In a surprise move late last season, Gene Haas, co-owner of Stewart-Haas Racing, brought Kurt Busch into the fold with Tony Stewart, Danica Patrick and newcomer Kevin Harvick. It was questioned by most, but Busch proved that he’s found his home at Stewart-Haas Racing with the win in the STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway.
Martinsville Speedway is often dominated by Hendrick Motorsports drivers with current drivers Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon with eight wins apiece at the track. Johnson led the most laps in Sunday’s race but couldn’t seal the deal in the last 30 laps of the race. Johnson clearly had a dominant car with everyone chasing him down throughout most of the afternoon. He led 296 laps on the day.
Busch and Johnson swapped the lead a couple of times with 30 laps left to go. Busch made a bold move to the inside of Johnson and had the lead. Johnson took the lead back a few laps later and with 11 to go, Johnson made a mental mistake and Busch’s No. 41 Haas Automation was able to take the lead back and Johnson couldn’t catch Busch.
With his win on Sunday, Kurt Busch snapped an 83-race winless streak.
There were a record number of lead changes at Martinsville Speedway with 33.
Fourteen cautions were littered throughout the race with the first caution on lap 3 when Parker Kligerman spun. A competition caution was called on lap 40 and only two cautions were called for debris. The rest were for spins and accidents. No serious injuries were reported.
Pit road was also a dangerous place. Brad Keselowski’s car suffered some damage after coming into contact with Kasey Kahne as Keselowski was attempting to leave pit road and Kahne was entering his pit box. When this contact happened, Kurt Busch tried to get past the two of them on the outside and hit Keselowski’s car on the right side. Keselowski would pay Busch back on the racetrack a little later, but that didn’t slow down Busch as he worked his way to the front and eventually to the win.
Danica Patrick started out really well on the day and faded back as the race went on. She would finish 32nd. Meanwhile, Patrick’s boss, Tony Stewart also looked strong to start, but he was fighting a tight car all day. Stewart slowly made his way into the top 20 after serving a pass-through penalty as he sped on pit road during one sequence.
Richard Petty Motorsports had a good day. Marcos Ambrose led a total of 22 laps on the day. Ambrose and his teammate, Aric Almirola, both had top ten finishes.
Jeff Gordon looked like he was going to be a strong contender today, but he couldn’t find the front after the second half of the race. He would finish out of the top ten in 12th position. AJ Allmendinger ran in the front of the pack for a portion of the day and finished a position ahead of Jeff Gordon. Greg Biffle led a few laps when most didn’t think that he’d make much of a difference in Sunday’s 500-lap race. He finished 18, one spot behind Tony Stewart.
The top ten: Kurt Busch, Jimmie Johnson, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Joey Logano, Marcos Ambrose, Matt Kenseth, Kevin Harvick, Aric Almirola, Clint Bowyer and Paul Menard.
The next race will be Sunday, April 6 at 3 p.m. ET for the Duck Commander 500 at Texas Motor Speedway.