Brad Keselowski emerges on top after classic duel with Kyle Busch in STP 500

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Brad Keselowski and Kyle Busch put on arguably the best battle of the NASCAR Cup season thus far Sunday at Martinsville Speedway.

After dueling throughout the final 160 laps, Keselowski pulled away for his second win of the season to capture the STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway.

It was Keselowski’s first career NASCAR Cup win at Martinsville and his fifth straight top-five finish in 2017. It was also Team Penske’s first win at the 0.526-mile paper clip-shaped track since 2004.

“This is awesome,” Keselowski told FS1. “Martinsville is just one of those champion’s tracks, where guys that run well everywhere, run good here. It’s really an honor to win here and to get to compete here, the history of this track, 70 years old and a lot of legends have won here. Man, it feels great to join them.”

Keselowski becomes the first multirace winner of 2017, having won at Atlanta Motor Speedway in the season’s second race. He led 116 laps, leading the final 43 after grabbing the lead for good on Lap 458. Busch led a race-high 274 laps.

Martin Truex Jr. and Chase Elliott were the respective winners of Stage 1 and Stage 2, but it was all Keselowski vs. Busch in the final segment of the 500-lap event.

“It’s just a frustrating season so far,” Busch told FS1. “We gave it everything we got. We do all we can with what we’re given, and we try to execute.”

MORE: Results, stats for STP 500 at Martinsville

MORE: Kyle Larson retains Cup points lead after STP 500 at Martinsville

Elliott finished third, followed by Joey Logano, Austin Dillon, A.J. Allmendinger, Clint Bowyer, Ryan Newman, Matt Kenseth and Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

There was a big crash on Lap 288 that involved several cars. Austin Dillon and Erik Jones got together, collecting Daniel Suarez, Clint Bowyer, Kasey Kahne, A.J. Allmendinger, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Kurt Busch and Denny Hamlin.

Kurt Busch was able to get going after that incident on the restart but wrecked again shortly thereafter heading into Turn 3 on Lap 296 and saw his day come to an end, as well.

MORE: Martin Truex Jr. wins Stage 1 of STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway

MORE: Stenhouse punts Busch, Elliott slides by to win Stage 2 of STP 500

On Lap 418, several cars wrecked, including Dale Earnhardt Jr., Danica Patrick, Denny Hamlin, A.J. Allmendinger, Kasey Kahne and Aric Almirola.

It appeared Hamlin started the crash but getting loose and drifting into Patrick’s car. Earnhardt suffered damage to his radiator that ultimately ended his day early, too.

On Lap 433, Martin Truex Jr., who won Stage 1, spun in Turn 3 while running seventh. He suffered minor damage and ultimately finished 16th.

WHO ELSE HAD A GOOD DAY: Chase Elliott almost doubled up. He won Saturday’s Camping World Truck Series race and finished third in Sunday’s Cup race. … Austin Dillon finished a season-best fifth. … Clint Bowyer had his second consecutive top-10 finish. … Ricky Stenhouse Jr. was involved in several fender-banging incidents with fellow drivers but managed to bounce back to finish 10th.

WHO HAD A BAD DAY: Jamie McMurray (38th) and Kurt Busch (37th) both suffered tire issues that led to race-ending wrecks. Busch’s bad luck continues: He’s finished 24th or worse in the last four races, including Sunday, marking his first DNF of the season. … Also having a bad showing was Dale Earnhardt Jr. (finished 34th), who suffered radiator damage that ended his day on Lap 418.

NOTABLE: Howard Miller Co., which makes the grandfather clocks that are awarded to the winners at Martinsville, are built in Keselowski’s home state of Michigan. … Keselowski’s finishes in his last five races: 1st (Atlanta), 5th (Las Vegas, Phoenix), 2nd (Fontana) and 1st (Martinsville).

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “We’re not just not quite getting the finishes we need. We just need to figure out how to finish what we are or where we’re running. So far, we’ve been finishing worse.” – Kyle Busch, who has not won since last summer’s Brickyard 400, to FS1.

WHAT’S NEXT: Sunday, April 9, O’Reilly Auto Parts 500, 1:30 p.m. ET, Texas Motor Speedway. This will be the first race there after a complete repave and redesign of part of the track.

Follow @JerryBonkowski 

Preliminary entry lists for Richmond Raceway

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The NASCAR playoffs continue this weekend at Richmond Raceway for two of the national series.

