MARTINSVILLE, Va. (AP) — Brad Keselowski routed the field at Martinsville Speedway to give Team Penske its third Cup victory through the first six races of the NASCAR season.
Keselowski led 446 of the 500 laps around the shortest track on the NASCAR schedule, but was challenged a handful of times by Chase Elliott — the only driver to pass Keselowski on the track Sunday.
Although Elliott led 49 laps, a late caution sent the field to pit road and Keselowski beat Elliott back to the track. Elliott could never get close enough to challenge Keselowski for the win again.
“The car was really good. Just a great day for a team,” Keselowski said. “Just one of those days you dream of as a race car driver.”
The win was the third this season for the new Ford Mustang. Toyota has won the other three races.
Keselowski started third behind teammate Joey Logano, who led the first five laps of the race. Keselowski briefly nudged Logano out of the groove on the sixth lap and took off for the rout that earned him his second Martinsville grandfather clock.
Elliott finished second in a Chevrolet from Hendrick Motorsports, while Kyle Busch was third in a Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing. Busch had won two consecutive Cup races before Sunday, the Truck Series race Saturday at Martinsville, and was seeking a weekend sweep.
Busch notched his fifth top-five finish of the season while making his 1,000th career NASCAR national series start.
Penske driver Ryan Blaney was fourth, while Gibbs driver and five-time Martinsville winner Denny Hamlin was fifth.
Stewart-Haas Racing drivers Kevin Harvick and Clint Bowyer were sixth and seventh, Gibbs driver Martin Truex Jr. was eighth, then SHR drivers Aric Almirola and Daniel Suarez completed the top 10.
Ford drivers took six spots in the top 10, while Gibbs and Toyota claimed three of the slots.
Jimmie Johnson leads all active drivers with nine victories at Martinsville, but his struggles spanning more than a year continued Sunday. He was lapped during the second stage and finished 24th. Since winning the fall 2016 race, Johnson has not finished higher than 12th.
NO REPEAT WINNER
Clint Bowyer was the defending race winner and worked his way to fifth as he exited pit road from a pit stop in the third stage. But he was penalized for speeding onto pit road and dropped to the back of the pack on the restart.
“Well, there went that,” he moaned over his radio.
Bowyer was flagged for speeding on the next round of pit stops, too, and finished sixth.
NASCAR goes to Texas Motor Speedway on Sunday. Kyle Busch won the race last April.