I know if someone didn’t watch Sunday’s race at Martinsville Speedway but looked at the box score that showed Jimmie Johnson, Kyle Busch and Matt Kenseth led 498 of the 500 laps, they probably would say to themselves it wasn’t much of a race.
I would disagree because I think we had some really great racing on Sunday. It may not have always been for the lead but we had something going on all day long. We just never had a lull where we had drivers lined up playing follow-the-leader.
The Goodyear tire that was brought last weekend had an effect on the race, I believe. The track didn’t take the rubber like we’ve seen there. It did make it tough to work that outside groove. It seemed like the only time a driver could make the outside groove work was right after a restart. Once a few laps were run following the restart, the outside groove just didn’t seem to want to cooperate.
So the style of NASCAR Sprint Cup racing we had on Sunday sort of brought back the bump and run. That’s the way you had to get by someone. You leaned on them and when the time was right, rooted them out of the way to take the position. In two or three cases it became the bump and dump, where the car that was rooted out of the way actually got spun out.
For the day, we had 12 cautions that kept things pretty much bunched up. We had drivers and crew chiefs on different agendas when it came to pit cycles. The one thing this tire did do was send us back to old school. By that I meant we saw where fresh tires meant a lot and when the opportunity was there, certain drivers made it a point to get new tires on their cars.
If you had a good-handling race car and were aggressive enough, you could work your way back up to the front after being stuck in the back. Look at Clint Bowyer’s day. Heck before we even reached the halfway point of the race, he was spinning like a top on the frontstretch. After all that drama he comes back and finishes second.
Jeff Gordon had a pit-stop hiccup and was forced to come from way back in the pack yet still finished third. Jamie McMurray was one of those drivers that came to pit road on that last stop, restarted in the back yet was able to get his second top-10 finish, ending in seventh.
Mark Martin, who was subbing for injured driver Denny Hamlin, started deep in the field and even went a lap down. He got the free pass and the wavearound and managed to pull out a 10th-place finish.
Probably the one that has to be highlighted the most, even beyond what Jimmie Johnson did on Sunday, has to be Danica Patrick. She was the race's first caution at Lap 15. She went a lap down. She took the wavearound. It doesn’t matter if you are a male or female; to come to Martinsville your first time ever, not even knowing where the place was, and not only run all 500 laps but finish 12th is just more proof that this young lady is pretty serious about her NASCAR career.