The Cup Series holds the second race of its opening round while the Xfinity Series kicks off its postseason.

Here are the preliminary entry lists for each race.

Cup – Federated Auto Parts 400 (7:30 p.m. ET Saturday on NBCSN)

There are 38 entries for the race.

Quin Houff is entered in Premium Motorsports’ No. 27 Chevrolet.

Austin Theriault is entered in Rick Ware Racing’s No. 51 Chevrolet.

Garrett Smithley is entered in RWR’s No. 52 Ford and Spencer Boyd is in the team’s No. 53 Chevrolet.

Martin Truex Jr. won the spring race at Richmond over Joey Logano and Clint Bowyer. Kyle Busch won this race last year over Kevin Harvick and Truex.

Click here for the entry list.

Xfinity – Go Bowing 250 (7:30 p.m. ET Friday on NBCSN)

There are 38 entries for the race.

Harrison Burton is entered in Joe Gibbs Racing’s No. 18 Toyota for the fourth time this season.

Zane Smith is entered in JR Motorsports’ No. 8 Chevrolet.

Hermie Sadler is entered in Ryan Sieg Racing’s No. 38 Chevrolet. It will be his first Xfinity start since this race in 2016.

Joe Graf Jr. is entered in Richard Childress Racing’s No. 21 Chevrolet.

There is no driver attached to Rick Ware Racing’s No. 17 Chevrolet.

Cole Custer won at Richmond in the spring over Austin Cindric and Justin Allgaier. Christopher Bell won this race last year over Ross Chastain and Daniel Hemric.

Click here for the entry list.

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Speedway Motorsports, Inc. becomes privately owned

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Speedway Motorsports, Inc. and the Sonic Financial Corp. announced Tuesday that Sonic Financial has completed its acquisition of all outstanding shares of SMI, meaning SMI will become a privately owned company with no presence on the New York Stock Exchange.

By going private, the company is no longer beholden to investors and no longer has to publicly report its finances, including how much money it brings in from admissions and the TV contract and the seating capacity of each of its tracks.

Bruton Smith and his family own and control Sonic Financial Corp. Smith is the founder and majority stakeholder in Speedway Motorsports Inc. SMI operates eight tracks that host Cup races, including Charlotte Motor Speedway, Las Vegas Motor Speedway and Texas Motor Speedway.

The deal closed with each outstanding share being valued at $19.75 per share in cash. There were 11,434,595 outstanding shares, putting the deal at more than $225 million.

The deal comes as International Speedway Corp. in the process of reaching an agreement to have its outstanding shares sold to NASCAR. The France family owns both ISC and NASCAR. The NASCAR-ISC deal is expected to close this year.

Bump and Run: Will Joe Gibbs Racing’s dominance continue?

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Who you got this weekend at Richmond? Joe Gibbs Racing or the field?

Nate Ryan: Joe Gibbs Racing. Any of its four drivers can win. Kyle Larson is a decent dark horse, though.

Dustin Long: I’ll take the field. Give me Kyle Larson, Kevin Harvick, Joey Logano, Brad Keselowski and others vs. JGR this weekend.

Daniel McFadin: I’ll take JGR, given their six wins there in the last eight races. Driver specific: Martin Truex Jr. He’s led in five of the last six visits to Richmond and each time he’s led at least 121 laps. Hard to believe his win in the spring was his first there.

Jerry Bonkowski: This could be one very difficult race for the field. Erik Jones has something to prove after the mechanical issues he suffered in Las Vegas, Kyle Busch has something to prove after his disappointing 19th-place finish, and Denny Hamlin has something to prove to show he truly is one of the best championship contenders. Meanwhile, Martin Truex Jr. can basically coast through having secured his spot in Round 2 of the playoffs with his Las Vegas win. Good luck to the field because they’re going to need it. Joe Gibbs Racing is going to dominate Richmond.

 

In 2007, Hendrick Motorsports won 18 of 36 Cup races. Joe Gibbs Racing has won 14 of 27 Cup races this season. Will JGR top what Hendrick did in 2007?

Nate Ryan: Yes, you could argue JGR already has topped it because of the balance among its four drivers. Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson accounted for 16 of Hendrick’s 18 victories.

Dustin Long: JGR won’t tie or top Hendrick mark.

Daniel McFadin: I think there’s a good chance JGR will tie that number but not exceed it. The only tracks I would make them locks for wins are Richmond and Phoenix. 

