63rd Annual TUMS Fast Relief 500 Race Recap
The Sprint Cup drivers took to Martinsville Speedway Sunday and a Late Model race broke out. The caution flag flew 18 times during the race and there did not appear to be a single car on the track at the end of the event that did not have some damage. When the checkered flag flew, Tony Stewart was standing in Victory Lane next to the traditional Martinsville grandfather clock after making a bold outside pass for the lead around Jimmie Johnson on a late race restart. ,Stewart’s win knocked 11 points off of Carl Edwards’ lead in the point standings and leaves him in second position just eight behind the leader. Johnson finished the race in second-place just ahead of his Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jeff Gordon. Kevin Harvick backed up his spring race victory with a fourth-place run while local favorite Denny Hamlin rounded out the top-5 finishers.
Aside from the carnage that took place throughout the race, with only one green flag run longer than 56 laps, the biggest story of the event was the shakeup in the point standings from second through seventh-place. Stewart’s win moved him up two spots along with Harvick gaining two positions thanks in great part to Matt Kenseth’s bad day. Brad Keselowski and Kyle Busch each lost one place in the points race, but it was Kenseth who took the big hit, dropping three positions thanks to a lap 465 incident which caused him to go behind the wall and lose more than 20 laps being repaired. Kenseth dropped from second in points, just 14 behind the leader to fifth in points, 36 points out of the top spot. The other driver who moved up in the standings was Johnson, who parlayed his runner-up finish into a one spot gain and a decrease in his arrears to Edwards of seven points to only 43 behind.
“Obviously, it is tough now,” said Keselowski. “Carl has such a lead on everybody, but you know, we might have to just roll the dice a little more. He’s kind of had everything go his way and it might just be that year, you know, everybody has those years when things seem to go their way. It’s definitely going his way right now, but the best thing we can do is try to find speed in our cars and get good finishes.”
“Carl Edwards had better be real worried,” boasted Stewart in Victory Lane. “That’s all I’ve got to say. He’s not going to sleep for the next three weeks.”
The 18 caution flags officially involved 25 different race cars, several of them in more than one. Unofficially at least 40 race cars sustained some kind of damage during the race. The only cars that did not receive any damage were JJ Yeley, Landon Cassill and Michael McDowell, who all fell out of the race relatively early on. Brian Vickers was the poster child for the wreckfest that took place, being involved in no fewer than six of the cautions during the event.
“With Brian, he just kept hitting me in the door,” Kenseth observed. “I mean, we’re at Martinsville and I gave him the bottom. Obviously, I’m not gonna roll over and let him go with 40 to go or whatever it was and he just kept driving in harder and harder and he slammed me in the door at least five times and just ran me up in the marbles and I was just tired of it, so I spun him out. I don’t know how you can’t pass somebody here without running into him every single time when he give you the bottom and the fastest lane, but obviously he couldn’t and I was trying to get every position I could at the end of the race.”
“People just have no regard,” Hamlin opined. “I would get into guys and then I know its coming – I’m going to get slammed in the next corner. It’s just one of those things where it’s frustrating to watch because you see some of these cars getting torn up in accidents. Accidents happen and some of these drivers need to realize that.”
The victory is Stewart’s 42nd of his Sprint Cup career in 461 starts. It is his third victory of 2011 and also his third victory at Martinsville. Stewart is still 16th on the all-time Cup Series wins list, two behind Bill Elliott and two ahead of Mark Martin. This is the 48th victory for Chevrolet in 125 Martinsville races. Denny Hamlin is the only Toyota driver to have ever won at Martinsville.