For Kyle Busch, winning his first race at Martinsville Speedway was worth the wait.
After winning his first Camping World Truck Series race on Saturday, Busch became the first driver in NASCAR history to sweep the weekend — adding a second grandfather clock to his trophy collection.
“What time is it? Time for all you haters to shut up,” Busch said over the radio. “Whoo! Martinsville Baby!”
“Tic toc, way to sweep ‘em, bud,” spotter Tony Hirschman replied.
The defending Sprint Cup champion dominated the STP 500 on Sunday. He led 352 laps, taking the lead from his teammate Matt Kenseth for the last time on Lap 327 and held the point to the finish. Busch’s 353 circuits at the point were the most by a Cup competitor at Martinsville Speedway since Bobby Hamilton in 1998.
“I’d say it certainly helps when you get to run other divisions and that’s why I do it to pay off on Sundays,” Busch said. "It doesn’t work every single weekend, but it works more times than it doesn’t, so can’t say enough about everyone at KBM (Kyle Busch Motorsports) for giving me a great piece yesterday to help me learn, teach me some more things about Martinsville that I didn’t already know in 30 other prior starts.
"I can’t say enough about this whole JGR (Joe Gibbs Racing) team on this side. This M&M’s Camry was awesome in practice yesterday. We had a really good car through practice and Adam (Stevens, crew chief) made some really good adjustments overnight to keep us where we need to be in order to run up front all day, led a lot of laps, probably led the most laps there and to win here in Martinsville is pretty cool – finally get to take a clock home. A lot of people said I didn’t deserve yesterday – maybe I don’t – but I certainly got one today.”
Pole-sitter has "frustrating" race
Carl Edwards, Brian Vickers, Paul Menard, Jimmie Johnson and Ryan Newman rounded out the top 10. Polesitter Joey Logano recovered to finish 11th. He lacked the ability to drive off the corners early in the race and was lapped by Busch on Lap 76. Logano’s issues were exacerbated by a tire violation on Lap 385 which forced him to restart at the tail end of the field.
“It was frustrating,” Logano said. "You want to go out there and win for sure and we just missed it. The first run was just absolutely awful to go down a lap from the lead, so we fought to get our car better, which we did, and then we overadjusted and came back and overadjusted on the way back, and then we had a pit road penalty.
"I think we know where we missed it, but we didn’t have the tools to fix what we needed to fix. Once the race starts a lot of times your hands are tied because you only have a certain amount of adjustments on your car or even on pit stops that we could fix what our problem was.”
Best of the rest
AJ Allmendinger equalled his career-best second-place finish at Martinsville, followed by Kyle Larson, Austin Dillon and Brad Keselowski.
Carl Edwards, Brian Vickers, Paul Menard, Jimmie Johnson and Ryan Newman rounded out the top 10. Polesitter Joey Logano recovered to finish 11th. He lacked the ability to drive off the corners early in the race and was lapped by Busch on Lap 76.
The race was slowed by eight cautions for 51 laps. Dale Earnhardt Jr., who won his first clock here in 2014, spun in Turn 2 on Lap 6 to bring out the first caution. Earnhardt battled back to finish 14th. Denny Hamlin, the defending winner of this race, wheel-hopped while running fifth and plowed into Turn 1 on Lap 222 to end his day. This year’s Daytona 500 winner finished 39th and dropped from fourth to ninth in the standings.
With 15 laps remaining in the race, Jamie McMurray blew a tire to ignite the eighth and final caution. Although 10 drivers on the lead lap elected to pit, the No. 18 Toyota remained on the track with Matt Kenseth, Allmendinger, Kurt Busch, Dillon and points leader Kevin Harvick in tow. Although Allmedinger and Dillon did not have fresh tires, the ability to line up on the inside lane behind Busch enabled the drivers to maintain position at the front of the track. Larson was the first driver to pit for tires. He restarted ninth and finished third.
The No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing pit crew played a significant role in Busch’s 35th career win. Busch made six stop and spent the least amount time (four minutes, 18.040 seconds) on pit road.
"I’ve got to thank my guys," added Busch. "Obviously, they were flawless today on pit road. They did a really good job. We made a few adjustments to the car throughout the day and they kept getting me out not even losing a spot on pit road, so they did a great job for me. That was the key to the race – being able to restart on the bottom like that."
Although Harvick retained the points lead by four over Johnson, Busch’s win vaulted him from fifth to third in the standings.