Martinsville Speedway has never been one of Kyle Busch's favourite tracks. The shortest circuit on the NASCAR calendar, the 'Paperclip' has hitherto refused to yield Busch a pass to victory lane in 30 previous starts here in any of NASCAR's national-level championships. Coming into this weekend there hadn't been much reason to believe the frustrating streak would be broken this time either.

Instead, Busch pulled off a sweep of both the Sprint Cup and Camping World Truck Series races, and in surprisingly dominant fashions in both. In the STP 500 Cup event the Joe Gibbs Racing driver led for a total of 352 of the 500 half-mile laps - the most at Martinsville since Bobby Hamilton led 378 on April 20, 1998 - including an unbroken stint of 174 laps to close out his 35th win in 396 Cup race starts. Victory at Martinsville comes with a unique grandfather clock trophy, and after this weekend Busch now has a pair to take home with him.

"To win here in Martinsville is pretty cool, you know. Finally get to take a clock home. A lot of people said I didn't deserve one yesterday, and maybe I don't, but I certainly got one today," he said in victory lane.

Busch added that running in the Truck Series race had been key to his success in the Cup event: "It certainly helps when you get to run other divisions, and that's why I do it - to pay off on Sundays. It doesn't work every single weekend, but it works more times than it doesn't."

It's Busch's first win of the year, his most recent victory before today having been the 2015 season finale when he clinched his maiden Sprint Cup championship. While this week's success doesn't automatically guarantee a place in this year's Chase, the chances are that he will now be able to defend his title alongside other 2016 race winners which currently include Jimmie Johnson (Hendrick Motorsport), Kevin Harvick (Stewart-Haas Racing), Brad Keselowski (Penske) and Denny Hamlin (JGR).

Penske's Joey Logano had taken pole position in Friday's qualifying session and duly led for the first 21 laps which included an early caution for Hendrick's Dale Earnhardt Jr. who tangled with BK Racing's David Ragan just five laps into the race. Earnhardt went a lap down and only got back on the lead lap again when he got the free pass under a caution triggered by a spin for John Wise (The Motorsports Group) on lap 312 after contact with Martin Truex Jr. (Furniture Row Racing).

Logano was finally ousted from the lead by Richard Childress Racing's Paul Menard, and on lap 25 Busch - who had started in seventh place - also passed Logano to take over second place before pouncing on Menard on lap 32 to lead for the first time. As Menard and Logano faded their places were taken over by Keselowski and Harvick by the time that Michael Annett spun in the #46 HScott Motorsports on lap 90. Busch won the race off pit road to retain the lead for the restart but found himself initially unable to hold off Harvick who led for six laps before Busch finally found his former momentum.

Busch's team mate Matt Kenseth took over at the front just before a caution for Roush Fenway Racing's Ricky Stenhouse Jr. spinning in turn 1 on lap 138, and Harvick was able to take a firm hold of proceedings shortly after the restart to lead for the next 67 laps until the fourth caution of the afternoon on lap 222 which was for Hamlin missing his braking point into the first turn and wheel-hopping into the SAFER barrier and out of the race.

"Surprising, that was my first time ever doing that here, so that's a little embarrassing," Hamlin told TV reporters after the crash. "It was really out of the blue and a bit of a rookie move on my part ... I've been around here too much to do something like that. I really thought we had a car to win."

Kenseth was able to win the race off pit lane but Busch was able to pass his team mate for the lead on lap 242 which lasted until the Wise/Truex caution on lap 313. Kenseth again came out best on pit lane to lead at the restart but Busch was soon back up to speed and in the lead on lap 328 which would last the rest of the race despite three more cautions (a second spin for Annett in turn 2 on lap 384; tyre issues for Tommy Baldwin Racing's Regan Smith on lap 457; and a late spin in turn 2 for Chip Ganassi Racing's Jamie McMurray on lap 484.)

Busch opted not to pit under the last caution, and despite not having a team mate behind him to give him a boost when the green flag came out the #18 nonetheless had more than enough raw speed to allow him to pull out a safe gap over the rest of the field, eventually crossing the finish line 0.663s ahead of JTG Daugherty Racing's AJ Allmendinger who had the best restart of anyone to propel himself past Kenseth at the restart.

"I was hoping for one more spot for a culmination," said Allemindinger. "I had to get aggressive. I thought heck with 12 to go we might have a new clock in the shop. Came up a little bit short, it's pretty cool to be racing Kyle Busch for the win here though."

