Kyle Busch finally figured out Martinsville (Virginia) Speedway in his truck victory on Saturday.
He dominated it on Sunday, leading 352 laps and pulling away on a restart with 11 laps to go and outrunning AJ Allmendinger to the finish for his first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series victory on the series’ smallest, oldest oval, and a sweep of the two-race weekend.
Busch, who won for the first time in 31 starts at Martinsville in the truck race on Saturday, earned his 35th Cup victory on the season’s first short track. The race was run in bright sunshine, but cool temperatures that never let the track get quite as sticky as it normally does.
The option to pick the inside or outside line as the leader on the final restart was great for Busch, but not for teammate Matt Kenseth.
“That was the key to the race, being able to restart on the bottom like that,” Busch said after choosing the inside line, putting Kenseth outside.
“We all talked as a group earlier this morning about how we were going to do that and what we were going to do and we all said, with 10 to go, it’s pretty much off-limits. It was (11) to go, so it was pretty much right on the brink there, so, ‘Sorry Matt.’”
When the green flag flew, Busch sailed off, Allmendinger beat Kenseth to the inside position and Kenseth got shuffled back to 15th.
Busch, meanwhile, led the most laps at Martinsville since Bobby Hamilton was out front for 378 on April 20, 1998.
Allmendinger was second, followed by Kyle Larson, Austin Dillon and Brad Keselowski.
“I was kind of hoping we’d stay green the last 120 laps,” Allmendinger said. “I figured that wasn’t going to happen, but I was praying we had a shot at that because I felt like if that happened, we had a great chance to win the race.”
Several other drivers who pitted before the final restart started in the sixth row, or further back, of side-by-side racing, and while Larson and Keselowski recovered for top-five finishes, others got caught up in traffic and that allowed Dillon to hang on out of nowhere.
It was the second straight race at Martinsville, long a Kenseth nemesis, that again was a huge disappointment for the former series champion.
Last spring, he crashed race leader Joey Logano with 46 laps to go, earning himself a two-race suspension. This time, he seemed poised to challenge Busch for the lead with 35 laps to go until a blown tire by Jamie McMurray caused a caution, bunching up the field.
“I was a little worried there toward the end before that last caution came out that Matt was catching me,” Busch said. “He was on me pretty good and I wasn’t sure that I had enough brake in order to handle the rest of the day, but fortunately we got a yellow there.”
The race also was a lost day for Denny Hamlin, one of the favorites going in and the defending champion.
Hamlin was running fifth after 221 laps after overcoming a pit road penalty until his car lost control heading into Turn 1 and slammed into the wall, sending him to the garage. He never returned, and finished 42nd.
Nico Rosberg made it back-to-back victories to start the new Formula One season by winning the Bahrain Grand Prix, capitalizing on a first-corner collision involving Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton and an engine failure which prevented Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel starting the race.
Rosberg led throughout to win by 10.2 seconds at the Sakhir circuit from Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen, with Hamilton third after recovering from the collision with Williams driver Valtteri Bottas.
Defending Top Fuel world champion Antron Brown raced to his first victory of the season at the DENSO Spark Plugs NHRA Nationals in Las Vegas.
Brown powered his dragster to a 3.843 second pass at 314.60 mph to defeat first-time finalist Troy Buff, who trailed in his dragster with a run of 3.918 at 307.58.
“It never gets boring,” Brown said. “It’s more than just a trophy it’s all the hard work it takes to get here. We struggled the first three races, but we just kept digging we kept our head down and just kept going.”
With the win, Brown moves to second in the Top Fuel points standings, trailing leader Brittany Force. Force lost to Buff in round two.
Alexis DeJoria (Funny Car) and Jason Line (Pro Stock) also were winners in their categories at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in the fourth of 24 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing events.
In Funny Car, DeJoria piloted her Toyota Camry to a final-round performance of 3.968 at 315.49 to overtake defending world champion Del Worsham in his Camry. It is Dejoria’s second win at LVMS, where she also won in 2014, and the fourth of her career.
In a matchup between Chevy Camaros, two-time Pro Stock world champion Line defeated KB Racing teammate Bo Butner after Butner turned on the red light at the start. Line extended his points lead with his second win in his fourth consecutive final to open the season.
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