NASCAR finished an exciting race at its shortest track of the season this past Sunday. Brad Keselowski would go on to win the STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway. Before we get set to move onto Texas, here are five lessons learned from last weekend’s race.
Making an Impact
After watching 1.5 mile tracks and how stage racing struggles to get drivers to race harder (they were already pushing their cars around these types of tracks, how much faster could they go?), it was unsure just what stage racing would do at Martinsville Speedway.
Turns out it played a pretty big role in making the race a little more exciting.
One specific moment between Kyle Busch and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. on Lap 260 was what NASCAR was hoping for when they decided to implement stages.
At the end of the second stage Kyle Busch passed Ricky Stenhouse Jr. to put him down a lap. But before Busch could cross the start-finish line in first, Stenhouse gave him two taps on the bumper to not only get back on the lead lap. but push Busch up the track.
It not only moved Busch out of place, but it allowed Chase Elliot to pass him and win the second stage of the STP 500.
Of course Busch wasn’t happy getting pushed out of the way, but this is the type of racing NASCAR wanted; they want drivers to do everything they can to fight for every little bit of position during the end of each stage.
It’s hard for drivers to fight for positioning on 1.5 mile tracks when a stage ends because of how much space can build up between them.
A Very Slow Start
After the race at Martinsville its clear that all Hendrick Motorsports drivers, besides Chase Elliot, are struggling to keep up with some of the other teams in NASCAR.
Martinsville is a track where Jimmie Johnson is one of the most dominant drivers. With nine wins at this track it’s almost a given that Johnson will be one of the drivers who is racing for the win at the end of the race.
He finished 15th on Sunday.
Johnson was battling through the field all day, and did make it toward the front at one point of the race, but he struggled battling some of the other drivers in traffic, like Ryan Blaney, and was never able to make it back to the front after falling back. Johnson has been struggling at the start of this season and fans are still waiting for the 48 to return to championship form.
The Best Racing on TV
The STP 500 at Martinsville was a fantastic race. It was a short track battle filled with drivers bumping into each other to gain position. It also had a solid amount of cautions for drivers who got bumped a little too hard and ended up spinning out.
Short track racing usually makes for some of the best racing in NASCAR and because of this you would think NASCAR would want to show this race on channels like FOX.
Instead, Martinsville was on FS1 while we’ve seen other races like Atlanta, not nearly as exciting, take up TV time on a more prominent channel.
NASCAR always wants to get new eyes on the sport, yet for some reason they choose to show races like Atlanta and Texas, 1.5 mile tracks that rarely have exciting moments during the race, on FOX and push tracks like Martinsville and Dover to FS1.
Now there could be a very good reason for NASCAR making this decision; maybe the TV time on FOX is already being taken up by another sport so they must settle for FS1 for example, but this organization needs to do everything in their power to get these better races on the more well-known channels.
A Fantastic Start
Brad Keselowski earned his first career win and his first grandfather clock by winning the STP 500 at Martinsville this past Sunday.
Keselowski put on a dominant performance during the later part of the race after being hit with a speeding penalty early on. He is not the first driver this season to win multiple races and we are only six races into the year.
Penske decided to appeal the penalties applied to the two team from Phoenix heading into Martinsville, so Paul Wolfe was back as crew chief. The combination of Keselowski and Wolfe is one of the best driver-crew chief pairings in NASCAR and it’s showed so far this season.
What’s been even more impressive about this team, besides already winning two races, is how they managed to comeback at Fontana last week after taking heavy damage on the first lap and finish in second place.
There is no other team in NASCAR right now that is firing on all cylinders like the two team. They are already looking set to be one of the best teams this year and will only get better as the season moves on.