STP 500 How race ws won

Brad Keselowski passes the start/finish line late in the race during Sunday's STP 500.

First 50

Logano started from the pole position after winning qualifying Saturday, but had some trouble with his car being extremely loose in the turns, and fell back to seventh pretty quickly. No one has won at Martinsville after starting from the pole since Jimmie Johnson did it in 2013. In 11 races since, prior to Sunday, only three times has a winner won after starting in the top 5. Brad Keselowski took the lead on Lap 5 after starting third, and carried it through the first stage. After 50 laps, he was followed Denny Hamlin, Chase Elliott, Aric Almirola and Clint Bowyer.

Through 100

Michael McDowell blew out a front tire on Lap 64, likely due to overheating brakes, to bring out the first caution of the afternoon. McDowell was running 28th at the time. All the leaders pitted during the caution, and Keselowski was able to maintain his lead on the race off of pit road, with Elliott, Hamlin, Almirola, Bowyer behind him. The top 5 didn't change much throughout the early part of the race.

 Through 150

Keselowski won Stage 1, and led 125 of the first 130 laps. At the end of the stage, the No. 9 of Elliott was running second, followed by the No. 10 of Almirola, the No. 11 of Hamlin and the No. 12 of Ryan Blaney. Blaney moved into the top 5 after starting the day way back in 17th.

 Through 200

Ross Chastain lost a rear axle in Turn 4 in Lap 151, bringing out a caution for debris on the track. Before that, Kyle Larson got loose and went way up the track, but was able to get control back to stay running near the top 15.

 Through 250

Keselowski sweeps the first two stages. A Team Penske Ford led all of the first 260 laps, and all three were running in the top 10 early. Keselowski didn't let up on his stranglehold on first, with teammate Blaney running in a close second. Logano, Team Penske's third driver, just edged out Erik Jones to stay in the top 10 and pick up stage points at the end of Stage 2. Hamlin, Elliott, Martin Truex, Jr., Almirola, Kevin Harvick, Bowyer and Daniel Suarez were 2-9 at the end of the stage. Trouble started for some of the top 5 drivers during the stage caution. Blaney's crew had issues and he lost four spots, and Hamlin's crew was penalized for an uncontrolled tire, forcing him to the back of the lead lap.

Through 300

Kyle Busch, running outside of the top 10, tried to make a move to the front, and made contact with Almirola, sending the No. 10 car up the track and allowing Busch to get into the top 5 for the first time. One of the best ever at Martinsville, Jimmie Johnson, struggled all day, and was two laps down through the first 3/5 of the race. Busch, on the other hand, was trending upward, making it into the top-5.

 Through 350

William Byron's car spun in Turn 4 on Lap 312, sending out the fifth caution of the day. Keselowski, Elliott, Busch, Blaney and Truex were in the top 5 out of the caution on Lap 320, but Keselowski's dominance was finally matched on Lap 325 when Elliott passed the No. 2, the first time there was a new leader since Lap 5. Busch

Erik Jones and Kyle Larson rubbed against one another, and Jones suffered significant damage to the back left of his car, including a blown tire. He made it to the pits, but was forced to go back twice to pull off his back fender.

Through 400

Elliott and Keselowski were the class of the field through 400 laps. Keselowski retook the lead on Lap 374 and held off the No. 9. Alex Bowman made his way into top 10 for the first time, running 10th on lap 363. Austin Dillon also returned to the top 10, running 8th, and Daniel Suarez was 9th. Rookie Matt Tifft went into the wall in Turn 2, bringing out another caution. Keselowski won the race off of pit road and retook the lead. Elliott, Busch, Blaney and Harvick were 2-5 when the caution ended on Lap 378. Clint Bowyer was busted for speeding for a second time. He was running ninth at the time.

Through 450

Keselowski, Elliott, Blaney and Busch continued to battle for the front. Busch had good long-run speed, but remained patient, and didn't try to make a move too soon. Another caution on Lap 445 brought about a final pit stop for the leaders. Keselowski restarted second. Car 15 brings caution 445  — final pits for leaders.

Through 500

The same top 4 remained, with Elliott, Busch and Blaney changing position and battling for second. But that would be all they could battle for, as Keselowski continued to benefit from having the lead, and not relinquishing it. Denny Hamlin moved back into the top 5 in final 30, making up for an early penalty. He finished fifth, behind Elliott, Busch and Blaney.


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