By Hank Kurz Jr. AP
MARTINSVILLE, Virginia — Kyle Busch pulled away on a restart with 11 laps to go and outran AJ Allmendinger to the finish for his first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series victory at Martinsville Speedway, and a sweep of the two-race weekend.
Busch, who won for the first time in 31 starts at Martinsville in a truck race on the 0.526-mile (0.846-kilometer) oval on Saturday, dominated in the premier division in bright sunshine but cool temperatures that never let the track get quite as sticky as it normally does.
The option to pick the inside or outside line as the leader on the final restart was great for Busch, but not for teammate Matt Kenseth.
“That was the key to the race, being able to restart on the bottom like that,” Busch said after choosing the inside line, putting Kenseth outside.
“We all talked as a group earlier this morning about how we were going to do that and what we were going to do and we all said, with 10 to go, it’s pretty much off limits. It was (11) to go, so it was pretty much right on the brink there, so, ‘Sorry Matt.’”
When the green flag flew, Busch sailed off, Allmendinger beat Kenseth to the inside position and Kenseth got shuffled back to 15th.
Allmendinger finished second, followed by Kyle Larson, Austin Dillon and Brad Keselowski.
“I was kind of hoping we’d stay green the last 120 laps,” Allmendinger said. “I figured that wasn’t going to happen, but I was praying we had a shot at that because I felt like if that happened, we had a great chance to win the race.”
Several other drivers who pitted before the final restart started in the sixth row, or further back, of side-by-side racing, and while Larson and Keselowski recovered for top-five finishes, others got caught up in traffic and that allowed Dillon to take fourth out of nowhere.
It was the second straight major disappointment at Martinsville for Kenseth.
Last spring, he crashed race leader Joey Logano with 46 laps to go, earning himself a two-race suspension. This time, he seemed poised to challenge Busch for the lead with 35 laps to go until a blown tire by Jamie McMurray caused a caution, bunching up the field.
“I was a little worried there toward the end before that last caution came out that Matt was catching me,” Busch said. “He was on me pretty good and I wasn’t sure that I had enough brake in order to handle the rest of the day, but fortunately we got a yellow there.”
Busch led the most laps at Martinsville since Bobby Hamilton was out front for 378 on April 20, 1998.
The race also was a lost day for Denny Hamlin, one of the favorites going in and the defending champion.
Hamlin was running fifth after 221 laps after overcoming a pit road penalty until his car lost control heading into Turn 1 and slammed into the wall, sending him to the garage. He never returned, and finished 42nd.