Sunday Martinsville Notebook

(Getty Images Photo) By REID SPENCER

 

MARTINSVILLE, Va. – Brad Keselowski’s race—and perhaps his quest for a second NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship—came undone on Lap 435 of Sunday’s Goody’s Headache Relief Shot 500 at Martinsville Speedway.

With Keselowski and teammate Joey Logano trying to coordinate a restart—Logano choosing the outside lane and dropping down in front of Keselowski’s No. 2 Team Penske Ford—the field stacked up behind them.

Kurt Busch’s Chevrolet rammed the back of Keselowski’s car, knocking it out of shape. Unable to control his Ford, Keselowski tangled with Matt Kenseth, and both cars sustained severe damage in the wreck, So did Busch, who slammed into the inside wall on the backstretch.

“I got hit from behind and (that) pushed me into the 20 (Kenseth), and my right front wheel hit Kenseth’s left-rear, and it just broke the right-front suspension off the car,” said Keselowski, who led 143 of the 500 laps and at one point held an 8.9-second advantage on Logano in second place.

“The car wouldn’t turn and just kept going straight until I couldn’t do anything, and I started wrecking everybody. I just didn’t have any steering wheel left.”

Nineteen laps later, Kenseth drove Logano into the Turn 1 wall, retribution for an incident at Kansas two weeks earlier, when Logano spun Kenseth, who was leading the race with five laps left.

KYLE BUSCH PERSEVERES TO TOP-FIVE FINISH

Before the halfway point of Sunday’s Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Martinsville, Kyle Busch was in jeopardy of joining teammates Denny Hamlin and Matt Kenseth, eliminated last Sunday at Talladega, on the Chase sidelines.

Busch hit a patch of moisture on the track, spun on Lap 171 and damaged the front suspension of his No. 18 Joe Gibbs racing Toyota. He dropped to 28th in the running order for a restart on Lap 180.

But Busch worked his way through the field, ultimately finishing fifth and leaving Martinsville tied with Martin Truex Jr. for second in the Chase standings behind race winner Jeff Gordon.

“I screwed us up early in the race and touched that water down there in Turn 1 and spun out with the 3 car (Austin Dillon), so that was my bad,” Busch said. “I bent up the front end of the car and it was just never right from there on out, but we persevered and we just made the changes that we needed to make for this car for our conditions that we had.

“The car there at the end was good enough for a top five, so I’m glad we finished there. Everybody is so equal here and when it’s those last sort of restarts like that you are just going for everything you’ve got – whoever’s in front of you, get them out of the way. All in all, good day for us. Real proud of this team and everything that we’ve been doing this year. Hopefully we keep it going.”

SAFETY PLAY PAYS OFF FOR KEVIN HARVICK

Jockeying for position at the exit from pit road could have been costly for Kevin Harvick, but an opportune caution helped the defending NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion salvage an eighth-place finish and kept his hopes for a second straight title very much alive.

Under caution on Lap 420, Harvick slowed at the exit from pit road to try to gerrymander himself into an odd-numbered position in the running order—which would have put him on the inside row for the subsequent restart on lap 426.

Instead, he and Stewart-Haas Racing teammate Kurt Busch collided, damaging the sheet metal surrounding the left front tire of Harvick’s No. 4 Chevrolet. But the caution flag flew again on Lap 430, enabling Harvick to bring his car to pit road for repairs.

“We got run into there, coming out of the pits and I couldn’t really tell how bad it was,” Harvick said. “But (crew chief) Rodney (Childers), I could tell the panic in his voice. And luckily, the caution came out, because I saw the smoke coming out of the left front tire. But, it was a good call to come back in.

“We were able to get a couple of good restarts there; and then with the front smashed-in, and everything happening, it was just way too tight back there in traffic. But all in all, it was a good day with a lot of chaotic things going on, on the race track. So we just needed to finish that one where we were running; not having a chance to win, we just needed to capitalize on some other peoples’ bad day.”