Team Penske’s Brad Keselowski dominated in Martinsville, leading 446 out of 500 laps and swept all three stages to claim his second win of the 2019 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series.
However, the race to the chequered flag was no cruise for Keselowski who was challenged by Chase Elliot (Hendrick Motorsports). Running a higher line helped Elliot close the gap and nearly took advantage of lapped traffic to lead, before finishing just a half a second behind.
Keselowski’s Penske team-mate Ryan Blaney looked to pose the biggest threat after Stage Two, but dropped off and eventually finished fourth behind Elliot and Kyle Busch (Joe Gibbs Racing).
The third Penske of Joey Lagano experienced a less fruitful race from Pole, quickly falling back due to a lack of long-run pace and ended up in 19th position.
— NASCAR (@NASCAR) March 26, 2019
Toyota had a positive turnout in Martinsville courtesy of Joe Gibbs Racing, with their trio of drivers all in the top ten; Kyle Busch third, Denny Hamlin fifth and Martin Truex Jr. eighth. Amongst them were the four Fords of Stewart-Haas’ Kevin Harvick (who finished sixth), Clint Bowyer (seventh), Aric Almirola (ninth) and Daniel Suarez (tenth).
In contrast, Chevrolet struggled as the Chip Ganassi duo of Kurt Busch and Kyle Larson failed to keep up, whilst Hendrick Motorsports also experienced problems with raw pace. Apart from Elliot, the team never looked to threaten the top ten with Alex Bowman in 14th, whilst Jimmie Johnson and William Byron were outside of the top 20.
The team and manufacturer dynamics of the season continued as well. Ford arguably have the strongest teams in Penske and Stewart-Haas, while Toyota are much thinner with just the four car entry with Joe Gibbs Racing, but are still competitive.
Chevrolet have lacked any sign of pace so far in 2019. Only Larson, Kurt Busch and Elliot have appeared in the top ten. And although the Richard Childress Racing duo of Austin Dillion and Daniel Hemric have shown promise, they’ve been wildly inconsistent.
In Las Vegas, they were competitive in qualifying to were nowhere to be seen in the race, whilst Martinsville sae the opposite take place. Because of this, they are slowly falling into direct competition with the midfield teams.
Looking towards the foreseeable future, the Cup Series will head to Forth Worth, Texas for the O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 at 7pm GMT (3pm EDT) on Sky Sports (FOX).