Kurt Busch steals the win in Martinsville

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Kurt Busch broke an 83 race winless streak at Martinsville.

Kurt Busch took the lead for good with 11 laps remaining in the 500-lap STP 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway on Sunday and held off the No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet of Jimmie Johnson in the closing laps to drive his No. 41 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet into victory lane. Johnson finished second, and the No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet of Dale Earnhardt Jr. was third.

"I didn't know if we'd be able to do it (beat Johnson)," Busch said. "He's the king here -- him and (Jeff) Gordon."

Johnson and Gordon are tied among active drivers for most wins at Martinsville with eight apiece.

Johnson dominated the race, leading 296 laps. Although Johnson was a mainstay up front, there was a record 33 lead changes. In the early going, he was challenged by the Joe Gibbs Racing teammates of Kyle Busch in the No. 18 Toyota, Denny Hamlin in the No. 11 Toyota and Matt Kenseth in the No. 20 Toyota, in addition to the No. 22 Team Penske Ford of Joey Logano. All eventually faded and were somewhat of non-factors in the end. Kenseth, regained some track position by staying out during a caution on lap 250, but he lost ground on older tires, eventually falling off the lead lap. He also had trouble on pit road after being on the receiving end of contact from the No. 99 Roush Fenway Racing Ford of Carl Edwards. Kenseth was able to get back on the lead lap and wound up finishing six. Logano finished fourth and the No. 9 Richard Petty Motorsports Ford of Marcos Ambrose was fifth.

Marcos Ambrose, Richard Petty Motorsports Ford
Marcos Ambrose, Richard Petty Motorsports Ford

Photo by: Action Sports Photography

Earnhardt and Busch stayed out on the track during a caution on lap 219 to gain track position and restarted first and second. By that time, Earnhardt had raced from his 26th starting spot to the top-five. Busch overcame early-race damage from a pit road incident that also involved the No. 2 Team Penske Ford of Brad Keselowski and the No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet of Kasey Kahne. Keselowski blamed Busch for the incident, and after spending 31 laps in the garage for repairs to his car, Keselowski returned to the track and hounded Busch for several laps as payback.

"I started to check up, and I just barely got in the back of him (Kahne) and Kurt just accelerated and drove through us, absolutely drove through us," Keselowski said. "I tell you what, I'm about tired of his recklessness."

After the incident, Busch expressed frustration, reporting to his team that their day was probably done. It wasn't "We won; we're not worrying about that nonsense right now," a happier Busch said later. "We are a winner."

Another caution came out on lap 231, before cars on fresher tires had much of a chance to overtake Earnhardt and Busch on their older tires, and Busch and Earnhardt ran in or near the top-five for the remainder of the race.

Later, Johnson was challenged up front by Edwards and the No. 15 Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota of Clint Bowyer. Edwards and Bowyer got off pit road second and third to Johnson during a lap-410 caution. Edwards battled Johnson for several laps before fading to fifth and spinning to bring out the 14th and final caution of the race on lap 459. Bowyer then lost positions on pit road because of a slow stop.

Busch moved up to second on the restart that followed and then took the lead for the first time with 28 laps to go. Johnson retook the lead several laps later, but Busch was back up front in the final 10 laps to claim his first win since 2011.

"I had been loose in the final third of the race and was just hanging on there," Johnson said. "I was hoping he'd wear his stuff out." The No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet of Kevin Harvick finished seventh, the No. 43 Richard Petty Motorsports Ford of Aric Almirola eighth, Bowyer ninth, and the No. 27 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet of Paul Menard rounded out the top-10.

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About this article
Series NASCAR-CUP
Article type Race reports
Tags brad keselowski, jeff gordon, kurt busch, martinsville, stewart-haas