The Goody’s Fast Relief 500 is about to get underway at Martinsville Speedway. The Sprint Cup series visits the shortest track on the circuit for a day of beating and banging on the half mile track. The question of the day bleeds over from yesterday with tires. The tires this week have not rubbered in the track, and have become marbles on the high side instead.
Martinsville has been the house that Denny Hamlin built over the last visits to this track. We also have to keep an eye on Jimmie Johnson to see if he can get his first win of the season today. Do not count out my fantasy pick for this week, Jeff Gordon. Jamie McMurray holds the pole position today with Ryan Newman starting second. Hamlin will start fifth, Johnson gets underway in 17th, and Gordon rolls off 21st. Fan favorite Dale Earnhardt Jr. will have some work to do in order to maintain his solid finishes he shown in past weeks, he rolls off 26th.
The green flag is out and McMurray leads them into turn one and takes the lead on the bottom. Lap two and McMurray has jumped out to a three or four car length lead. Kahne moves into second place as Newman was hung up on the high side and dropped a few positions.
Lap seven and Matt Kenseth is being penalized with a drive through penalty for changing lanes on the start of the race.
Lap 20 and McMurray has stretched his lead to about one and a half seconds. If the race stays green, McMurray will being lapping the back end of the field within a few laps.
Lap 30 and McMurray has caught the back of the field and his lead is erased. While trying to pass back markers, Kasey Kahne has moved up to his back end. Lap 32 and Kahne gets the first lead change of the day and goes to the point. Now Lap 33 and Newman gets the lead off of four. Hamlin is now right behind Newman looking for the lead. Lap 35 and Hamlin is now in the lead. No lead changes for the first 30 laps, and all of sudden things are busy at the front of the pack.
Lap 45 and Johnson has now cracked the top five. It looks like the Lowe’s team has the car working right for Jimmie at this point.
Lap 52 and we have the first caution of the day waving for David Gilliland after he cuts down a right front tire. Michael McDowell gets the free pass on this caution. The entire field will take the opportunity to pit for four tires and fuel. Johnson wins the race off of pit road with Newman second and Kyle Busch third. Brian Vickers penalized for speeding during the stops. Robbie Gordon penalized for a commitment line violation. Carl Edwards reporting he has lost his power steering.
Lap 62 and the green flag is back out with Johnson leading the field into turn one. Newman is holding strong on the high side until turn four when Johnson finally gets clear. Move Kyle Busch into second place as Newman was still stuck on the high side. Newman continues to drop positions as he continues to be passed by cars on the low side.
Lap 78 and Kyle Busch has gone to the point. Busch got behind Johnson and rubbed his bumper a few times and Johnson let him go by.
From Jeff Gordon on Twitter, says he is taking it easy right now and the car takes off good. Lap 82 and Gordon is up to 12th position on the track.
Jeff Burton’s Twitter account reported a slight amount of cords showing on the tires after the first pit stop.
Lap 100 and the top five is Kyle Busch, Jimmie Johnson, Denny Hamlin, Jamie McMurray, and David Reutimann.
Lap 107 and the caution is displayed for Dave Blaney. Blaney lost a tire and was stuck in the marbles. Probably a situation where Blaney just sat there forcing NASCAR to throw the yellow. Pit stops for everyone again. Johnson’s crew is rocking the stops and is back out first followed by Kyle Busch and Hamlin.
Lap 115 and Johnson brings them back up to speed. Around the track Rowdy and Johnson battle side by side until Johnson gets by out of turn four. The field settles back into the low groove and logging laps continues. Lap 118 and Hamlin passes Busch to take second.
Lap 124 and Hamlin drives to the outside of Johnson on the backstretch to take the lead. Johnson slowed up and gave Hamlin the position.
Lap 126 and caution comes out for Marcose Ambrose. McDowell got into the back end of Ambrose and forced him to spin. Ambrose has damage to the rear end of the car, and work is going to be needed in order to even think about putting more fuel in his car. Leaders stay out with roughly 11 laps on their tires, no need to make a stop unless you are at the back of the pack.
Lap 133 and we are back underway with Hamlin leading. Johnson gets stuck on the top and drops back to third. Now Clint Bowyer takes the lead. Lap 139 and Johnson captures second place back from Hamlin. Bowyer has jumped out to roughly a ten car lead. Trevor Bayne is now in the garage with a punctured radiator.
