The Good Sam Club 500 at Talladega Superspeedway may have been considered the ”wild card” of the Chase races, but the Tums Fast Relief 500 at Martinsville Speedway came pretty close to taking that title. The race had 23 lead changes among 12 drivers and 18 cautions that consisted of 108 laps. By the end of the race, tempers were spread so thin among drivers, NASCAR should have just set up a boxing ring on the front stretch and let the boys have at it!
Tony Stewart: Stewart survived mayhem throughout the race to steal the victory away from champions Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon. This win has moved Stewart to second place in the championship points standings. After being told that he is just eight points behind Edwards, Stewart replied, “He better be worried, that’s for sure. He isn’t going to have an easy three weeks.” This is Stewart’s 42nd career win and his third win of the season, all of which came in the Chase.
Carl Edwards: Edwards may not have won the race, but finishing in ninth position felt like a win after his misfortune during the race. Due to qualifying being rained out, Edwards started the race in the pole position. He lost the lead on Lap 27 under caution when he pitted and seven or more cars behind him stayed out. From that point on, he kept losing positions and by lap 167 he dropped to 17th position. After pitting under caution on Lap 197, Edwards restarted the race in 26th due to a lug nut getting hung up behind the wheel.
He fell a lap down twice during the race, but was able to take advantage of the lucky dog rule twice. Thanks to the high number of cautions in the race, Edwards was able to gain positions back and was in the Top 10 with 22 laps to go. Edwards ultimately finished the race in ninth position, retaining the points lead by eight over Stewart.
Kevin Harvick: Harvick started the race in fifth position and ran in the Top 10 for most of the race. He took the lead of the race under caution after pitting for just two tires with 102 laps to go. On Lap 438 Johnson took the lead from Harvick with teammate Gordon following close behind. Harvick was then bumped to fourth position late in the race when Stewart made a mad dash to the lead. Harvick finished the race in fourth and gained himself two spots in standings. He is now third place in points, 21 points behind leader Edwards.
Dale Earnhardt Jr: Earnhardt put on a show for his fans at Martinsville with his have at it attitude and aggressive racing style. Unlike many drivers, he kept saying on his team radio how much “fun” he was having during the race. On Lap 8, he was involved in a pile up involving Kurt Busch and Jeff Gordon, revoking him of his Top 10 position, dropping him to 34th place. He quickly made his way through the pack and finished the race in seventh position. Although he remains ninth in points, overall he had a good race and put on quite a show for the fans.
Brad Keselowski: The most disappointed driver of the day would have to be Brad Keselowski. After starting in the Top 5, he was a top runner all race long and was heading towards a good points day. His Top 10 finish, however, disappeared in just one lap. While running in seventh place with two laps to go, Keselowski was spun by another car and a caution was not thrown, causing him to drop from seventh to 17th position.
This finish has dropped him one spot in standings to fourth position, 27 points behind Edwards. Keselowski needs to win the race at Texas Motor Speedway next weekend to have any kind of chance at staying in this points battle. Last year, Keselowski clinched his Nationwide Series championship at Texas Motor Speedway. He typically runs well at intermediate tracks. I wouldn’t count him out of this championship battle just yet.
Matt Kenseth: After starting in second position, Kenseth ran in the Top 10 for most of the race. With 36 laps to go, he made contact with Kyle Busch, sending him to the garage for repairs. When he came back onto the track, he was then wrecked by Brian Vickers, who retaliated against Kenseth for spinning him out with 43 laps to go. This resulted in a 31st place finish. Kenseth is now fifth place in standings, 36 points behind Edwards.
Kyle Busch: After leading a race high of 128 laps, Kyle Busch’s strong run evaporated with 37 laps to go. Kenseth locked his tires up going into the turn, causing him to slam Busch, spinning him out. He then pitted to fix the damage. While leaving pit road, his left front tire came completely off the car. Apparently there was a lack of communication with the team on whether they were supposed to put the tire on or off. Either way, this caused Busch to finish in 27th position. This finish dropped him one position in standings to seventh, 57 points behind the leader.
Brian Vickers: Out of the 18 cautions that occurred during the race, Vickers was involved in five of them, including three just in the first 100 laps. I think the only thing Vickers didn’t hit was the pace car. Needless to say, he did not have many friends at the end of the race. He finished the race, with what was left of his No. 83 Toyota, in 30th position. With Red BullRacing leaving the sport at season’s end, Vicker’s future is in doubts.
Chase for the Sprint Cup
1. Carl Edwards, 2. Tony Stewart (-8), 3. Kevin Harvick (-21), 4. Brad Keselowski (-27), 5. Matt Kenseth (-36), 6. Jimmie Johnson (-43), 7. Kyle Busch (-57), 8. Kurt Busch (-58), 9. Dale Earnhardt Jr (-73), 10. Jeff Gordon (-76), 11. Denny Hamlin (-80), 12. Ryan Newman (-89)