Kyle Busch spent this weekend making up for lost time at Martinsville Speedway, winning for the second time in as many days in Sunday’s STP 500 Sprint Cup Series race after previously going 0-for-his-career at the Virginia short track.
One day after Busch won for the first time at the .526-mile track, taking the Camping World Truck Series race, the Joe Gibbs Racing driver made it a clean weekend sweep by also taking the STP 500 Sprint Cup event.
That earned Busch his second Martinsville Grandfather Clock in as many days, giving him a pair of one of NASCAR’s most coveted trophies. He said the wins were related, adding that he took what he learned from Saturday’s win and applied it to his approach for Sunday.
“It certainly helps when you get to run other divisions,” Busch told FOX Sports in Victory Lane. “That’s why I do it. The goal is for it to pay off on Sunday.
“It doesn’t work every single weekend, but it works more times than it doesn’t.”
AJ Allmendinger finished an impressive second, followed by Kyle Larson, Austin Dillon and Brad Keselowski.
“I wish we could have gotten one more spot,” Allmendinger said. “But we passed Jimmie Johnson like five times at Martinsville. That’s pretty cool.”
Busch led 352 of the 500 laps and pulled away from the field on the final restart with 12 laps to go. Busch chose the inside lane on the restart, with his JGR teammate Matt Kenseth starting in second on the outside.
As Busch surged ahead of the field, Kenseth faded quickly and ended up dropping all the way to 15th by the finish.
Allmendinger made a series of aggressive moves that paid off in his runner-up finish, but didn’t have enough to seriously challenge Busch for the win over the final laps.
Five-time Martinsville Speedway Denny Hamlin, one of the pre-race favorites as the defending winner of last spring’s race at the short track, saw his chances of winning the STP 500 end prematurely with a hard crash on Lap 221.
Hamlin was driving his No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota into Turn 1 when it unexpectedly began wheel-hopping. Hamlin tried to turn, but pancaked the right side of the car against the outside wall between Turns 1 and 2.
The hard impact forced Hamlin to the garage to try and make repairs to his damaged car.
“It’s my first time ever doing it here, so it’s a little embarrassing,” Hamlin said of wheel-hopping, which occurs when a car’s rear tires get too hot from excessive braking. “We were the fastest car those last 30 laps (before the crash) and we got back to the top five and I was making up a lot of my speed on entry. As the tires wear, the rears get hotter, less grip, and you can’t brake the same amount.
“It was really out of the blue. I didn’t have a hint of it up until that moment, so it was a bit of a rookie move on my part. I’ve been around here too much to do something like that.”
Hamlin ended up finishing 39th in the 40-car field.
Dale Earnhardt Jr., meanwhile, ran into lots of his own troubles early on.
On the opening lap, Earnhardt and Kevin Harvick had contact as the field wadded up in accordion fashion. Then just five laps into the race, Earnhardt’s No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet went a lap down after he spun out.
David Ragan and Earnhardt bumped, and it appeared that Ragan’s tail pipe hit Earnhardt’s left-rear tire, causing it to go flat and sending the No. 88 spinning.
Earnhardt rallied to finish 14th.
For Busch, though, it was a sweet way to cap a winning weekend after he had gone winless in 21 previous Cup starts at the Martinsville track, as well as in his eight previous Truck Series starts at the paperclip.
“To win here at Martinsville is pretty cool,” Busch said. “I get to take another clock home. A lot of people said I didn’t deserve (Saturday’s) and maybe I don’t. But I got another one today.”