Monster Energy NASCAR Cup STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway
Keselowski recovers from pit-lane speeding penalty to win the race
April 2, 2017: Brad Keselowski started his Penske Racing Ford in forth place on the second row after qualifying was rained out but by lap 24 he had taken over the lead from Kyle Larson and it looked like he had a good chance to win this race. When, during the round of pit stops during the first caution, he was penalized for speeding and he had to go to the back of the field, a seemingly hopeless position to be in at this track where passing is so difficult. However, he kept on working and he gradually made it up to the front of the field, in second place behind Kyle Busch, coming off the seventh caution which ended on lap 294 of the 500-lap race. And, except for one instance when Denny Hamlin took the lead during a sequence of yellow-flag pit stops, these two led the rest of the way to the checker.
Keselowski passed Busch for the lead on lap 406 but, almost immediately the 12th yellow flew and these two lined up alongside each other for the restart. When the green flew, Busch took the lead and held it through the next caution which came on lap 419, but on that next restart, Keselowski soon prevailed and passed Busch for the lead – and he held onto the lead through the 14th and final caution on lap 432. Indeed as the laps wound down, Keselowski's lead over Busch gradually increased and he took the checker by a 1.8-second margin. Busch later explained that his last set of tires seemed to make him run slower and he was unable to match the Penske driver's pace in those closing laps.
Chase Elliott, who had won the truck race the day before, seemed to have a newfound confidence at this track which had given him trouble in previous years. He finished in third place on Busch's tail. Joey Logano also suffered from a pit-lane penalty early in the race but he recovered to finish fourth while Austin Dillon in the No. 3 Chevrolet was a strong fifth.
The next NASCAR MENCS race will be held at Texas Motor Speedway next Sunday, April 9th.
NASCAR Camping World Trucks Alpha Energy Solutions 250 at Martinsville Speedway
Carpetbagger Chase Elliott bests his GMS teammate Johnny Sauter
April 1, 2017: Chase Elliott was the only NASCAR Cup driver in Saturday's truck series race at Martinsville and he stole the honours and the points that might otherwise have gone to Johnny Sauter who is a full-season driver with the Gallagher Motor Sports team who gave Elliott his one-off ride.
Elliott led the first 75 laps of the 250-lap race but then Christopher Bell, driving a Kyle Busch entry, took over the lead for six laps after he took on only two tires during the third caution. When the fourth caution came a few laps later Sauter lined up alongside Bell and, on the restart, he took the lead - and he led for the next 62 laps.
However, when the sixth yellow flew on lap 119, Bell and Elliott chose to pit when most of the others stayed out. This dropped them to 13th and 14th and with them hoping that this alternate pit strategy was going to pay off later in the race. And so it did. The next caution came just 18 laps later and these two stayed out and took the restart at the front of the field with Bell ahead of Elliott while Sauter, who pitted this time, dropped to 12th place.
Bell held onto his lead ahead of Elliott through the next two cautions and for the next 90 laps and it looked like he was going to be able to hang on to take the victory over Elliott. Then, with 17 laps left to run and the finish almost in sight, Bell got tangled up with Austin Cindric whom he was lapping and he fell to third as he recovered, letting Elliott and Sauter (who, by now had caught up to his teammate) move up to first and second. This set up the finish order: Elliott, Sauter and Bell.
Sauter is the defending truck series champion while Bell is showing great promise this year. No doubt they will go on to battle it out for the rest of the season while Elliott, having upstaged the truck series regulars here, will go back to the Cup series races.
Rookie Noah Gragson, another Kyle Busch driver, made a good showing to finish in fourth place while Ty Dillon, another "just visiting" driver from the Xfinity series, was fifth.
Stewart Friesen, the Canadian driver from Niagara-on-the-Lake ran as high as tenth early in the race but, in the end, he finished in 25th place.
The next round of the truck series will be held at Kansas Speedway on May 12th.
Box Score: NCWTS Alpha Energy Solutions 250 at Martinsville Speedway
Box Score: NASCAR MENCS STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway
MENCS: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images/NASCAR
NCWTS: Sean Gardner/Getty Images/NASCAR