One thing that I have noticed over the years when it comes to the Playoffs in NASCAR, the lone short track race is a major deciding event in who is going after a championship. Back in 2011, when Tony Stewart won his third race of seven in the playoffs, he declared that Carl Edwards, “Better be worried”, as Edwards was the guy he was competing closest with for that title.
At the same time, it also is a knockout when it comes to someone being taken out of the title picture. Matt Kenseth certainly knows that when he dumped Joey Logano two years ago and took his title opportunity away.
It also can be the last hurrah for a driver who is chasing a title. That same race Logano got dumped, Jeff Gordon won his final career race at the track he considered his favorite.
Move ahead to this year, and all those emotions are bundled up into one event. Not to mention, this time was the first, although unexpected, time Martinsville got to treat its fans to some night racing. Over the summer the track installed brand new lighting, something never used at the small facility before, and it made for quite the visual.
What wasn’t a great visual was when the race was coming to a close, and Denny Hamlin decided that Chase Elliott was not going to win, despite the young sophomore driver getting the better restart.
Afterwards, the cool-headed Elliott put Hamlin in the wall, and had him ride that wall till the pit road entrance. The two exchanged words, with Elliott clear as day saying to his fellow competitor, “You wrecked me.” Now, in a sense I can agree, and disagree with that statement. On the one hand, I agree he did wreck him. In the video, clearly Hamlin was riding his bumper entering the third turn, and never let up until the No. 24 hit the wall.
On the other hand, Hamlin made a normal racing move and stayed to the inside corner of Elliott’s car. Had Hamlin decided to put the bumper to the right-rear corner of the car, that would cause Elliott to go head-long into the outside wall, probably hurting not just the car, but the driver too.
At that point, it would be a dirty move.
But, I’m not a driver, nor am I wanting to be. It’s easy to be a Monday morning driver, but not so much when it’s in the moment. That is Martinsville, and probably always will be. Short track racing at its finest.
STAGE 1 WINNER: Brad Keselowski
STAGE 2 WINNER: Brad Keselowski
RESULTS: 1-Kyle Busch 2-Truex Jr. 3-Bowyer 4-Keselowski 5-Harvick 6-Bayne 7-Hamlin 8-Blaney 9-Kenseth 10-Stenhouse Jr.
NOTABLE FINISHES: 11-Earnhardt Jr. 12-Johnson 22-Kurt Busch 24-Logano 27-Elliott
CAUTIONS: 11 for 74 laps. Laps: 37-44 (#13, 17 and 95 Incident-T2); 63-68 (#38 Spin-T4); 88-93 (#10 and 47 Incident-T2); 132-139 (Stage 1 Conclusion); 262-271 (Stage 2 Conclusion); 304-313 (#42 Incident-BS); 317-321 (#77 Spin-T4); 362-367 (#34 Spin-T4); 459-464 (#66 Incident-T2); 493-496 (#22 Incident-T2); 499-503 (#11 and 24 Incident-T3).
LEAD CHANGES: 16 among 6 drivers. J. Logano 1-48; B. Keselowski 49-78; J. Logano 79-89; J. Johnson 90-113; B. Keselowski 114-134; K. Busch 135-257; B. Keselowski 258-265; K. Busch 266-324; C. Elliott 325-362; B. Keselowski 363-385; C. Elliott 386-458; K. Busch 459; C. Elliott 460-470; B. Keselowski 471-496; C. Elliott 497; D. Hamlin 498-504; K. Busch 505.
TIME OF RACE: 3 Hrs, 32 Mins, 47 Secs.
AVERAGE SPEED: 74.902 MPH
MARGIN OF VICTORY: 0.141 Seconds
PLAYOFF STANDINGS: 1. Truex Jr, 4117; 2. Kyle Busch, -17*; 3. Keselowski, -38; 4. Harvick, -64; 5. Johnson, -67; 6. Blaney, -70; 7. Hamlin, -72; 8. Elliott, -90; 9. Larson, -1880; 10. Kenseth, -1902; 11. Kahne, -1967; 12. Dillon, -1969; 13. Stenhouse Jr, -1971; 14. McMurray, -1971; 15. Kurt Busch, -1978; 16. Newman, -1987.
*Locked into Championship Round