The two drivers waged a scintillating battle for the lead for at least two dozen laps until Keselowski passed Busch with 43 laps to go and pulled away for his first win at Martinsville.
The two drivers were rightfully up front after the race’s first 400 laps. Busch was planted firmly at the front of the field for most of the day while Keselowski had to move back through the field by passing a bunch of cars and through pit strategy after he got a pit road speeding penalty during the first caution of the race.
Keselowski led the field to green on lap 437 after the race’s final restart. Busch got by him six laps after the green flag, but Keselowski stuck to his bumper. On lap 457, Keselowski made his move left Busch in the dust.
“This is awesome,” Keselowski said. “We’ve ran so good here with the Miller Lite Ford, but something always happens and we haven’t been able to bring it home. Martinsville is just one of those champion’s tracks. The guys that run well everywhere run well here, and it’s really just an honor to win here and get to compete here.”
Busch, who led 274 laps, said he would have had a much better chance to hold off Keselowski over the final laps had the final set of tires on his car felt the same as previous sets. But with a car that wasn’t handling as well over the final stages of the race, he was “grasping at straws” to keep Keselowski behind him.
Busch’s complaints about the tires continue a theme that began at the Daytona 500. He crashed out of the season-opening race after a tire went flat and had harsh words for the tire provider following that incident.
“All we did was put four tires on it and it went to junk,” Busch said. “I hate it for our guys. They’ve deserved all year much better finishes than what we’ve been able to produce and here’s another one today.”
But while Busch’s tires were fresh enough to battle heads up with Keselowski, the duel the two Cup champions had was fantastic. Over the short runs between caution flags the drivers had nearly equal cars. Busch was able to accelerate better off the corner while Keselowski was able to get into the corner better.
And at a place known for drivers winning with crumpled-up fenders, the two raced each other exceptionally clean. Each time they traded the lead a bumper shove wasn’t involved. And while Keselowski made light contact with Busch’s bumper on multiple occasions before the winning pass, the maneuvers were much more to show Busch he was in his tire tracks than to push him out of the way.
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