Lap 170 and the top five is Bowyer, Johnson, Busch, Hamlin, and McMurray. To update a few other drivers out there, Jeff Gordon is up to eighth, Dale Jr. is up to 13th, and Edwards is 17th.
Lap 174 and the caution is out for Dave Blaney. Looks like Blaney lost a right front tire and then stopped up in turn four to wait for the caution. NASCAR has taken notice as will also asses a two lap penalty to Blaney for stopping to bring out the caution. The field will make pit stops during this caution. Johnson for the third straight time beats them all off of pit road. Kyle Busch comes out second and Bowyer is in third.
Lap 182 and the green flag is back out. Fox missed the restart, but I saw it on Hot Pass on DirecTV. Johnson gets past Busch to maintain the lead. Lap 185 and Bowyer hammers Busch from behind and gets past him. Busch is not going to happy with that type of move. Johnson now jumps out to a 10 car length lead. Mark Martin penalized on the restart for changing lanes before the start finish line.
Lap 196 and McMurray now uses the chrome horn on Kyle Busch. Busch falls all the way back to sixth. Welcome Jeff Gordon to the top five for the first time today.
Lap 205 and the caution is out for Hermie Sadler hitting the wall. The field takes pit stops and Johnson’s team fumbles after three previous perfect pit stops. It is hard to give a running order because Fox was at break when all this occurred.
Lap 210 and the green is back out with Bowyer leading. Juan Pablo Montoya is now in second. Johnson is in trouble as he drops positions being stuck on the outside groove after the restart. Johnson currently runs in 10th.
Lap 218 and Gordon is up to third and now stalking the back end of JPM.
Lap 221 and we have caution for Martin Truex Jr. and Kasey Kahne destroying cars in turn three. It looks like Truex Jr. either lost his brakes or had a throttle hang in the car. Red flag is now being displayed, so we are going to have a short delay for cleanup of debris and fluids on the track. Track workers are now working on the Safer Barrier to repair damage from Truex Jr. knocking the wall down.
While the red flag is out, they just showed an aerial view of the track. It looks like a huge crowd is at the speedway today to take in the race. Not too many seats looked to be empty, which is a lot different than the way it appeared last year at this track.
Lap 230 and we are finally back underway. Bowyer holds the low spot with Jeff Gordon on top. Bowyer breaks away and Gordon is still high next to JPM. Caution is out on lap 232 for a huge wreck in turn three and four. Bobby Labonte has major rear end damage. Kurt Busch got into the turn hot and popped the curb and then drove Labonte into the wall. Other cars then spun and stopped on the track after the accident. This is the seventh caution of the day. Leaders stay out of the pits again.
Lap 239 and we get back to green flag racing. Bowyer fights JPM through one and two. JPM gets a hole and drops behind Bowyer. Lap 241 and caution is out again for a three cars wrecking. Johnson also had a moment just before the caution when Newman got into Hamlin and Hamlin then bumped Johnson into the marbles. The caution was brought out by Brad Keselowski getting into Paul Menard that collected a couple of other cars along the way. Minor damage in the wreck for all those involved.
Lap 248 and we get back to green flag racing, again. Bowyer gets to turn one and retains the lead. Gordon now battling JPM and gets the second spot.
Mid race statistics:
Leaders: 8 for 16 Lead Changes
Cautions: 8 for 55 Laps
Lead Lap Cars: 29
Average Speed: 67.426 MPH
Lap 251 and Jeff Gordon is now leading the race. Gordon got under Bowyer in turn one and pulled off the pass. Tony Stewart receives a pass through penalty for changing lanes on the restart. Lap 257 and Bowyer gets back past Gordon to take the lead. Gordon drops back to fifth. Lap 260 and Hamlin goes back to the lead. Leaders are all nose to tail and pushing hard.
Gordon had run to the front, but now cannot keep the car on the low side. Gordon has slipped all the way back to 8th position now. Lap 282 and whatever was wrong with Gordon must be better. Gordon has driven his way back to the fifth position.
Lap 300 and the top five is Hamlin, Busch, Jeff Gordon, Bowyer, and McMurray. McDowell has a tire go down, but was able to make it to pit road without incident.
