Brad Keselowski Races Past Kyle Busch to Win NASCAR at Martinsville

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured ColumnistApril 2, 2017

MARTINSVILLE, VA - APRIL 02:  Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Miller Lite Ford, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway on April 2, 2017 in Martinsville, Virginia.  (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
Sean Gardner/Getty Images

Brad Keselowski earned his second win of the season and his first career victory at Martinsville Speedway in Virginia on Sunday at the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series STP 500.   

He outlasted defending champion Kyle Busch and Chase Elliott down the stretch after trading leads with the No. 18 car multiple times. 

NASCAR on Fox Sports 1 shared the victorious moment:


Brad @Keselowski WINS at @MartinsvilleSwy! Watch the final lap and the No. 2 burnout below. #NASCARonFS1 https://t.co/o33cB194yQ

Here is a look at Keselowski and the rest of the top finishers, per NASCAR.com:

STP 500 Top 10 Finishers
PlaceDriverLaps Led
1Brad Keselowski116
2Kyle Busch274
3Chase Elliott20
4Joey Logano1
5Austin Dillon0
6AJ Allmendinger0
7Clint Bowyer0
8Ryan Newman0
9Matt Kenseth0
10Ricky Stenhouse Jr.0
Source: NASCAR.com

Sunday's win bolstered Keselowski's position in the Monster Energy Series standings as the only two-time winner this year, per NASCAR.com:

Monster Energy Series Standings
PlaceDriverPointsRace Wins
1Kyle Larson2681
2Chase Elliott2640
3Martin Truex Jr.2361
4Brad Keselowski2342
5Joey Logano2070
6Kyle Busch1880
7Ryan Blaney1790
8Clint Bowyer1740
9Jamie McMurray1630
10Kevin Harvick1540
Source: NASCAR.com

The 33-year-old navigated a formidable field and NASCAR's shortest and longest-running track. According to Tim Durr of Fox Sports, Martinsville Speedway has been around since 1948 and is just 0.526 miles, which created plenty of chaos and crowded maneuvering.

NASCAR writer Jeff Gluck noted it made its presence felt Sunday:

Jeff Gluck @jeff_gluck

There have now been more cautions today (14) than in both Martinsville races last year combined (13).

Busch mastered that short-track terrain last year as the defending champ but couldn't capitalize on his leads this time with Keselowski's chasing and ultimately passing him for good.

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There was early drama during the first stage when Jamie McMurray's day ended after he spun into the wall, as NASCAR passed along:


The gamble just didn't pay off today. #NASCARonFS1 https://t.co/5sKn6DOHQZ

McMurray's exit meant he wasn't part of the thrilling first-stage conclusion. Martin Truex Jr. earned a playoff point with the lead after Lap 130 following a number of cautions and contact between Jimmie Johnson, Kyle Larson and Ryan Blaney, which NASCAR captured:


The battle for P10 at the end of Stage 1? Epic. #NASCARonFS1 https://t.co/7FDQUPF6tt

Gluck noted tensions were high after the incident:

Jeff Gluck @jeff_gluck

Jimmie also said he was angry at Larson and Blaney and dropped an f-bomb, but I missed the exact wording.

Joey Logano was in position to challenge for the second-stage win from third place, but he lost significant ground with a flat tire.

With Logano out of the picture, it appeared as if Busch was going to win the stage at the end of Lap 260 after he lapped multiple cars from the lead position, but Ricky Stenhouse Jr. moved him to get back onto the lead lap. As a result, Elliott passed Busch in dramatic fashion and earned the playoff point.

Bob Pockrass of ESPN said Busch was not pleased with Stenhouse, and NASCAR shared the dramatics: 


Let's watch the wild finish to Stage 2 one more time! #NASCARonFS1 See the full top 10: https://t.co/8HFED1riei https://t.co/lkFwnlSwz6

With the stages in the rearview mirror, the short-track mayhem reared its ugly head when Kurt Busch was eliminated after he hit the wall. Elsewhere, Chris Buescher moved Danica Patrick as they battled for position, and Matt DiBenedetto went hard into the wall with less than 100 laps remaining.

It was not the last caution, as Dale Earnhardt Jr., Denny Hamlin, Patrick and others were part of a large pileup that ended No. 88's race, as NASCAR passed along:


Let's take another look at the contact. #NASCARonFS1 https://t.co/jU5QN6fgHW

It was essentially a race of attrition down the stretch, and Truex Jr. spun out from the 12th position.

Keselowski and Busch avoided the wreckage and battled with Elliott for the top three spots heading into the final 10 laps. Keselowski then created critical separation in those final laps and earned the victory despite Busch maintaining the lead for more laps.

It is still early in the calendar year, but Keselowski has plenty of momentum as a two-time winner heading into an April stretch that includes races at Texas Motor Speedway and Bristol Motor Speedway. He put himself into position to get the win Sunday by avoiding numerous wrecks and took full advantage in the closing stretch.

If he repeats that formula moving forward, he will remain a contender in the standings throughout the season.


Post-Race Reaction

Keselowski discussed the victory and his prize, per Tom Jensen of Fox Sports: "This track is 70 years old and a lot of legends have won here. It feels great to be able to join them and bring home a clock. A lot of people don’t know this, but those clocks are built in my hometown in Rochester Hills, Michigan, so it's cool to get one of them from back home."

Busch talked about the incident with Stenhouse at the end of the second stage, per Gluck: "I was trying to be a nice guy, but nice guys don't finish first."

He also commented on lapped cars racing in "disrespectful" ways, per Gluck: "Do whatever you want. It's going to come back and bite you one of these days."

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