Martinsville, Virginia – It was the first true short track of the season and the first great battle between Brad Keselowski and Kyle Busch this season. This time in the Brad and Kyle saga the driver of the blue deuce emerged victorious, gracing the Martinsville fans with his signature american flag celebration.
With a softer right-side tire compound this weekend rubber began caking to the paperclip early Saturday morning, in turn the groove was as wide as it’s ever been. Busch began working the outside groove early in the first run of the race, this proved pivotal for his runs late in the race.
Run with 14 caution flags, one more than in each of last year’s races, for 95 laps the STP 500 featured a chaotic beginning, a clean second stage, and a wreck filled final stage that still managed to leave room for a long green flag run to the checkered.
The green flag waved with 64 laps to go and the rivalry was on. These two have NASCAR Camping World Truck Series teams that often find each other as their main source of competition, Busch and Keselowski have been battling for years in the Xfinity races they plunder, and Sunday they put on the best stock car show a fan could ask for. Over that final green flag run these two wheel-men swapped the lead three times and five times over the last 94 laps.
An issue arose for Busch after the final set of pit stops. He had dominated the second third of the race but “then you put a set of tires on and you lose three-tenths.” “I was just grasping for straws,” said Busch about his duel with Keselowski on his less than perfect tires.
In the corners, for a chunk of laps during the final run, it looked as if their bumpers were stuck together. These drivers weren’t bumping and running; they were equally matched all the way around the track and raced each other hard.
Eventually Keselowski garnered the lead and kept it that way, he won the race by 1.806 seconds over Busch.
“He was way better than we were at (the end),” said Busch. ” Just wasn’t the same. Our car definitely changed there for the last run of the race, and we just didn’t have what we needed in order to have the speed that we had all the rest of the day.”
Even though Busch admitted the blue deuce was faster than him over the course of the last run he’s still blaming goodyear, saying he “wouldn’t have had to worry about him if (he) had the right tires on the car.”
At the end of it all Keselowski was a humble winner in saying “Kyle is one of the best race car drivers out there.”