When you mix a half-mile race track with a ticket to the final four in Homestead-Miami, what do you get? Chaos. Martinsville did not disappoint in that aspect, or the overall quality of racing of our final short track race of the season. Who punched their ticket and who was nearly on the recieving end of a punch?
On The Gas…
5) Brad Keselowski – He needed to win in the last round at Talladega. He did it and reached the round of 8. Entering Martinsville, Keselowski said they needed to win on the short track as it was their best chance to advance. Two stage wins, but a rough ending cost the No. 2 team a win.
4) Clint Bowyer – Screaming at his crew chief on pit road at Talladega seems so far away. This past weekend, Bowyer could be heard laughing on his radio. With a top five finish, maybe the corner has been reached. It’s been a while since Bowyer has seen victory lane, but progress is the story now.
3) Ryan Blaney – Survival was key for Blaney at Martinsville, consistency may not be enough in this round if he hopes to advance. For now, he’ll take a solid start that had top ten finishes in all three stages and avoided getting punched by Harvick on pit lane.
2) Martin Truex Jr. – The championship leader just wanted to leave Martinsville with a car in one piece. Truex did a whole lot better than that–he nearly won it. I guess good guys finish second as he raced clean for the lead on the final lap
1) Kyle Busch – Just call him the “Beneficiary”. Busch was able to scoot through all of the chaos at the end of the First Data 500, skirted a three wide move with teammate Denny Hamlin and Martin Truex Jr. and edged the points leader for the win. All that on the final lap to grab Homestead’s first “Golden Ticket”
Now, to the other end. Brakes are glowing and some were hotter than others.
On The Brakes…
5) A.J. Allmendinger – Every year, there is a driver that if you see on your flight, you’re asking to go on stand-by. A.J. Allmendinger is that driver in 2017. Running well at Martinsville and bad luck once again found “The Dinger” and finished last.
4) Joey Logano – He continues to try and be a spoiler in this year’s playoffs. Running up front with a chance to score his first win of the season, contact with Kyle Busch, a major tire rub and a bad decision on crew chief Todd Gordon’s part. All of this left the Shell/Penzoil Ford in the wall and out of contention with the checkered flag in site.
3) Kurt Busch – An up and down day for the Daytona 500 winner, battling to stay on the lead lap, leading, then leaving the radiator pan stuck in the safer barrier after a hard hit coming to the checkered flag. Busch wound up 22nd.
2) Kyle Larson – Losing an engine and a shot at the championship a week ago, Larson came to Martinsville to prove he belongs. An early crash just added salt to the wound from Kansas.
1) Denny Hamlin – Public enemy number one. Hamlin drove through Chase Elliott in a “Do what ever needs to be done to win” type move. This style of racing, where you wreck the leader is apparently an accepted form of racing now. At least you’re number one somewhere this week, Denny.
Our final short track race is in the books, and it was one for the ages. A ticket punched to Homestead for the one guy that can keep up with Truex should make the next three races just as intense as the last.
On to Texas where everyone will be–On The Gas!