Back in 1949, Martinsville was a dirt track. Fifteen cars started the 100 lap event in the opening year of what was to become the Cup series. Red Byron won it in a 1949 Oldsmobile. A brand new car. In those days, there was little modifications done in the strictly stock division. Now tell me, after seeing what became of the car of Daniel Suarez, who in their right mind would put a brand new strictly stock car in a race at Martinsville?
Kind of makes you wonder why you would put a brand new strictly “stock” car in a 500-lap contest on what is now a paved track in 2017? At least the boys back at the shop are guaranteed work. This time out it was a Ford driven by Brad Keselowski who came up with a victory and a grandfather clock. It was his second win of the season and a 55-point bonanza for the driver who was in the Top Five in each of the first two stages before pulling away for all the marbles.
Kyle Busch and Chase Elliott also picked up at least 50 points on the day, finishing second and third. Both contenders were strong throughout but just did not have enough to challenge over the final few laps. While remaining winless, the pair is solidly among the best of the rest, along with Joey Logano.
Logano had an interesting day. He got tagged for his crew leaping over the pit wall too early in the first stage. In the second stage, he had to pit under green when he cut a tire. On a short track usually not that forgiving, he still brought his car home in fourth.
Jamie McMurray had a nice running car. A top-10 car at least. He tried to extend the life of a tire that had already shuffled off this mortal coil just prior to the end of the first stage. The track said no, and after pounding the wall, his day was done after 105 laps, finishing last and earning one lousy point.
Same fate for Kurt Busch. At least he was still out there, extending a less than promising day until he got caught up in a little mishap. Just a handful of laps later, cutting a tire and finding the wall himself on lap 295 allowed him to go visit McMurray in the garage.
Do not speed in the pits. Just a little advice to keep one ahead of the mess, but it comes too late for Dale Earnhardt Jr. After being sent to the rear of the field, a seven car jam up on turn three pushed in his Chevy McChevy face and punctured his radiator. There was no fixing that on pit road, so he joined Jamie and Kurt at the hot dog stand. At least he earned eight big points, but still no Top Tens and remains buried in 25th place in the standings, 40 points out of a playoff spot.
Suarez saw his jalopy reduced to modified hot rod proportions, and Denny Hamlin hit Danica Patrick in the mess that collected Junior while putting his car face first where it should not go. After that, it did not go anywhere. Both drivers finished 30th and beyond.
Chris Buescher, who is not among our “27 relevant drivers” was on Sunday. An 11th place run was just fine for the No. 37 Bush’s Beans boys. Though he remains a couple of spots behind Junior in the rankings, he is tied with Patrick for 27th place overall. That almost makes the lad relevant. If you remember, the 24-year-old was not exactly high on our list last season, yet he made the Chase by winning at Pocono in August. We might have to keep an eye on this gent in Texas and beyond.
Thirty-eight cars were entered at Martinsville. Forty-three once was the maximum, but that was reduced to 40 for last season. They had a full field at Daytona, just 39 in each of the four races after that, and now 38 last Sunday. The last time they had such a short field was 1996, with entry lists of 37 at one race at Bristol as well as both races at North Wilkesboro. Just 36 ran each of two runs that season at Martinsville.
It would seem fewer folks are willing to put their brand new strictly “stock” machines on that track, or any track, these days.