Figuring out where to put your grandfather clock when you win a race at Martinsville Speedway is a good problem to have.
Brad Keselowski has made it a tradition with his 3-year-old daughter to regularly wind his grandfather clock he won at Martinsville in 2017. He now is "in negotiations” on where to put a second one.
“I had this conversation with my daughter before we got here,” Keselowski said following his win in Sunday's STP500. “And I told her this week when we were winding the clock from 2017, 'If we win this week, we'll get another clock'... And so when we won, I told her, 'Remember I was telling you if we won we get a new clock?' And she said, 'Well, where are we going to put it, Daddy?' And I said, 'Well, I was thinking right in your bedroom," and she did not like that idea.”
“We're going to work on her negotiations... But I can tell you we'll do something special with it and I'll cherish it and enjoy it forever. I'm not going to put it in a box in storage, I can promise you that.”
Keselowski not only won Sunday at Martinsville, he dominated, leading 449 of the 500 laps, and winning both stages, on the way to his second victory of the season.
The only time Keselowski didn't lead Sunday was the first five laps, when his teammate Joey Logano started up front, and from laps 325-374, when Chase Elliott briefly passed the No. 2 car and held the lead for 49 laps.
Keselowski retook the lead out of a caution on 374, and while Elliott, Kyle Busch and Ryan Blaney battled it out for the next three spots, Team Penske's oldest driver was able to outclass the field on the long runs to come away with the victory.
While the victroy was decisive, Keselowski tried to downplay how much so after the race.
“I think the stats maybe look a little more dominant than I think it really was” he said. “I thought Chase was probably the best car all day today. He passed me there with with 150 or so there to go, and I thought that might be the end of our day. But I was able to learn a few things from him and kind of dissect his strengths and weaknesses and make some adjustments of our own and come back out and be a little bit better for it. The pit crew did an an excellent job gaining or retaining our track position all day, which is critical here at this race track.”
Keselowski last won at Martinsville in the spring of 2017. Sunday's is his second win of the season, and the third by a Team Penske driver in six races in 2019.
Elliott finished second, his best finish of the season, and first top-5.
“I don’t know. It was really tough,” Elliott said. “Our NAPA Camaro was good. I felt like we were about as even with him as we could be. When I did get the lead, I felt like there was a little advantage to being out front and being able to work traffic your way and play off it and whatnot. But, yeah, I tried to move up there at the end and I don’t know if I could have got to him. Maybe if I moved up a little sooner, maybe. But, I tried to get to him there in (Turn) 3, but maybe next time.”
Busch finished third, Blaney was fourth and Denny Hamlin was fifth, his second top-5 finish in five races since his Daytona 500 victory in February.
Penske continues hot streak
Team Penske has been the hottest team in NASCAR early in the season, winning three of the first six races. The only team member not to have won this season is Ryan Blaney. Blaney ran in the top 5 all day Sunday, but could never get higher than second.
Blaney said if the last caution wouldn't have come out on Lap 455, he feels like he could have made a run at his teammate.
“I needed long runs,” Blaney said. “For like a 110-lap run to the finish is what it was going to be, 120. I was like, 'This is perfect. We're gonna get them here.' Our car was just starting to come to us. We just got to third and the caution came out... and we kept losing spots every time we'd come down pit road and you can't win races like that that."
Blaney was in second before a poor pit stop during the second stage caution cost him four spots.
“We're right there, we just need a little bit more,” he said. “It's so hard to win these races. You've got to do everything perfect. You've got to be good on pit road. You've got to restart good. You've got to have a car on both ends of a run, and I feel like we're really close to where we need to be, just haven't put it together.
“If we keep running top three, top five, you eventually try to put one of those things here together and try to figure out how to break through and get it done.”
Third Penske teammate, Logano, struggled in the early laps with looseness in the corners, dropping him from first to seventh in the first 10 laps. Logano extends a streak of now nine years since a driver has won at Martinsville from the pole position. The last to do so was Jimmie Johnson in 2013.
Busch never makes his move
Kyle Busch, who started the day back in back in 13th, bided his time through the early stages of the race, staying outside of the top 10 for most of the first two stages.
He made his move on Lap 300, making contact with Aric Almirola, sending the No. 10 car up the track and allowing Busch to get into the top five for the first time.
But top five was the best he could expect. Busch battled with Blaney for the third spot for a while, and stayed patient knowing he had good long run speed. He simply never made a run for the lead.
“The midpoint of today's race was a bit ugly for us, and then we turned it around,” Busch said. “Fast pit stops got us a lot of track position today. It was hard to pass, besides rooting a guy off the bottom, and even when you tried to do that, they just cut your nose off and you lose a spot.”
Busch won Saturday's TruNorth Global 250 Truck Series race at Martinsville. He was looking for a third win this season. His third place finish was his sixth top five in six races this year. He's yet to finish outside of the top 10.
“Just overall speed. Even when we unloaded here in practice, we just weren't quite up on the speed charts like we expected to be,” he said. “First run off the truck was really good, but as the track took rubber, our car just kind of slowed down and we just didn't have what we needed there.
“Overall, we just fought hard for today's finish. Not a finish that we wanted to get. Thought we had a chance to win actually, but could have been a whole lot worse. M&M's Chocolate Bar Camry comes home with another Top 5. We'll go on.”