NASCAR could not have asked for a better day to resume the Blue-Emu Maximum Pain Relief 500, after battling on-and-off rain Saturday night. The Chamber of Commerce-type weather made for some competitive racing, partly because Martinsville Speedway was rubbered up after the Xfinity Series race earlier in the day. If there was one big question for NASCAR fans, would there be a first repeat winner or an eighth different one?
Martin Truex Jr. answered that question by taking the checkers after 500 laps on the 0.526-mile paperclip-shaped oval, winning his second race of the year with a 1.972-second advantage. His last victory came at Phoenix. The most dominant car of the day belonged to Denny Hamlin, who led a race-high 276 laps but fell off the pace with 14 to go, finishing third behind Chase Elliott.
The win was the 29th of Truex’s career and third at Martinsville. He has also won five of his last 11 starts on short tracks.
“This is unbelievable," an excited Truex said after the win. "This place has become a playground for us, I guess. We didn’t have the best car all day, but we just kept working on it and never quit on it. Proud of James (Small, crew chief) and all the guys. This Bass Pro/Tracker Toyota Camry came on at the end and that’s when it counts. There’s something about when the lights come on here, we’re really good so that was cool.”
Hamlin made his 500th career NASCAR Cup Series start on Sunday and appeared to on his way to victory No. 45, which would have broken a tie with Hall of Famer Bill Elliott.
Martinsville Speedway is occasionally a half-mile of mayhem, and it was a clean race for the most part until a 14-car wreck on Lap 387. It took out six cars, including contenders Brad Keselowski, who finished P33, and Alex Bowman (P34). Despite significant damage in the pileup, Kyle Busch still managed a solid P10.
Bubba Wallace took a chance by staying out after a caution and led the field to the green on the restart. He needed a yellow flag, which he got, and stayed in the top 10 for a number of laps before fading, recording his third P16 of the year.
NASCAR Blu-Emu 500 Prerace Notes
Daniel Suarez's night didn’t start too well. He went to the rear of the field for illegal ballast placement, and NASCAR suspended his crew chief for the race and assessed a 10-point penalty.
Tyler Reddick started in the rear for unapproved adjustments. Corey LaJoie, Justin Haley, and James Davison were sent to the back by NASCAR for inspection failures.
How the race played out
NASCAR Blue-Emu Maximum Pain Relief 500 – Stage 1
LAP 1: Engines fired at 8:58 p.m. However, pit row still had puddles where the cars were parked during the rain and needed to be dried first. The green flag finally waved at 9:25 p.m. with Joey Logano (pole) and Denny Hamlin on the front row. Hamlin sprinted out to the lead and had a 1.3-second lead on William Byron.
Lap 36: Caution for a James Davison spin. Anthony Alfredo gets the free pass. Davison will not be running the Indianapolis 500 this year to focus on his NASCAR career. He has started six times with a best finish of P12 in 2019. The Blue-Emu Maximum Pain Relief 500 was just his fifth Cup start this year, all for Rick Ware Racing.
Lap 42: **RED FLAG** for rain. Race to resume Sunday at 4:00 p.m. ET.
NASCAR Blue-Emu Maximum Pain Relief 500 – Stage 1 continued, Day 2
Lap 43: Engines refired just before 4:00 p.m. ET. NASCAR announced the competition caution would not occur, and cars were allowed to come down pit row to top off fuel. The next planned break is at the end of Stage 1 at Lap 130. All but two cars were on the lead lap at the restart at 47. Top five: Denny Hamlin, Ryan Blaney, Chase Elliott, Joey Logano, and Martin Truex Jr.
Lap 52: Caution for a Kurt Busch spin after coming down on the nose of Erik Jones. He was able to get his No. 1 Camaro straightened out, avoiding contact with oncoming traffic. He remained on the lead lap. Justin Haley got the free pass. Restart at Lap 57 with Hamlin and Blaney still P1-2. Blaney overtook Hamlin at Lap 75 for the lead.
Lap 130: End Stage 1 – Ryan Blaney takes the green checkers by almost two seconds over Denny Hamlin. Rounding out the top ten were Martin Truex Jr., Chase Elliott, Kyle Larson, William Byron, Alex Bowman, Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano, and Christopher Bell. It was Blaney’s second stage win of the year. Ricky Stenhouse gets the free pass.
NASCAR Blue-Emu Maximum Pain Relief 500 – Stage 2
Lap 141: The biggest winner off pit road after stops was Kyle Busch picking up four to P7, while the loser was Chase Elliott dropping five to P9. Blaney and Hamlin led the field to the green. Truex, Larson, and Byron finished out the top-five. Bubba Wallace appears to have issues falling back to P23.
Lap 242: Caution for Rick Ware after he blows a tire and spins into the outside wall. Chris Buescher is the free pass. Blaney had built up a three-second lead over Hamlin at the caution, but he held the lead in the race off pit row. Hamlin, Truex, Bowman, Elliott, Kyle Busch, Dillon, Keselowski, Larson, and Kurt Busch were the top-ten before the choose arrow. There were 16 wave-around cars for the restart with 13 laps to the end of the stage.