Lap 315 and Hamlin is making a scheduled green flag pit stop. I would not be surprised to see a lot of the field to come to pit road within the next few laps. Some more cars are now hitting pit road. McMurray and Kyle Busch have been in. Keselowski has hit the wall and is attempting to limp back to pit road. Keselowski made it back to pit road. Gordon has the lead on stops, but Gordon is now on pit road. Gordon just lost time when Bayne got in his way. A lot of cars are now on pit road.
Lap 331 and Newman is reporting engine problems and believes it is about to blow up.
Carl Edwards, while green flag stops are going on, just led his first lap ever at Martinsville. He now hits pit road and gives up the lead.
Lap 336 and the pit stop cycle is all but completed. Top five is Busch, Hamlin, Bowyer, Gordon, and McMurray.
Lap 351 and the caution is out. Bayne loses a tire and could not get to pit road. Leaders are on pit road for tires and fuel. Will probably still need one more stop after this one. No change in the top three after pit stops: Kyle Busch, Hamlin and Jeff Gordon. McMurray gives up fourth spot to pit again for a missing lug nut.
Lap 359 and we get back to green. Busch leads the way through turn one and two with Gordon and Hamlin battling side by side. Gordon finally clears Hamlin the next time through turn two. Lap 365 and Jeff Gordon goes back to the lead.
Lap 370 and the caution is out for Newman who spun the car with the flat tire. Sounded like 9th position on back starting with Dale Jr. pitted during this caution.
Lap 376 and the green is back out. Gordon and Busch go side by side through one and two. Gordon gets by on the inside of turn two and now leads. Burton now has issues with the hood as he hit the back end of another car. Burton is pitting because he cannot see out the windshield because of the hood.
Lap 393 and Kyle Busch slips past Jeff Gordon to retake the lead. Gordon is second, Hamlin is third, Johnson is fourth, and A.J. Allmendinger has wheeled his way to fifth. Lap 403 and Busch has opened up a 15 car length lead on Gordon.
Lap 430 and the drivers have settled in with little or no passing going on around the track. Top five is currently Kyle Busch, Jeff Gordon, Johnson, Hamlin, and Harvick. Lap 434 Johnson gets around Gordon to take the second position away. Allmendinger is now reporting that his engine is starting to let go. He is currently in the sixth position.
Lap 450 and there has been one change in the top five. Harvick has gotten around Hamlin to take the fourth spot. Lap 455 and Harvick is making another late race charge. He is up to third as he passes Jeff Gordon.
Lap 458 and Hamlin is on pit road for his final green flag scheduled pit stop. Many other cars are now hitting pit road. Regan Smith has now hammered the wall and the caution is out. Leaders will all hit pit road for their final sets of tires and fuel. Busch leads them off of pit road with Johnson and Harvick following. Johnson is now being penalized for speeding coming into pit road and will restart at the end of the longest line. Harvick actually has to be mad about that. That puts Harvick on the high side for the restart instead of the bottom side behind the leader.
Lap 471 and the green is out and Busch gets cleanly into turn one. Dale Jr. and Harvick run side by side through three and four now. Junior gets the second spot and sets his sights on the race leader.
Lap 480 and Dale Jr. has taken the lead by bumping Busch from behind. Busch is in second and if you look closely you can see the steam coming out of his Busch’s helmet. Junior seems to be pulling away from Busch by a car length or two.
Twelve laps to go and Harvick has passed Busch for second.
Nine laps to go and Jr. has about a half second lead with Harvick starting to close. Lap traffic is having a little bit of an affect.
Five to go and Jr. still leading over Harvick. Four to go now and Harvick takes the lead.
Checkered flag falls and Harvick takes the top spot for the second straight week. Jr. got too loose over the last couple of laps and could not hold off Harvick. Harvick earned his second win of the season today, and another exciting finish in the Sprint Cup series.
It was a great race today that had action all over the track. The management of Bristol should have been watching because it reminded me of what Bristol used to be. Beating and banging with torn up sheet metal on almost every car in the field. That is also why the stands were almost completely full, if not actually sold out, unlike Bristol. From my observation, Bristol is the only track so far this season that did not have a spectacular crowd.
The top five finishers today were: Harvick, Earnhardt Jr., Kyle Busch, Juan Pablo Montoya, and Jeff Gordon.
Final Race Statistics:
Leaders: 13 for 34 Lead Changes
Cautions: 11 for 73 laps
Lead Lap Cars: 12
Average Speed: 74.198 MPH