NASCAR & Auto Racing

Season of firsts? Keselowski picks up Martinsville clock, now eyeing Texas win

Brad Keselowski finally has a grandfather clock.

Now he’s looking to add a cowboy hat and a pair of six-shooters to his collection.

“Texas has been a track very similar to Martinsville for us where we’ve led a lot of laps and been in front,” Keselowski said. “I’ve made some mistakes at the end and haven’t brought it home.”

Keselowski didn’t fail to bring it home on Sunday at the famed short track, winning the STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway. That means he’s taking home a coveted grandfather clock.

To do that, Keselowski had to outduel Kyle Busch down the stretch. Those two swapped the lead four times in the final 100 laps before Keselowski pulled away with 43 laps left.

Busch, who led a race-high 274 laps, blamed the tires from his final pit stop as the reason he lost speed and failed to win this race for a second consecutive year.

Busch parlayed that win a year ago into a win at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth the following week. Keselowski is hoping to follow in those footsteps.

“The way we’re rolling right now, we can win anywhere,” Keselowski said after his 23rd career victory. “That’s something we’re certainly going to carry into next week.”

Keselowski has never won a Cup race at Texas, although he has come close with a pair of runner up finishes. He had a couple runner-up finishes at Martinsville going into Sunday’s race, too.

With his impressive race, Keselowski became the first two-time winner on the season and produced the first win for Ford at Martinsville since 2002. It was also Team Penske’s 1,000th Cup race and its first win at Martinsville since 2004

“The duel between the 18 and the 2 was good, it was clean racing,” team owner Roger Penske said. “Overall it was something you couldn’t dream of.”

The Keselowski/ Busch drama wasn’t all Martinsville produced, either.

Chase Elliott won the second stage with a nifty move and help from Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Stenhouse, in an attempt to stay on the lead lap at the end of Stage 2, made contact with then-leader Busch.

Busch went up the track to give Stenhouse space, and Elliott darted inside to take the lead and win the stage just as they finished Lap 260.

“I was trying to be a nice guy, but nice guys don’t finish first,” Busch said.

Elliott ended up finishing third, his third top-five run on the season. He has to feel good about his chances to earn his first Cup victory going into Texas, too.

Elliott had two top-five runs at Texas last season and is running well.

Martin Truex Jr. won Stage 1 as his strategy to stay on the track rather than pit paid off.

The stage finishes were only a couple of the early storylines.

Jamie McMurray saw his day end early. He felt good about his chances going into it and was running ninth before his left rear tire went out on Lap 106.

McMurray blamed Jimmie Johnson for getting into him, forcing McMurray and his No. 1 Chevrolet team whether to pit or stay on the track.

“It’s like a no-win,” McMurray said. “If you stay out and you blow a tire and you wreck, your day is done. If you pit here and you lose two or three laps, I don’t think you can get those back.”

Reigning Daytona 500 winner and two-time Martinsville champ Kurt Busch also had a premature exit with more than 200 laps left in the race after running into a wall.

Later in the race, Denny Hamlin got into Danica Patrick that compounded into a multi-car accident that eliminated Dale Earnhardt Jr. Hamlin and Patrick survived the wreck and finished 30th and 23rd, respectively.

“Happy with the speed of the car, but real disappointed with the way we’re finishing,” Earnhardt said. “We’ve got to finish better than this.”

Drew Davison: 817-390-7760, @drewdavison

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