Lap 252 – Caution for a three-car incident involving Ryan Newman, Aric Almirola, and Matt DiBenedetto in Turn 2. The No. 21 of DiBenedetto suffered severe right-front damage. Bubba Wallace gets the free pass. Two lap shootout to the end of the stage.
Lap 260: End Stage 2 – Blaney rocketed out to the restart lead and won the stage sweeping both, but just barely over a charging Hamlin. The rest of the top ten were Truex, Elliott, Bowman, Keselowski, Byron, Reddick, Kyle Busch, Kurt Busch. Corey Lajoie is the Lucky Dog. Race off pit row saw Kevin Harvick pick up three spots to P7 and Kyle Larson two to P6. Almirola and Dillon lost three each to P9 and P10, respectively. Restart Lap 270.
NASCAR Blue-Emu Maximum Pain Relief 500 – Final Stage
Lap 278: Caution No. 7 for a Justin Haley spin. He was able to get his car pointed in the right direction, but the yellow flag had already waved. McDowell gets the free pass. Restart Lap 283 with Hamlin and Keselowski on the front row. Blaney falls to P9.
Lap 290: Caution for a Cody Ware spin, the third time he brought out a yellow flag today. Cole Custer is the free pass. Major movers off pit row were Byron (+1 to P3), Kurt Busch (+2), Blaney (+3), Truex (+1), Bowman (+4), Reddick (+1), Larson (+5). Keselowski lost six spots. Dillon held for a one-lap penalty for pitting outside his box. Six cars did not pit: Wallace, Newman, Suarez, Stenhouse, Buescher, Almirola. Bubba Wallace leads the field to green at Lap 297. By Lap 310, Bubba Wallace had opened a half-second lead over Newman despite old tires. His 19 laps led to that point were the most he has led in a NASCAR Cup Series race. Byron overtakes Wallace at Lap 315.
Lap 322: Kyle Busch radios in that he felt something broke, and shortly after, he brings out the caution for a spin. Leaders pit with Hamlin being first, followed by Byron, Newman, Bowman, Logano, Blaney, Wallace, Truex, Elliott, and Buescher. Logano and Elliott were +3, Wallace lost four spots. All took four tires. Restart at Lap 328.
Lap 331: Anthony Alfredo spins to bring out the tenth caution after contact with Almirola. Chase Briscoe back on the lead lap with the free pass.
Lap 341: Keselowski spins after contact with Daniel Suarez, who would then hit Custer, trying to avoid it on the inside. Ross Chastain is the free pass car. Restart at Lap 248 with Hamlin on point and Bowman alongside. Byron, Logano, and Blaney round out the top five.
Lap 350: Ryan Newman was having one of his best races of the year running P7 when he spun to bring out the caution. As everyone was checking up on the inside, several cars suffered damage, Almirola taking the worst of it. Alfredo gets the lucky dog. Restart with 145 to go with Hamlin and Bowman on the front row. Hamlin immediately opened up more than a half-second lead extending it out to a full second with 140 left to go. Can he be caught?
Lap 372: Erik Jones brings out caution No. 13 after a spin. It gives Keselowski the free pass to P25. Bell, Ross Chastain, and Daniel Suarez stay out. Hamlin is P4 at the restart with 123 to go. Blaney made a great move to go from P5 to P3 Bell and Hamlin. With 118 left, Hamlin takes the lead.
Lap 387: The Big One, Martinsville style. Kyle Busch and Buescher go spinning after contact with each other. Jones plowed into Buescher and Keselowski t-boned Busch creating a traffic jam for other cars. Suarez's car burst into flames. **RED FLAG** Others involved: Kurt Busch, DiBenedetto, Jones, Bowman, Haley, Custer, Davison, McDowell, Alfredo, and Preece. At the time of the stoppage, the top five were Hamlin, Bell, Blaney, Logano, and Elliott. Bubba Wallace, who had just a pair of P16 finishes through seven events, was P10.
Lap 396 (104 to go): Red flag time was 21:47. Cars out after the wreck: McDowell, Suarez, Keselowski, Bowman, Haley, and Preece. The restart opened up another battle between Hamlin and Blaney, the two dominant cars all afternoon. Logano, Truex, and Elliott were in the top five. There will be at least one more pit stop if the race stays green, and Hamlin is in a great spot with two sets of sticker tires in reserve.
LAP 453: Chase Briscoe brings out the caution as he spins and backs into the outside wall. All leaders pit for their final set of tires. Race off pit row has Truex picking up two spots to beat Hamlin. Larson also picked up two to P3. Blaney took a big hit, losing three to P5 but sent to the back for running over an air hose (safety measure). Restart at Lap 459, and Hamlin wasted no time to pass Truex. With 35 to go, he had a half-second advantage. There were just 19 cars on the lead lap.
Lap 480 (20 to go): Truex closes the gap and made several attempts to pass Hamlin down low. As they were battling, Elliott climbed into contention. Truex finally made the pass six laps later, opening up a full second lead and was never challenged after that.