Jerry Bonkowski: I think JGR could potentially tie HMS’s record, but asking for five or more wins in the last nine playoff races is a bit of a stretch. You know that Stewart-Haas, Team Penske, Hendrick Motorsports, Chip Ganassi Racing and Roush Fenway Racing are going to do all they can to stop the JGR Express and continue to ratchet up the pressure and performance with each passing race. I can see JGR winning maybe three or even four more playoff races, but not more than that.

 

The Xfinity playoffs begin this weekend at Richmond. Who are you picking to win the championship?

Nate Ryan: Leaning toward Tyler Reddick back-to-back after his impressive fuel-mileage win at Las Vegas. He is learning to beat the field in many ways.

Dustin Long: Christopher Bell triumphs in Miami.

Daniel McFadin: I’m going to go with Tyler Reddick to repeat. He’s shown a knack for being able to find multiple ways to win when he doesn’t have the outright best car on a given race day. Also, it’s hard to bet against the guy who has 20 top fives through 26 races.

Jerry Bonkowski: As much as Tyler Reddick would make a great repeat champion, the title this year goes to Christopher Bell. But don’t be surprised if this deal isn’t finished until the final turn on the last lap. This has the potential to be the most exciting championship finish in Xfinity history.

Garrett Smithley rebukes Kyle Busch to ‘tell my story and defend myself’

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Garrett Smithley took to Twitter again on Monday to rebuke Kyle Busch about their contact in Sunday’s NASCAR Cup playoff-opening race in Las Vegas. While Smithley said he understands Busch’s frustration, he insisted he did nothing wrong and chided Busch for not understanding the road Smithley has had to travel to get to where he is today as a race car driver.

I figured given the events of the race Sunday I would quickly tell my story and defend myself (and the sport for that matter),” Smithley tweeted Monday.

MORE: Kyle Busch calls out ‘guys who have never won late model races in Cup’

Here’s Smithley’s tweet Monday, which we have transcribed in its entirety:

Hey everyone, I figured given the events of the race Sunday I would quickly tell my story and defend myself (and the sport for that matter). Starting tomorrow, we’re focused on Richmond!

I didn’t grow up in a racing family, and we certainly didn’t have the funds to race. The only race car my parents ever bought was a used Bandolaro race car when I was 15. I didn’t think I had a chance starting that late. We won enough that a local golf cart shop owner sponsored me and bought me a Legends car. I raced Legends cars in the southeast and won more races & championships.

When I decided to move to Charlotte to pursue a career as a professional driver there is no doubt I had to basically give up the chance to win races in order to ‘fund’ getting the opportunity to race.

You see, I am one of only a handful of drivers that actually has never spent any of my own money to race. So spending money to go win in a late model was never an option, because the only way I can afford to race is if someone else pays for it. Companies & sponsors have a hard time justifying money to run a competitive late model or even truck, when for the same or often much less they can sponsor a NXS or Cup car. The truth is for many of these companies, they know unless they spend the money it takes to sponsor someone like Kyle, they more than likely will not get the marketing value to justify that spend. However, they can justify a spend to be involved in the ‘big show’ to entertain guest(s), etc., for much, much less. The sponsors you see on my cars, Victory Lane Quick Oil Change, Trophy Tractor, FAME … they are real companies supporting NASCAR, and seeing the value of its 65+ million fans. I sell my own sponsorship to afford me the opportunity to do this.

So about last night …

1. I am not mad at Kyle and I get his frustration. I wish that situation would’ve turned out differently but what happened happened.

2. Nobody that is considered ‘in the way’ wants to be. We are simply doing the best we can.

3. Even though sometimes we ALL feel like this ‘sucks’ so bad or why won’t NASCAR ‘fix’ it, we have to remember, it’s not that easy. NASCAR is making positive changes but this is a multi-billion-dollar industry. It all takes time.

4. I do think I can be competitive in the right equipment and I will even go a step further and say, with time and equal funding my teams with Rick Ware Racing, Johnny Davis Motorsports can be competitive too.

5. As my friend Ross would say, ‘The Sun will come up in the morning!

Thanks for all the support – Garrett.”

As of 7:35 p.m. ET, Busch had not replied to Smithley’s latest missive.

On Monday’s edition of NASCAR America, analysts Kyle Petty, Steve Letarte and Nate Ryan discussed Busch’s reaction to the Smithley incident.

Here are a couple of the initial exchanges between Smithley and Busch after Sunday’s race:

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