Elliott took third three laps later.  Logano followed into fourth.

Keselowski was soon stretching out his lead.

With 33 to go, the lead as nearing a second.  It was over a second with 28 to go.

The lead was 1.6 seconds with 20 laps to go. Elliott was gaining on Busch for second.

Keselowski was leading by 1.8 seconds with ten laps to go. Busch had pulled away from Elliott.  It was over two seconds with five to go.

There was no drama in the closing laps as Keselowski won his first race at Martinsville the first for team Penske in 13 years and the first for Ford in the NASCAR Cup series since 2002.  Kyle Busch was second, Elliott third, Logano fourth and Austin Dillon fifth.

Allmendinger was sixth, Bowyer seventh, followed by Ryan Newman, Kenseth and Stenhouse rounding out the top 10.

The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series heads to Texas Motor Speedway for next Sunday’s O’Reilly Auto Parts 500. Live coverage will be on Fox starting at 1:30 p.m.

Greg Engle
About Greg Engle 7421 Articles
Greg is a published award winning sportswriter who spent 23 years combined active and active reserve military service, much of that in and around the Special Operations community. Greg is the author of "The Nuts and Bolts of NASCAR: The Definitive Viewers' Guide to Big-Time Stock Car Auto Racing" and has been published in major publications across the country including the Los Angeles Times, the Cleveland Plain Dealer and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He was also a contributor to Chicken Soup for the NASCAR Soul, published in 2010, and the Christmas edition in 2016. He wrote as the NASCAR, Formula 1, Auto Reviews and National Veterans Affairs Examiner for and has appeared on Fox News. He holds a BS degree in communications, a Masters degree in psychology and is currently a PhD candidate majoring in psychology. He is currently the weekend Motorsports Editor for Autoweek.