Martinsville supplies showcase for parity in NASCAR Sprint Cup Series: 33 lead alterations took spot just before Kurt Busch won the race

33 lead changes took place before Kurt Busch won the race

By: Reid Spencer, NASCAR Wire Services on April one, 2014

Six different drivers have already secured victories in the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup season.

LAT PHOTOGRAPHIC – 6 distinct drivers have already secured victories in the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup season.

Parity at Martinsville?

What an alien concept!

And what a dichotomy we saw in Sunday’s STP 500. The sixth NASCAR Sprint Cup Series event of the season produced a track record 33 lead alterations, even even though Jimmie Johnson, the present master of Martinsville, led 296 of the 500 laps.

Johnson, Jeff Gordon and Denny Hamlin had mixed to win 17 of the earlier 22 races at the .526-mile short track. But there was no sense on Sunday that Johnson was head-and-shoulders above the rest of the discipline, even even though he led almost 60 % of the race.

Winner Kurt Busch passed Johnson in the closing laps — twice. Busch grabbed the prime spot on lap 473, misplaced it to Johnson on lap 483 and made what turned out to be the winning pass on lap 490.

It was a situation of parry and thrust, rather than Johnson just skewering the rest of the competitors, as he had completed 8 times in the past. And in the finish, Busch won the race since he had a slightly superior automobile when it counted, along with the talent to drive it.

But, as 33 lead modifications may propose, it was a race of ebb and flow. Pole winner Kyle Busch paced the 1st 17 laps, but right after an additional short stint at the front, from laps 59-64, the driver of the No. 18 Toyota all but disappeared for the rest of the afternoon.

Matt Kenseth was strong early, misplaced a lap when he stayed out on previous tires, and subsequently rallied to finish sixth. Joey Logano was sound all day, capable of passing cars and moving forward when he was shuffled back in site visitors. Logano commenced third and finished 4th in the No. 22 Shell Pennzoil Ford.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. gained ground during the occasion, starting 26th and finishing third. And Greg Biffle drove from 6th to the lead in the room of 35 laps following a restart on lap 120.

That’s the identical Greg Biffle who has a career-best finish of 6th at Martinsville, the exact same Biffle whose profession-common finish at the historic short track is 20.1.

But on Sunday, Biffle located the rhythm at the track that, far more than any other, has been his Kryptonite. In the end, Biffle’s vehicle tightened up, he wore the “new” off his tires, and a succession of outdoors-lane restarts relegated him to 18th at the finish.

None of that, even so, diminished the achievement of operating down and passing Johnson for the lead and staying there for 18 laps.

We will not know whether a sea modify occurred in the nature of racing at Martinsville till the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series returns throughout the Chase in October. We’ll know then how well teams have adapted to the new no-trip-height platform they’re even now finding out at this stage of the season, and which teams have produced the most progress with the new configuration.

However, what occurred Sunday suggests that the track could be ready to escape the stranglehold of Martinsville’s Massive 3.

Why is that the situation?

With a number of variables interlocking to generate 1 of the most aggressive Martinsville races in latest memory, tire management was the foremost factor.

If you had been a “rabbit,” you could charge to the front and lead, only to be overtaken late in the run by drivers who had been more judicious with their gear. Speak of conserving tires dominated conversations between crew chiefs and drivers during the race.

To the company’s credit, Goodyear supplied a tire at Martinsville that fell off substantially during the course of a fuel run, with the degree of fall-off proportional to the aggressiveness of the driver. That’s exactly what the Sprint Cup stars have been requesting for a quantity of many years.

Practically as substantial was the rain that washed out the 2 scheduled practice sessions on Saturday, forcing crew chiefs to make educated guesses at setups for Sunday’s race. People who missed it manufactured wild swings at adjustments throughout the course of the afternoon.

That is one particular of the causes you noticed vehicles that had been floundering for the first 200 laps suddenly come to lifestyle. That is why you saw autos that had run effectively in the early stages falter later on, as track situations modified.

It’s obviously a facetious notion, but it can make you wonder what may possibly occur if NASCAR did away with post-qualifying practices completely and forced teams to modify throughout the races themselves.

If a show like Sunday’s occasion at Martinsville is an indication, it may well not be a poor thought.

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