Martinsville Race Review
The tight racing conditions of the famed small track known as the paperclip was only one of the challenges facing Joe Gibbs Racing’s three teams in today’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Tums Fast Relief 500 at Martinsville Speedway.
Denny Hamlin would overcome two pit road speed penalties and appeared set to race for the win only to have his day ended early by an electrical failure caused by a broken master switch with just over 100 laps remaining. Meanwhile Kyle Busch would overcome an early spin caused by a right rear tire that was going flat to finish second and Joey Logano would battle through a pit road speeding penalty of his own to finish 16th.
Busch started the No. 18 M&M’s Halloween Toyota in third and was able to hold that position through the early portion of the race. The 18 team would make the call to remain out with the leader at the time Jeff Gordon during a round of pit stops on lap 130 and he would settle into second following the restart. However the tires began to wear and Busch would give up several spots to the other leaders who were on fresher tires. He would spin on lap 149 when his right rear tire began to go flat, but Busch managed to keep the car off the wall and free of major damage. The spin would force him to restart in the back of the field and he would run 28th on lap 163. Busch would slowly make his way back into the top ten despite dealing with tight handling conditions for his No. 18 Camry and by lap 300 was holding steady in the seventh position. Busch would climb his way into the top five and managed to race his way to an impressive second-place finish while battling eventual race winner Jimmie Johnson for the lead over the final five laps.
Logano qualified the No. 20 Home Depot/Redbeacon Toyota 14th and was able to drive into the top ten during the race’s early laps. Tight conditions would drop him back to his starting position of 14th once again, but it would be a pit road speeding penalty on lap 100 that would force the Home Depot/Redbeacon Camry to lose significant track position and force him to restart at the back of the lead lap cars. Logano would manage to drive his way back up to run 16th on lap 220, but would suffer from an extended pit stop just a short time later when an air gun broke during the tire change. Logano would have to come back down pit road to ensure all the lugnuts were tight forcing him to restart 30th on lap 234. Just 40 laps later Logano would run 17th as adjustments by the team appeared to help him turn better on the short track. He would climb his way back inside the top 15 and would pit late for fresh tires to make one final run in his Home Depot Redbeacon Camry. Logano would get caught in traffic over the final laps which limited his ability to pass many cars over the final few laps and he would go on to finish 16th.
It was a frustrating day for Hamlin who came to Martinsville hoping to take a giant step forward toward a championship. For much of the day he proved to have the fight of a champion as he overcame two pit road speeding penalties, but in the end it would be an electrical failure with a broken master switch resulting in a loss of power that would spoil his day. Hamlin started his No. 11 FedEx Express Toyota in the fifth position and would run in the top five through the first green flag run. A pit road speeding penalty while entering the pits on the first stop on lap 48 would penalize Hamlin and force him to restart 31st. The setback did little to deter Hamlin however as he methodically worked his way to the front once again. He put his FedEx Camry back into the top ten by lap 112 and Hamlin would complete the fun to the front by taking the lead following a restart on lap 165. Hamlin would fall back into second, but his FedEx crew appeared to give him the top spot back on the next round of pit stops until word came that NASCAR was penalizing the No. 11 Camry for speeding on pit road once again. Hamlin would be forced to drop back to the end of the lead lap cars again and this time restarted 28th. The setback only allowed the Virginia native to showcase his talents in his home state once again. He would be back into the top ten by the midpoint of the race and passed the No. 48 car to claim a spot back in the top five on lap 280 and was up to fourth on lap 300. He would regain the lead on lap 354 during a round of green flag pit stops. Once the cycle was complete Hamlin was back in third in lap 372 when he would radio in that all his gauges had cut off. He made the move to the backup battery in hopes that the issue would be resolved and it appeared to work for a lap or two as he raced in the eighth position. The problem continued however and just a few laps later Hamlin would completely lose power to his car and come to a stop on the track. The FedEx crew would diagnose the issue as a broken master switch that controls power to the entire car. The team made the repairs to get him back on the track, but the damage was down and Hamlin would go on to be scored in 33rd and fell to fifth in points in the Chase, 49 points behind the leader.
Jimmie Johnson earned the victory, while Kyle Busch was second, Kasey Kahne third, Aric Almirola fourth, and Clint Bowyer rounded out the top five. There were 11 total cautions for a total of 64 laps with 22 lead changes among nine different drivers.
With just three races remaining in the season the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series heads to Texas Motor Speedway for the AAA Texas 500 next Sunday. Live broadcast coverage by ESPN will start at 2 PM ET (race begins at 3PM ET). Sirius NASCAR radio channel 90 will also provide live coverage.
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