Kyle Busch dominated this afternoon at Martinsville Speedway leading 352 laps en route to his first victory of the season in today’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series’ STP 500. Meanwhile Carl Edwards battled back from a lap down to finish sixth, while Matt Kenseth finished 15th and an accident left Denny Hamlin back in 39th.
Kyle Busch started the No. 18 M&M’S 75th Anniversary Toyota from the seventh position but was fast from the outset driving his way to the front by lap 32. Busch would hold the lead through the opening round of pit stops on lap 93. He would relinquish the lead shortly after the restart to the 4 car but the change only lasted a few laps as Busch went back to the front and held the top spot until giving way to his teammate Kenseth on lap 132. He would get that lead back shortly after a restart on lap 148 before giving way again and running third on lap 200. Busch would restart second on lap 227 and was the leader when the race reached the halfway point. He would continue to lead when the afternoon’s next caution came out on lap 312. He would restart second to Kenseth on lap 321 but quickly returned to the lead with 150 to go. Busch continued a dominant afternoon restarting as the leader with 110 laps to go. A final caution with 15 laps remaining left the leaders with a decision and the M&M’S team made the call to remain out on the track. Busch managed to do the rest from there pulling away from the field on the restart with 11 laps to go and holding on to take the checkered flag. The win essentially assures the defending NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Champion place in this year’s Chase.
Carl Edwards qualified the No. 19 ARRIS Toyota in the 25th position but didn’t have the handling needed early on in the race to drive his way forward. He would fall a lap down to the leaders on the first long green flag run of the afternoon. Edwards restarted 33rd following the afternoon’s first round of pit stops on lap 93. He was up to 26th at lap 130 and was running 20th at lap 175 as he battled for the lucky dog position to try and get back on the lead lap. With the handling much improved on his ARRIS Camry, he would restart 17th as the first car a lap down on lap 227. Unfortunately by the time the caution came out on lap 312 Edwards was no longer in the lucky dog position. He would restart once again as the first car a lap down on lap 321. The caution would finally fall his way with 117 laps to go and the 19 team would receive the lucky dog designation to restart back on the lead lap. He lined up 16th with 110 to go and was running 13th with 50 laps remaining. A final caution would bring Edwards down pit road for fresh tires and he would restart eighth with 11 laps to go. The ARRIS Toyota would come home with a solid sixth-place finish.
Matt Kenseth started the No. 20 Dollar General Toyota in the ninth position and was able to drive his way into the top five over the course of the opening long green flag run. Kenseth was running fifth when a caution on lap 91 brought the leaders down pit road. He would restart third on lap 98 and held that spot through the restart before settling in to run second behind his teammate Busch on the next green flag run. Kenseth would move around the 18 for his first lead of the day on lap 132. The Dollar General Camry proved not to be as strong on the short runs as some others this afternoon and he would give the lead back to his teammate Busch on lap 147 shortly after the field restarted from another caution. He would run second at lap 200. Kenseth restarted as the leader following a caution on lap 227 and was running second at lap 250. He was running third when the afternoon’s next caution came out on lap 312. A great stop by the Dollar General crew would allow Kenseth to restart as the leader on lap 321. He would drop a couple spots to run third at lap 150 and restarted from the third position with 110 to go. Kenseth continued to run second through the final round of pit stops and lined up on the outside of his teammate Busch for a final restart with just 11 laps to go. Unfortunately the outside line proved problematic on restarts all afternoon and Kenseth was unable to make his way down into the low line causing him to drop from second to 15th at the finish. It was a disappointing finish for Kenseth who raced in the top five all afternoon and led three different times for a total of 45 laps.
Denny Hamlin started the No. 11 FedEx Express Toyota from the eighth position but didn’t quite have the handling to drive forward at the outset of the race. Hamlin held firm inside the top ten through the first 91 laps before a caution brought the leaders down pit road. NASCAR ruled that Hamlin sped on pit road forcing him to the back of the lead lap cars which left him to restart 18th on lap 98. The FedEx Camry would return to the top ten by lap 150 and was running eighth at lap 200. Hamlin was running fifth when he would get loose on lap 221 and slid up into the outside wall causing damage to the right side of his FedEx Camry. He would drive it to the garage where it was determined that the damage was too severe to repair. He would be scored in 39th for the day.
Kyle Busch captured the win, with AJ Almendinger second, Kyle Larson third, Austin Dillon fourth and Brad Keselowski rounded out the top five. There were eight cautions for a total of 51 laps and 11 lead changes among five different drivers.
The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series heads to Texas Motor Speedway next week for the season’s first Saturday night race. Live coverage on Fox will start Saturday, April 9 with begin at 7 PM (race starts at 7:30 PM ET). The race will also be carried on Sirius NASCAR radio channel 90.