Kyle Busch completes weekend sweep at Martinsville
MARTINSVILLE, VA. >> Kyle Busch finally figured out Martinsville Speedway in his truck victory on Saturday.
He dominated it on Sunday, leading 352 laps and pulling away on a restart with 11 laps to go and outrunning AJ Allmendinger to the finish for his first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series victory on the series' smallest, oldest oval, and a sweep of the two-race weekend.
Busch, who won for the first time in 31 starts at Martinsville in the truck race on Saturday, earned his 35th Cup victory on the season's first short track. The race was run in bright sunshine, but cool temperatures that never let the track get quite as sticky as it normally does.
The option to pick the inside or outside line as the leader on the final restart was great for Busch, but not for teammate Matt Kenseth.
"That was the key to the race, being able to restart on the bottom like that," Busch said after choosing the inside line, putting Kenseth outside.
"We all talked as a group earlier this morning about how we were going to do that and what we were going to do and we all said, with 10 to go, it's pretty much off limits. It was (11) to go, so it was pretty much right on the brink there, so, 'Sorry Matt."'
When the green flag flew, Busch sailed off, Allmendinger beat Kenseth to the inside position and Kenseth got shuffled back to 15th.
Busch, meanwhile, led the most laps at Martinsville since Bobby Hamilton was out front for 378 on April 20, 1998.
Allmendinger was second, followed by Kyle Larson, Austin Dillon and Brad Keselowski.
"I was kind of hoping we'd stay green the last 120 laps," Allmendinger said. "I figured that wasn't going to happen, but I was praying we had a shot at that because I felt like if that happened, we had a great chance to win the race."
Several other drivers who pitted before the final restart started in the sixth row, or further back, of side-by-side racing, and while Larson and Keselowski recovered for top-five finishes, others got caught up in traffic and that allowed Dillon to hang on out of nowhere.
It was the second straight race at Martinsville, long a Kenseth nemesis, was a huge disappointment for the former series champion.
Last spring, he crashed race leader Joey Logano with 46 laps to go, earning himself a two-race suspension. This time, he seemed poised to challenge Busch for the lead with 35 laps to go until a blown tire by Jamie McMurray caused a caution, bunching up the field.
"I was a little worried there toward the end before that last caution came out that Matt was catching me," Busch said. "He was on me pretty good and I wasn't sure that I had enough brake in order to handle the rest of the day, but fortunately we got a yellow there."
The race also was a lost day for Denny Hamlin, one of the favorites going in and the defending champion.
Hamlin was running fifth after 221 laps after overcoming a pit road penalty until his car lost control heading into Turn 1 and slammed into the wall, sending him to the garage. He never returned, and finished 42nd.
CHECKLIST: Busch has won on every Sprint Cup Series track except three: Kansas, Charlotte and Pocono.
SOMETHING FOR JOEY: Joey Logano came into the day having won three consecutive poles here and hoping to turn that success into success in the race. But very quickly, it wasn't happening. He faded quickly after the opening laps, was lapped on the 77th circuit and never really contended. At one point, he was racing with his damaged hood turned up, obscuring his view. He did rally to finish 11th.
THE LONG RUN: The first short track race of the season uncharacteristically featured several long green flag runs.
It went 81 laps after a spin by Dale Earnhardt Jr. just five laps in and later had green flag runs lasting 78 and 86 laps.
WHO'S HOT: Allmendinger, eighth two weeks ago at Fontana, has climbed from 20th to 12th in points over the past two races.
WHO'S NOT: Since winning for the eighth time at Martinsville in April 2013, Jimmie Johnson has gone six races in a row here without visiting Victory Lane, and his ninth-place run Sunday ended a string of three straight races outside the top 10.
THEY SAID IT: "I passed Jimmie Johnson like five times at Martinsville; that's pretty cool!" — Allmendinger.