Tha Sports Junkies 101

Kyle Busch Wins Championship 4 Spot in First Data 500



Bent fenders, a short track and even shorter tempers; this was the story of the First Data 500 at Martinsville Speedway. A chilly Sunday in Virginia would see anger boil over for many drivers in the Playoffs. After several controversial moments, Kyle Busch held on to win the race. With this win, he is on to the Championship 4 round at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Early Race Recap

Qualifying was held prior to the race on Sunday morning. Playoff driver Jimmie Johnson spun during qualifying, and had to start the race in the rear. Joey Logano, who missed the Playoffs, won the pole. He would be a strong contender all race long, despite not being in the championship fight.

The early laps were dominated by Team Penske. Logano, Brad Keselowski, and corporate teammate Ryan Blaney were the class of the field in the opening laps.

Stage Winners

A late caution in Stage 1 saw many differing strategies. The lap 88 yellow saw Jimmie Johnson stay out, while Keselowski and others pitted. Johnson would hold on to finish Stage 1 in 4th, earning 7 valuable points on this gamble. Stage 2 came down to the closing laps, between Keselowski and Kyle Busch. Brad was able to use lapped traffic to pass Kyle with 2 laps left in the stage. He would hold on to sweep both stages.

On lap 304, Kyle Larson went for a spin on the back straightaway. This brought out a caution, and ended the day for the California Kid.

The 4 fastest drivers all race long were Logano, Keselowski, Busch, and Chase Elliott. On lap 324, Elliott muscled his way by Busch to take the lead. For the next 150 laps, Busch and Elliott would swap the lead numerous times. Elliott was definitely a strong contender in the First Data 500. Elliott appeared to have the strongest car. A win for him would guarantee a spot in the Homestead final 4.

While racing Keselowski hard for the lead, Elliott made contact with the number 2 Ford. This caused a tire rub on Elliott’s left rear wheel. Elliott caught a lucky break on lap 459, when a caution came out. On the restart, Elliott would take the lead back from Busch. However, Brad would sneak his way back by both on them to retake the lead on lap 471. But, Elliott had his sights set on the lead and the win.

Late Race Drama

Joey Logano spun on lap 493, bringing out a caution. Logano spun due to a massive tire rub he got from prior contact with the 18.

On the restart, Chase moved Brad for the lead with 3 laps left. Elliott appeared to be setting sail for victory lane and a spot in Homestead, but misfortune would strike the 21-year-old yet again. On the next lap, a hard-charging Denny Hamlin spun Elliott out in turn 2. This move was met by resounding displeasure from the crowd. An overtime restart would determine the First Data 500 winner. Hamlin and Busch were the front row. Denny nailed the restart, but would slide wide coming to the white flag.

Last Lap Mayhem

Hamlin and Busch took the white flag side-by-side. Busch ran Hamlin wide entering turn 1, but had to simultaneously block Martin Truex Jr. Going down the back straightaway for the final time, the 78 was to the inside of the 18. Through 3 and 4, Busch was able to barely hold on to win. After the leaders took the checkers, Hamlin spun in front of the field, causing a major wreck.

Post-Race Confrontations

After the checkers, Chase Elliott ran Denny Hamlin into the wall. Elliott was clearly not happy with Denny dumping him from the lead. After both drivers exited their cars, they had a very animated conversation. Also, Kevin Harvick and Ryan Blaney talked post-race. Harvick had been racing Blaney aggressively, bumping him several times throughout the race. However heated tempers got, no physical altercations occurred between the drivers.

After the race, Denny issued an apology to Chase Elliott and his fans via Twitter. However, the on-track move made Denny public enemy number 1 in the eyes of many Elliott fans. Martinsville may be Hamlin’s home track, but he made more haters than fans on Sunday. One fan even attempted to fight Hamlin, but was escorted away by police.

Almost lost in all the mayhem, Kyle Busch was the First Data 500 winner. This win secures him a spot in the Homestead Championship 4 for a 3rd straight year. The remaining top 10 finishers were Truex, Clint Bowyer, Keselowski, Harvick, Trevor Bayne, Hamlin, Blaney, Matt Kenseth, and Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

In conclusion, the First Data 500 at Martinsville provided a very intense and unpredictable showing for the NASCAR Playoffs. 2 races remain for 7 drivers to lock themselves into the Championship 4 in Miami. With how intense the racing was at Martinsville, there’s no telling how heated these drivers will be in Texas.