STP 500 stage 1 18

Cars jockey for position in STP 500.

Sunday belonged to Brad Keselowski. It was pure dominance from the No. 2 car and there was never much doubt. There were obviously a lot of cars that came to the historic Martinsville Speedway that had hopes to bringing home the Grandfather Clock trophy, but in the end just couldn’t match Keselowski.

Recent winners

Clint Bowyer

The 2018 STP 500 winner was unhappy with his qualifying 10th Saturday night. His temper rose on a couple of different occasions again on Sunday, but still found a way in the end to come home with a top 10 finish, placing seventh.

On two separate occasions, Bowyer got handed a penalty for speeding entering pit road. The first time came during a caution around lap 312, forcing him to restart 21st. About 50 laps later, during another caution, the No. 14 was caught again speeding entering pit road.

“It’s just so hard to practice pit road speed,” Bowyer said after the race.

Those two penalties really hurt Bowyer, who came out to start Stage 3 in third position. Bowyer was lucky to be able to move up the field after being pushed back to 21st twice, and with 50 laps to go he clawed his way back to 10th position before closing things out in seventh.

Joey Logano

The pole-sitter to start the day, Joey Logano’s day only got worse from there. As the day went on, Logano kept moving further and further back and eventually hopped out of his car in 19th for the day.

Right off the bat the No. 22 got loose and fell farther from the lead. Within 10 laps he fell back to fifth and by lap 20 he was down to seventh. Even with the struggles with his car, Logano finished Stage 1 in seventh position, but lost two spots in pit road and began Stage 2 in ninth. He finished the second stage in 10th, moved up to 8th coming out of a caution around lap 315, but more issues with the car forced a longer pit stop around lap 370 and that was the nail in his coffin on a disappointing day for the most recent winner at Martinsville Speedway prior to Sunday.

Other big names

Martin Truex Jr.

He joked after the race that it sounds simple, but after starting eighth and finishing eighth Sunday night, Martin Truex Jr. had to earn his top 10 finish.

He complained of being too tight in the first 100 laps of the race. When the team made adjustments the car would get too loose and there was no balance all night.

“Just really could never get the handle all day long,” he said after the race. “It was just too loose off the corner. I couldn’t get forward drive. No matter what we did it seemed like we couldn’t get it… I thought we were going to be better than that today, but good job by the guys today.”

Truex overcame the struggles to earn stage points at eighth after the first stage and then fifth after the second. He came out to begin Stage 3 in fourth, but fell a few spots in the final 130 laps and settled for eighth.

Bubba Wallace

Another driver that was not happy after Saturday’s qualifying, Bubba Wallace began Sunday’s STP 500 in 26th position. Wallace fell a lap down during Stage 2, finishing the stage in 20th, but he was the lucky pass to get back on the lead lap to start Stage 3. Wallace used that pass to at least move up a few spots down the stretch to go home with a 17th place finish.

Through the first half of the race, Wallace was stuck in no-man’s land, hovering around the back end of the lead lap, but once he got back on the lead lap, Wallace maintained his position between 16th and 20th.

Jimmie Johnson

A nine-time winner at Martinsville, Jimmie Johnson continued his recent struggles at “The Paperclip,” finished two laps down in 24th position.

Since winning in Martinsville in the fall of 2016, Johnson has placed outside of the top 10 five straight times, including Sunday. Sunday was his worst showing at Martinsville Speedway since the spring of 2015, a 35th place finish.

Johnson started the day in 11th, but that was as good as it got for the legendary No. 48. Johnson finished Stage 1 in 16th and just continued to drop from there.

Martinsville debuts

Ryan Preece

In 2015, Ryan Preece was a fill-in driver when he finished 42nd at Martinsville Speedway. Sunday’s race served as his true debut at the track as a Cup Series rookie who made a strong first impression with a 16th place finish.

Preece hovered around the top 10 in the race’s first stage and continued to be a top 15 car halfway through the race. He did fall a lap down towards the end of Stage 2, but found his way back on the lead lap during a caution and again maneuvered himself near the top 15.

Preece was the top-finishing rookie.

Matt Tifft

All the odds have been against Matt Tifft his whole life, as he told the Bulletin earlier this weekend. So making his Cup Series debut at Martinsville Speedway wasn’t nearly as intimidating as it would be for most rookies, that was until the race started.

Tifft was at least keeping his car in one piece, but on lap 373 Tifft hit the wall in Turn 2 and eventually finished the race in 29th, six laps down.​

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