Ganassi's Kyle Larson was among those to pit for fresh tyres and who was rewarded with third place at the finish ahead of Austin Dillon (RCR), Keselowski, Carl Edwards (JGR), Brian Vickers (SHR), Menard, Johnson and Ryan Newman (RCR).

"We had a really good Target Chevy," said Larson. "It was really fun this whole weekend to be competitive every time I was on the race track. Normally, I'm very bad here and to finish top 3 feels like a win for me. Never would I have thought that I'd get a top 3 here and now I can kind of see a clock maybe in my future.

"I had a lot of fun today. We were running in the top 5 and top 7 the whole race. I learned a lot. I spent a lot of time behind Jimmie Johnson and I felt like I just followed his track there and got a lot better throughout the race."

"I'm a fiery guy and it was fun today," said Dillon, who lashed out at his team mate Menard over the radio after a mid-race misunderstanding. "Paul just said we had fast race cars. That's pretty much the end of it. I've got to learn to keep my mouth shut on the radio. That's part of racing."

"It was a good Martinsville race," was Keselowski's verdict. "We had a lot of speed with the Miller Lite Ford on the long runs, but just not quite enough on the short runs to make anything of the Gibbs cars. They were really strong all day. All in all, I'm real proud of my team. We're starting to get this place where we're real consistent and can run up front and that's a good feeling."

"We had a really fast car all weekend," said Menard. "Led a little bit and we started with a little bit higher air pressure to start the race. We just gave up too much. Kind of got backwards and then had a set of tyres that had a loose wheel, it was back in the middle part of the race and just battled back. Really fast car all weekend, just trying to tune on it throughout the race."

"The first half of the day we were really good at the end," contributed Johnson. "We had some short run speed, but would fade. Better than last Fall, but need to get better yet."

"Coming into this race I told the team that they had given me the best car I've ever had at Martinsville," said Newman. "After our third stop, we don't know what happened to be honest. The car was on the splitter and it was just a handful to drive. It cost us big. We lost a lap and for about 150 laps we marred back in 19th, 20th position.

"With about 50 to go, we got the break we needed and raced our way back onto the lead lap," he continued. "A late-race caution allowed us to pit for fresh tyres and we were able to race from 17th to a 10th-place finish."

After struggling with the car's handling in the early stages of the race and earning himself a pit lane penalty on lap 385, pole winner Logano came back strongly in the closing stages to finish in 11th place just ahead of Roush's Greg Biffle. SHR's Kurt Busch once place ahead of Earnhardt, while Kenseth dropped from second to 15th place in the final ten sprint to the finish.

In the championship standings, Harvick continues to lead now by four points from Johnson, with Busch now only one point further back in third place ahead of Edwards, Logano, Keselowski, Dillon, Kurt Busch, Hamlin and Earnhardt.

The next event on the Sprint Cup Series calendar is the Duck Commander 500 night race at Texas Motor Speedway on April 9.

Full race results and updated Sprint Cup Championship standings.

Camping World Truck Series: In the Alpha Energy Solutions 250 race, ThorSport Racing's Ben Rhodes claimed his maiden pole in seven outings with a lap of 19.659s (96.322mph) on the half-mile oval, putting him just ahead of Cup regular and Truck Series owner/driver Kyle Busch. Rhodes fought off an early challenge from Busch to hold the early lead until the first caution for GMS Racing's Johnny Sauter hitting the wall in turn 3 on lap 42. Tyre issues on pit road demoted Rhodes to ninth for the restart allowing Busch to lead until lap 62 when Sauter's team mate Kyle Larson took charge. A turn 4 spin for Sauter's team mate Kaz Grala on lap 92 brought out the second caution which saw Larson pit while Busch stayed out to take back the lead but was soon ousted by Larson on fresh tyres for a lengthy spell. Cameron Hayley (ThorSports) briefly took the lead for 11 laps from lap 152, but when Busch went to the front again shortly afterwards he was unassailable with masterful restarts following a series of cautions and despite two late multi-truck wrecks resulting in red flag stoppages and five laps of overtime. Clinching his first ever NASCAR national series win at Martinsville in 31 outings, Busch's winning margin was 0.425s over NEMCO Motorsports' John H Nemechek and Kyle Busch Motorsports' William Byron with Larson finishing in fourth. In the championship standings, Nemechek now leads by three points from Parker Kligerman (RBR Enterprises) and Timothy Peters (Red Horse Racing)

Get the latest NASCAR news straight to your Twitter feed! CLICK HERE to follow's new dedicated NASCAR Twitter feed



Loading Comments...