Speeding. Maybe a bit of misunderstanding on where the lines are but at the end of the day… Speeding. That is essentially what pulled the plug on Ryan Preece at Martinsvlle Speedway.
There was a possibility of rain on NOCO 400 Sunday. The weather had already played a role in Friday racing with the Craftsman Series as delays eventually led to a rain shortened Long John Silver’s 200.
The Xfinity Series, Call811.com Before You Dig 250, went off with mostly clear skies on Saturday. It was also Saturday that set Ryan Preece on a race leading start. Preece had won the Busch Light Pole Award. That may have been a blessing and a curse. It gave him pit choice but that also contributed to his race day mistake.
Ryan started up front and stayed there for the stage 1 win. Stage 2 started well enough as Preece still pulled the train. A touch and spin with Eric Jones and Harrison Burton put the caution on and opened the pits. This stop put the brakes on hard for the #41. He had the last spot on pit road and his exit for position led to the speeding penalty. The exit and speed points caught him as he jumped the gun on those points.
The Haas #41 Ford was fast up front in clean air but back in the pack at Martinsville it was tough going for moving forward. He ultimately finished 15th. A good start and show for the Preece team and, perhaps, a big lesson learned.
The setting now had another Stewart-Haas driver, veteran Kevin Harvick, in position to run for the stage 2 win. Ross Chastain, Kyle Larson, Aric Almirola, Chase Briscoe and Denny Hamlin were also in the mix but it was Harvick at the 2nd green/white flag.
The final stage was led out by Stewart-Haas as Harvick and Briscoe shared the front row. Denny Hamlin charged into it with 140 or so to go and managed to get by both of them to have his turn out front.
The charge for Hamlin was short lived as competition and incident cautions shook the field to allow Kyle Larson to take control in the later laps. Joey Logano had also pushed his way forward to challenge but could not get close enough for the pass. At the final lap it was Kyle Larson taking his first Martinsville win and his second win of the season. *Both are at Virginia tracks! Richmond and now, Martinsville.
The day finished very well for Larson. Team mate Chase Elliott stepped back into the #9 for the first time since his snowboard accident. Six weeks out and Martinsville maybe wasn’t the best for a return. The rhythm of racing here isn’t easy on the legs. However, Elliott did salvage a top 10 after starting deep in the pack.
PHOTO GALLERY – NOCO 400 – Martinsville Speedway, April 16, 2023