Martinsville Speedway racked up yet another Virginia twist on finishes at the historic track on Sunday, April 1st for the Goody’s Fast Relief 500. As it happens, we’ve often noticed quite a few fans making an exit around lap 450 or so to get a jump on traffic. However, in an effort to save a few minutes they also miss out on some of the best racing of the day. Martinsville is hardly predictable and making an exit believing you know the end is like leaving a John Wayne film before the fight scene.
Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon seemed to have it in the bag. Dale Earnhardt, Jr. was making a run as well. Hendrick teams had the top 3 well to the finish. Gordon alone had the lead for most of the race up to that point anyway. It seemed to be a given that Johnson or Gordon would take the checkers. Although, with Dale Jr. running that close, many stayed that might have made the early exit otherwise. Junior will keep folks in their seats if he is running near the front.
It all seemed like a dead on predictable finish. Johnson had the lead and Gordon was chasing with Dale Jr. in the 3rd slot. As it happens so often at Martinsville, there was a caution in the final laps. This one brought about when David Reutimann rolled out to a stop on the front stretch. Confusing as he had just passed the entrance to pit road on the opposite side of the short track. Whatever the reason for the stop of the #10, the caution was out for yet another green-white-checkered restart at Martinsville. Most of the field hit the pits for a splash and at least two tires. Gordon and Johnson stayed out assured they had enough fuel to make it. Their tires, however, were no match for fresh rubber on the cars lined up behind them for the restart.
With no traction to hold, the cars behind bunched up with Clint Bowyer going for the inside dive. Ryan Newman, who had been down a lap earlier, was also right there as the #48 and #24 lost grip with Bowyer’s car on the inside of turn one running three wide. Johnson and Gordon slid up and into the wall. Caution and another restart. This time, Ryan Newman was there to take advantage and the win.
Newman, in the #39 Outback Steak House Chevy with Stewart-Haas Racing, started in the fifth slot, was down a lap and fought back to the win. An amazing finish as team mate and owner Tony Stewart won the Fall race at Martinsville. An amazing finish with better cars dominating most of the day. An amazing finish with no apologies on the events that put Gordon and Johnson in the wall.
A.J. Allmendinger was in the slot for second, Dale Jr. rolled over in third, Matt Kenseth and Martin Truex, Jr. rounded out the top five for the finish order
Once again, the race proves out to the last laps at Martinsville. Next time you go, enjoy your day of racing and trackside fun but stay to the end. Racing is always hot and close at Martinsville but those last 10 laps always prove to be something to see.
Saturday and the Kroger 250 Camping World Series Truck race was also a pleasant watch. Kevin Harvick may have used all of his mojo on Saturday as he finished Sunday at 19th. Saturday, however, it was something to see as he lead 248 of the 250 laps to take the win. There was just no other truck able to hold back Harvick and the #2 Tide/Kroger Chevy. Ty Dillon and the Bass Pro Shops Chevy gave it a run at the close but finished where he started in the second slot.
How often do you see the pole sitter and the next starter finish in the same 1-2 order?
Martinsville always serves up good racing. Just, as we said before, stay to the end!