Race Report for Martinsville Speedway
Martinsville Speedway was missing one of its favorites this afternoon with Denny Hamlin forced to sit out today’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series STP Gas Booster 500 while recovering from a back injury suffered two weeks ago at Auto Club Speedway.
NASCAR veteran driver Mark Martin would fill in for Hamlin and was able to help the FedEx team to a 10th-place finish, while both Kyle Busch and Matt Kenseth took their turns at the front of the field over the course of the race and before bringing home fifth and 14th-place finishes respectively.
Busch qualified the No. 18 M&Ms Toyota 11th and patiently worked his way to the front of the field. A great pit stop under caution by the M&Ms crew allowed Busch to restart in the second position on lap 91 and he would pass Jimmie Johnson to take his first lead of the day. He would hold the lead for 12 laps. Busch would remain in the top three over the next 150 laps before passing his teammate in the 20 car to regain the lead just past the halfway mark. Busch would lead twice for a total of 56 laps on the day. He would restart third on lap 368 and would hold onto fifth over the next green flag run as he battled handling conditions on his M&Ms Camry that shifted from earlier in the race. A caution with just over 50 laps to go would allow final adjustments to the car and Busch would restart fourth with 42 laps to go. Busch would restart from the fourth position once again with eight laps remaining and he managed to hold off a challenge from the 2 car to come home fifth.
Mark Martin started the No. 11 FedEx Freight Toyota 35th and slowly worked his way into the top 20 over the first 150 laps. A big wreck on lap 181 occurred when the middle of the pack bunched up on a restart causing damage along the left side of the No. 11 Camry. The FedEx crew would make the necessary repairs and Martin would remain on the lead lap to race 15th at the 200 lap mark. A two-tire stop under caution would allow him to gain some needed track position and restart fourth on lap 248, but the car did not respond as hoped and those with four fresh tires were able to get around him. Fortunately another caution would come out soon and Martin would come back down pit road for four fresh tires. A problem with the jack during the stop however would cause the team a penalty for pitting outside of their box and Martin would have to restart 27th and one lap down midway through the race. Another quick caution would allow him to take the wave around just a few laps later to return to the lead lap. From there Martin was able to drive back into the top 20 and he would restart 12th with 28 laps remaining. He would line up 10th with eight laps to go and managed to hold that position for a hard fought top ten.
Kenseth qualified his No. 20 Home Depot/Husky Toyota eighth and patiently worked his way forward to race fifth after the first 100 laps. He would work his way up to third during the next green flag run and managed to hold onto the spot through lap 200. Kenseth would drive around his teammate in the 18 car and the 48 of Jimmie Johnson to take his first lead of the day on lap 224. He would hold onto the lead through several restarts over the course of the next 40 laps before give way to Busch just after the midpoint of the race. Kenseth would remain at the front of the field and restarted second on lap 368 but suddenly found a change in the handling conditions of his No. 20 Camry and would drop to sixth over the course of the next green flag run. A caution with just over 50 laps to go would allow the Home Depot Husky team to make one final change to car and Kenseth would line up sixth with 42 laps remaining. Another caution just a few laps later would set up another restart with 28 laps remaining and the 20 car still in sixth. Kenseth was running seventh when yet another caution would come out with just 14 laps to go and Jason Ratcliff would call for the 20 car to come down pit road for a four-tire stop. He would line up 15th for the final restart with eight laps remaining but was blocked in on the small track and unable to use those fresh tires to his advantage over the final short run to the checkered flag. Still it was another impressive performance by the Home Depot Husky team which led three different times for a total of 96 laps before settling for a 14th-place finish.
Jimmie Johnson won the race, followed by Clint Bowyer, Jeff Gordon, Kasey Kahne and Busch. There were 12 cautions for a total of 85 laps including a red flag stop with 13 laps remaining after an engine fire in the 78 car. There were 12 lead changes among five different drivers.