After Sunday’s rain out at the Martinsville Speedway, the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series came back on Monday to get in 500 laps of racing. Rain was in the forecast, but not until the evening hours, meaning the entire race would get run on this day.
With qualifying rained out on Friday, points leader Kevin Harvick was awarded the pole, and right at the green flag he jumped out front. His lead would remain until the race’s first caution on lap 43 when Joe Nemachek got into the turn 3 wall. Pit stops did not change the field much as Harvick again got out in front of the field.
On the restart, Harvick again got a good jump, but behind him the driver making the hard charge was Jeff Gordon. Slowly moving through the field, being aware of not overusing the brakes, he took the lead on lap 59.
Gordon would hold his lead through the race’s second and third caution flags on lap 65 and 76, but soon found himself in a battle with Kurt Busch. The two would swap the lead but Gordon soon found himself again ahead of the pack, and soon began to pull out to a 1.5 second lead.
It wouldn’t be until lap 129 when Robby Gordon cut a tire where teams would get the chance to make more adjustments. Most went for new tires and complained of being loose as temperatures were warmer than all weekend. But, it was Gordon yet again getting out front for the restart.
On the restart, Gordon held the point, but Kurt Busch came charging up and took the lead on lap 140, and shortly after it was Virginia-native Jeff Burton passing Busch for the top spot.
Following a spin by Greg Biffle on lap 164, the majority of the front cars came down pit road. However, Mark Martin, Busch and Brad Keselowski all decided to stay out, although Busch didn’t get the communication to come in before passing the commitment line.
Mark Martin held the lead through the restart and the race’s sixth caution for a multiple-car wreck in turn 4, but Busch made a hard charge despite having only two tires. He would get the lead on lap 181, but knew a lot of good cars were behind him with fresh tires on all corners.
Martin soon made the pass back around Busch, but Burton soon wanted in on the top spot as he had fresh rubber. He didn’t last long as another Virginia driver, Denny Hamlin, soon poked his nose in for lead.
The race went back under caution on lap 235 when Robby Gordon and Regan Smith both had tire issues and could not get to pit road. It would not matter to Hamlin as he stayed out front following pit stops.
On the restart, Burton got the better run as he was able to get the lead from Hamlin. But, after the tires came up to temperature and pressure, Hamlin came charging back for the lead on lap 276.
The race’s eighth caution flag came out after Elliott Sadler spun in turn 2 following contact with Martin. Pit stops again were the name of the game, but this time it was Burton getting the edge coming off pit road.
The field went back to green on lap 310, but soon was slowed for another caution as Marcos Ambrose cut a tire down.
Burton again brought the field to full throttle on lap 319, but Hamlin just wouldn’t go away. He stayed right with him and began a battle for the top spot alongside the No. 31. Finally, the Toyota of Hamlin got the lead on lap 358. Hamlin stayed in the lead through the race’s tenth caution for David Stremme’s spin in turn 1, and looked to be the one car that had the setup just right for the track.
The 11th caution flew on lap 421 for Kevin Conway’s spin, meaning yet another chance to fix the race cars, but Hamlin again held the top spot.
The race went back to green on lap 426 and Hamlin got a huge jump on the field. This was Hamlin’s race to win, but a caution with ten laps left changed the entire complexion of the race. Hamlin decided to take a risk as the crew called him to pit road for new tires. Second-place driver Kyle Busch also came in, while the rest of the top cars stayed on track, electing track position over new tires.
This handed the lead to Jeff Gordon, while Hamlin would restart in ninth.
The green flag came back out on lap 496 and Gordon got a great jump, but Hamlin was coming hard. With two laps to go, the No. 11 was up to fourth, and then came Hamlin’s biggest break.
On lap 499, Kyle Busch gets on the bad end of racing as he was three-wide with Ambrose and Paul Menard, and ended up backing into the outside wall.
This meant that the race would go into “overdrive” and attempt to finish under the green flag. The race went back to green on lap 506, with Gordon again at the point. Heading to the first turn, Hamlin was pushing Ryan Newman while Matt Kenseth battled Gordon.
Heading into turn 3, Kenseth drove in too hard, and washed up track. This cut Gordon’s momentum and opened a huge door for Hamlin. Coming to the white flag, it was all she wrote. For the second-straight time at Martinsville, Virginia’s Denny Hamlin came to the checkered flag to win the Goody’s Fast Pain Relief 500.
It was an incredible run, but at the same time had to be painful. Hamlin said over the weekend that he had scheduled surgery to repair his torn ACL, which he injured during a basketball game prior to Daytona. When the Sprint Cup Series returns at Phoenix, Hamlin will be slated to run the car, but will have Casey Mears on stand-by in case he can’t make the full distance.
That race at Phoenix won’t be until next Saturday night as NASCAR has another break for Easter.
RESULTS: 1-Hamlin 2-Logano 3-Gordon 4-Newman 5-Truex Jr. 6-Vickers 7-Bowyer 8-Edwards 9-Johnson 10-Biffle
NOTABLE FINISHES: 15-Earnhardt Jr. 17-Kahne 18-Kenseth 20-Burton 21-Martin 22-Kyle Busch 23-Kurt Busch 26-Stewart 35-Harvick
CAUTIONS: 13 for 79 laps. Lap 43-49 (#87 accident-T3), 65-70 (#26, #36 accident-T4), 76-81 (#00 accident-T2), 130-134 (#7 accident-T4), 164-168 (#16 spin-T4), 172-180 (#19, #26, #98 accident-T4), 235-242 (#78 accident-T4), 305-310 (#5, #19 accident-T2), 316-319 (#47 spin-T4), 366-372 (#26 stall-FS), 422-426 (#38, #47 accident-T4), 493-496 (#31 accident-T3), 500-506 (#18, #98 accident-T3)
LEAD CHANGES: 24 among 8 drivers: Harvick 1-44, Gilliland 45, Harvick 46-58, Gordon 59-81, Kurt Busch 82, Gordon 83-129, Kurt Busch 130, J Gordon 131-139, Kurt Busch 140-148, Burton 149-164, Martin 165-180, Kurt Busch 181-188, Martin 189-197, Burton 198-229, Hamlin 230-236, Kvapil 237-238, Hamlin 239-249, Burton 250-275, Hamlin 276-306, Burton 307-357, Hamlin 358-389, Burton 390-404, Hamlin 405-493, Gordon 494-506, Hamlin 507-508
TIME OF RACE: 3 Hrs, 39 Mins, 5 Secs.
AVERAGE SPEED: 73.180 mph
MARGIN OF VICTORY: 0.670 Sec.
POINT STANDINGS: 1-Johnson, 898 points 2-Biffle, -14 3-Kenseth, -16 4-Harvick, -61 5-Burton, -113 6-Kurt Busch, -122 7-Gordon, -125 8-Stewart, -128 9-Bowyer, -151 10-Earnhardt Jr, -159 11-Menard, -163 12-Vickers, -164