In race number 33 of the 2015 NASCAR season, here is what was surprising and not surprising after the completion of the 67th Annual Goody’s Headache Relief Shot 500 at Martinsville Speedway.
Surprising: It was a surprisingly rough day for the Ford Racing teams, with Aric Almirola as their highest finisher in the 16th position. And it was also a surprisingly difficult race for Ford’s Team Penske, with Brad Keselowski finishing 32nd and Logano finishing 37th after a controversial move into the wall by Matt Kenseth.
“I got wrecked. I don’t know. What am I supposed to say about it?” Logano said after he was wrecked while leading the race by rival Matt Kenseth. “His race was over and he tried so hard to catch us the first time and he took out half the field, and he was successful the second time so I give that to him. It’s kind of a coward move. Actually, a really coward move for a race car driver to do that, essentially someone as mature and an experienced race car driver that knows what this is all about.”
Logano’s Ford and Team Penske teammate also had his own encounter with Matt Kenseth, which resulted in a less than satisfactory finish for the driver of the No. 2 Alliance Truck Parts Ford.
“I got hit from behind and pushed me into the 20 and my right-front wheel hit Kenseth’s left-rear and it just broke the right-front suspension off the car,” Keselowski said. “The car wouldn’t turn and just kept going straight until I couldn’t do anything and I started wrecking everybody. I just didn’t have any steering wheel left.”
Logano fell to the eight spot in the Eliminator Eight round and Keselowski fell to the sixth spot.
Not Surprising: At a track that has seen many highs and a major low with the loss of so many loved ones in that tragic plane crash, Hendrick Motorsports and their driver Jeff Gordon celebrated one of the highest of highs with a trip to Victory Lane.
This was Gordon’s 93rd career victory and his ninth win at Martinsville Speedway. And the driver, running his last few races of the season, guaranteed that he will be one of the participants in the Chase for NASCAR’s Sprint Cup championship.
“This is the sweetest, most amazing feeling,” the driver of the No. 24 AARP Member Advantages Chevrolet said. “I am so proud of this team. You want to talk about holding back emotions; right now man, wow, we’re going to Homestead! I can’t believe it. What an incredible battle that was.”
Surprising: There were quite a few drivers craving illumination as the race at the track shaped like a paperclip came to a close.
“It was dark!” Martin Truex Jr. said after finishing sixth in his No. 78 Furniture Row/Visser Precision Chevrolet. “It was getting borderline where we had to quit, but I’m glad the fans got to see a good ending.”
“I love Martinsville,” Dale Earnhardt Jr. said after he took the checkered flag in the fourth spot. “But if we are going to run at night we need to put some damn lights up here.”
Not Surprising: The highest finishing Toyota drivers, Denny Hamlin in third and Kyle Busch in fifth, both had to overcome obstacles before taking the checkered flag in the top-5. Hamlin had not just one, but two speeding penalties and Busch hit a wet spot that had him spinning.
“My race was eventful to say the least – two pit road penalties, my car wasn’t very good at all up until the very, very end and we just took a long time to get going,” Hamlin said. “It’s just part of it. This racing now is different now than what it used to be when I first came in the sport and its just survival of the fittest.”
“I screwed us up early in the race and touched that water down there in turn one and spun out with the 3 (Austin Dillon) car so that was my bad,” Kyle Busch said. “I bent up the front end of the car and it was just never right from there on out, but we persevered and we just made the changes that we needed to make for this car for our conditions that we had. The M&M’s Crispy Camry there at the end was good enough for a top-five so I’m glad we finished there.”
Although Hamlin was eliminated from the Chase after Talladega, Busch goes into the next Chase race in Texas in the second spot in the standings, just eight points behind leader Jeff Gordon.
Surprising: There was a great deal of apparent comradery at the back of the field, which resulted in at least two drivers working their way back up for top-ten finishes. Both Kasey Kahne and Tony Stewart had to start from the rear in backup cars and both finished well, in fact in ninth and tenth respectively.
“Kasey (Kahne) and I both finished top-ten in backup cars,” Smoke said. “That was what was really cool; seeing two Team Chevy drivers come from the back like that. He and I both worked pretty good going through the pack there.”
“I’m happy with it.”
Not Surprising: There was definitely ‘more to the story’ of Kurt Busch, who finished 34th after being involved in a wreck that was not of his doing. The driver of the No. 41 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet debuted his new sponsor Monster Energy for the first time at Martinsville.
“For us there is so much more to our story,” Busch said. “It’s been a fantastic season. I’m really proud to debut a new sponsor in the Sprint Cup series with Monster Energy. They were here today. We led laps today we were up front. Restarting third with a set of fresh tires and 70 laps to go I mean we were in perfect position. We did our job we just didn’t have luck on our side.”
Surprising: Carl Edwards found himself in a foreign land at the end of the race, finishing 14th in his No. 19 XFINITY Toyota.
“I thought it was going to be a top-10 there at the end,” Edwards said. “We struggled for a lot of the day, but really proud of all these guys. Our XFINITY Camry was fast at the end, maybe if we got tires – we were just in no man’s land, we didn’t know whether to get tires or not at the end.”
“That was a crazy day.”
Not Surprising: While it might not have been the outcome he desired, the runner-up at Martinsville admitted that he would be leaving with the best of memories of the competition on the track.
“For me, Jeff Gordon is the only die cast or T-shirt that I ever bought growing up before I made it to NASCAR,” Jamie McMurray, driver of the No. 1 McDonald’s Chevrolet, said. “So it was really a cool moment for me to get to battle with him on a green-white-checkered at Martinsville.”
“I certainly wish it would have turned out a little bit differently. But that’s a really good memory for me and a very good moment that I will not forget.”
Surprising: While many drivers were relieved after surviving Talladega, Kevin Harvick was thankful to end his time in Martinsville with an eighth place finish, especially after getting run into and suffering significant damage to his race vehicle.
“Well, we didn’t score many points here last year,” Harvick said. “We were in a big hole leaving Martinsville. It’s very easy to get in a hole leaving here. I feel like Texas has been a very good race track for us as we’ve gone through the past couple of years at Stewart-Haas, and we all know how Phoenix has gone.”
“So, we just need to have two more solid weeks and hopefully position ourselves well to have a chance to get to Homestead.”
Not Surprising: Who says NASCAR cannot be compared to stick and ball sports, especially given that the World Series is currently underway? Well, driver Matt Kenseth did just that in his post-race comments after finishing 38th.
“It’s a tough sport, some days you’re the bat and some days you’re the ball,” the driver of the very wrecked No. 20 Dollar General Toyota. “I was the ball a few weeks ago and I was the ball again today so that part is never fun.”
The Sprint Cup Series will head deep into the heart of Texas for next weekend’s race, the AAA TEXAS 500, the second in the Eliminator Round.