[media-credit name=”Brad Keppel” align=”alignright” width=”225″][/media-credit]At a track where short-track tempers mix with history and old time racing, here is what was surprising and not surprising from the 63rd running of the Goody’s Fast relief 500 at Martinsville Speedway.
Surprising: After appearing that Rick Hendrick would surely get his 200th win with Jeff Gordon dominating the race and his HMS teammates Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. nipping at his heels, it was surprising that a Hendrick-powered race car, instead of a Hendrick driver, tooled to Victory Lane.
Ryan Newman, behind the wheel of the No. 39 Outback Steakhouse Chevrolet, survived a green, white, checkered melee to score his first victory of the season. This was also Newman’s first victory and 11th top-10 finish in 21 races at Martinsville Speedway.
“The first green, white, checkered, I told the guys on the radio that I wasn’t sure I could win it,” Newman said. “It was an awesome finish. Circumstances put us in the right position.”
“I really need to thank Hendrick for their support of the engines this year.”
Not Surprising: Although the race featured the fewest caution periods, just seven, since September 1996, the race was the longest in Martinsville history, with 515 laps and 270.89 miles run because of the green, white checkered finish.
Surprising: It was a bit surprising to hear a nurse credited for a second place race finish. Yet in spite of spending time in the infield care center before the race, the driver of the No. 22 Shell/Pennzoil Dodge A.J. Allmendinger scored his career best finish at Martinsville.
When asked how he managed to finish second, ‘Dinger said, “The medical nurses to begin with, because I felt horrible this morning, just been sick.”
“I just kept fighting,” Allmendinger said. “I don’t know if I had a second-place Charger, but you’ve got to put yourself in position to do that.”
“I’d like to have got the win, but it was a good day.”
Not Surprising: Fan favorite Dale Earnhardt, Jr. pulled off another solid race day, finishing third in his No. 88 AMP Energy/National Guard Chevrolet, as well as taking over the second spot in points, just six behind leader Greg Biffle.
And much to the delight of the crowd, Junior even led a few laps as he posted his 14th top-10 finish in 25 races at Martinsville.
“Yeah, I’m real happy with our finish,” Junior said. “We worked really hard all day to get the best finish we could.”
“This is our first race with AMP on the hood and we’re proud to have a good finish for those guys.”
Surprising: Fords, a manufacturer that traditionally struggles in comparison to Chevrolets at Martinsville Speedway, had a surprisingly good day. The highest finishing Ford was the No. 17 Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation/Gary Sinise Foundation Ford piloted by Matt Kenseth.
“We were pretty good,” Kenseth said. “We weren’t as good as those Hendrick Chevrolets cars but for us at Martinsville, it was pretty good.”
“We came home in the top-10 at Martinsville and to not have anybody mad and not be mad at anybody is probably a pretty good day.”
Not Surprising: While Kenseth got away without anger issues, tempers flared for a few other drivers, notably Jeff Gordon, who was upset with Clint Bowyer, and most of the field who were furious at David Reutimann.
The driver of the No. 24 Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet, Jeff Gordon, was pretty peeved at Clint Bowyer, behind the wheel of the No. 15 5-Hour Energy Toyota, for dive bombing and wrecking him in the last laps of the race.
“Clint and I are friends and I have a lot of respect for him, but I was pretty mad at him,” Gordon said. “I didn’t get the best restart and he said he got hit from behind.”
“I had nowhere to go,” Gordon said. “That’s just the way our year has been going.”
But the driver who scored highest for the number of drivers made angry was none other than David Reutimann, behind the wheel of the No. 10 Accell Construction Chevrolet. Rooty raised the ire of many drivers for not pitting after being black-flagged for mechanical problems and stopping dead on the race track.
“I was trying to limp around to stay in the top 35,” Reutimann said. “The motor just quit.”
“I didn’t stop there intentionally,” Reutimann continued. “I know it sucks and I hate it for everyone affected.”
“I hate that I was involved with anything that changed the complexion of the race.”
Surprising: After scoring the pole position, it was surprising that the curse on Kasey Kahne continued. The driver of the No. 5 Hedrickcars.com Chevrolet again had engine woes and finished a miserable 38th.
Not Surprising: While Kahne continues to struggle with his seemingly cursed season, it was not surprising to see the Busch brothers struggle at Martinsville. Both Kurt, driving the No. 51 Phoenix Construction Services, and brother Kyle, behind the wheel of the No. 18 M&Ms Toyota, had mechanical issues that plagued their day.
Kyle Busch finished 36th while his brother Kurt soldiered on to a 33rd place finish.
“We got a little behind because the car was just too loose,” Dave Rogers, Kyle Busch’s crew chief said. “Kyle was doing a great job at hanging onto it and it wheel-hopped a little bit and we got into the fence.”
Surprising: Martin Truex, Jr. continued to surprise, this time with a good run at Martinsville. The driver of the No. 56 NAPA Auto Parts Toyota scored another top-5 finish.
“This feels great,” Truex said. “We backed into that one a little bit with those guys getting tangled up front.”
“This is probably my worst race track and to come out of here with a fifth place finish – I’m pretty proud of that.”
Not Surprising: The driver of the No. 16 3M Ford Fusion not surprisingly planned to celebrate his maintenance of the points lead by heading out for Easter vacation.
“It feels good to go on vacation being the points leader,” Greg Biffle said. “Leaving here on top feels good because this is a tough place for us and we came here and ran respectable.”