Saturday, February 24, 2018
Sports

Kyle Busch makes it 2-for-2 in Martinsville weekend victories

MARTINSVILLE, Va. — Kyle Busch finally figured out Martinsville Speedway in his NASCAR truck series victory on Saturday.

Turns out, that was the opening act of a weekend sweep.

Busch dominated the 0.526-mile track Sunday, leading 352 of 500 laps and pulling away on a restart with 11 laps to go to win the STP 500, his first Sprint Cup victory at NASCAR's smallest, oldest track.

He outran AJ Allmendinger for his 35th series victory. Saturday's win was Busch's first at Martinsville in 31 starts across NASCAR's three national series.

The option to pick the inside or outside line as the leader on the final restart was great for Busch, but not for Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Matt Kenseth.

"That was the key to the race, being able to restart on the bottom like that," Busch said after choosing the inside line, putting Kenseth outside. "We all talked as a group earlier this morning about how we were going to do that and what we were going to do and we all said, with 10 to go, it's pretty much off limits. It was (11) to go, so it was pretty much right on the brink there, so … sorry, Matt."

When the green flag flew, Busch sailed off, Allmendinger beat Kenseth to the inside position and Kenseth got shuffled back, going on to finish 15th.

Busch led the most laps at Martinsville since Bobby Hamilton was out front for 378 on April 20, 1998.

Allmendinger was second, followed by Kyle Larson, Austin Dillon and Brad Keselowski.

"I was kind of hoping we'd stay green the last 120 laps," Allmendinger said. "I figured that wasn't going to happen, but I was praying we had a shot at that because I felt like if that happened, we had a great chance to win the race."

It was the second straight huge disappointment for Kenseth at Martinsville. Last fall he crashed race leader Joey Logano with 46 laps to go, earning a two-race suspension. This time, he seemed poised to challenge with 35 laps to go until a blown tire by Jamie McMurray caused a caution, bunching up the field.

It was also a lost day for Denny Hamlin, the defending race champion who was born in Tampa but grew up in Virginia.

Hamlin was fifth after 221 laps, overcoming a pit road penalty — an error he specifically had talked about wanting to avoid because he has had several of them at Martinsville. But his car spun heading into Turn 1 and hit the wall, sending him to the garage. He finished 42nd.

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