Consider our Takeaways feature to be the home of our random and sometimes intelligent musings. Sometimes the post may have a theme. Sometimes it may just be a mess of unrelated thoughts. Make sure you tweet us your thoughts after the race or email your post-race rants via the link in the signature line below.
• Kyle Busch led over half of Sunday’s race but ceded the lead to Brad Keselowski over the final run and finished second. He said he fell back from Keselowski over the race’s final 40 laps because of a final set of tires that felt different than others he had throughout the race.
“Just needed a normal set of tires,” Busch said. “We put on a set of tires there at the end that weren’t the same as the ones that we took off and it just slowed the car down a minimum three tenths that whole entire last run. We just had no speed in the center of the corner and couldn’t maintain the drive off that we needed to on the long runs either … It’s just frustrating when you come down pit road and you don’t make any changes and you bolt a set of tires on it and it goes to junk.”
Busch, the defending champion of the Martinsville spring race, led 274 of the race’s 500 laps on Sunday and led 352 laps in last year’s win. The laps he’s led in those two races are more than the 490 laps he’s led in his other 22 Martinsville starts combined.
• Busch won the first stage but lost the second after a bump from Ricky Stenhouse Jr. allowed Chase Elliott to get the stage win. The move has implications for the playoffs; if Busch would have won the stage he’d have earned a point for the playoffs.
As the stage came to an end, Busch closed in on a gaggle of slower cars attempting to stay on the lead lap as he had a massive (by Martinsville standards) lead on Elliott. It initially appeared that Busch was being impatient while maneuvering through Stenhouse and the cars ahead. He said after the race that he was trying to be courteous to Stenhouse over the final lap.
“I actually was rolling into turn 3 and was kind of going higher out of my way in order to let [Stenhouse] back by and give him the lap,” Busch said. “That was my intent and then he just drove through me. It cost me my spot to [Elliott] so I was hoping that I could run off the corner side-by-side with [Stenhouse] and keep [Elliott] at bay and just keep my nose in front of his and be able to score the segment. And I was trying to be a nice guy but nice guys don’t finish first.”
• BK Racing was only involved in one of Sunday’s 14 cautions. Congratulations go out to Corey LaJoie and Gray Gaulding, though it was Gaulding who spun to cause a caution on lap 310.
• Jamie McMurray finished last after crashing out because of a cut tire. The tire got cut because of contact from Jimmie Johnson (via Ryan Blaney) and smoke started pouring from the left-wheel of McMurray’s car. A few laps after the tire rub started, McMurray’s car was destroyed.
if the smoke hadn’t gotten lighter I would have pitted, but it was smoking really bad and I’m like we have to pit,” McMurray said. “They said run a few more laps and they are getting a better idea of what it looks like and maybe where it is rubbing the tire. And then the smoke got a little bit lighter and I thought we were going to be okay. Honestly, when I’m in the car, I’m like if we pit and we lose three laps you are never going to make those up here because of the way the tires … there is not a tremendous amount of fall off. I don’t think you are going to be able to do the wave around and all that. I mean now, you wish you had, but there is nothing you can do about it.”
McMurray and crew chief Matt McCall should have pitted. Yes, hindsight is 20/20, but that’s a sentiment held before the crash too. Very rarely does a severe tire rub resolve itself without a crash or incident.
Playing it conservatively could have worked out for the No. 1 team too. McMurray crashed on lap 108, 22 laps before the conclusion of stage 1. Had he pitted at lap 107, he would have been able to stay out when the field pits during the stage break and gotten one of the laps lost from pitting back. And then who knows how the race would have played out from there.
Could McMurray gotten a top-10 finish by pitting? Likely not. But he definitely would have finished above 38th.
• After winning Sunday, Brad Keselowski is 34 points behind points leader Kyle Larson. Two weeks ago at Phoenix, Keselowski got a 35-point penalty for failing post-race inspection. So yeah, Keselowski would be the points leader if it wasn’t for the penalty.
The team is currently appealing the penalty despite crew chief Paul Wolfe already serving one race of his three-race suspension. Part of the reason for the delayed appeal, team owner Roger Penske said Sunday, is because the team wanted to check out the car after it got back from California. After looking it over, the team decided to appeal and Wolfe — who crew chiefed Sunday’s win — will be on the pit box until the appeal is resolved.
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