Race Winner: Clint Bowyer of Stewart-Haas Racing (Ford)
Stage 1 Winner: Denny Hamlin of Joe Gibbs Racing (Toyota)
Stage 2 Winner: Ryan Blaney of Team Penske (Ford)
Stage 1 Recap (Laps 1-130):
● Started ninth and finished fifth.
● Told crew he needed more grip throughout the opening run. Crew made adjustments to help the handling.
● Brushed wall on lap 30, but the crew reported the damage was minimal.
● Turned fast lap times during the run.
● Broke into the top-five on lap 94 and held his position until the end of the stage.
Stage 2 Recap (Laps 131-260):
● Started fifth and finished second.
● Moved into third on lap 176 and second on lap 195 as the stage ran without caution.
● Approached the leader in the closing lap of the stage, but Bowyer could not make the pass.
● Best stage finish since he won Stage 2 at Pocono (Pa) International Raceway in July.
Final Stage Recap (Laps 261-500):
● Started third and won the race.
● Took over the lead on lap 285 and led all but one lap the rest of the way for a total of 215 – his first laps led of the 2018 season.
● The only lap Bowyer did not lead during that final stretch was during the final pit stop of the race under the only incident-related caution of the day.
● Bowyer was the first off pit road to regain the lead during that final pit stop and got away cleanly from the outside lane on the lap-390 restart.
● He crossed the finish line 1.146 seconds ahead of second-place Kyle Busch.
● Bowyer’s victory in the Martinsville 500 marked the 47th overall win for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR). It was the organization’s 43rd points-paying Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series win and its fourth at Martinsville.
● This was SHR’s seventh Cup Series victory with Ford. The team won its first race with Ford when Kurt Busch captured the 2017 Daytona 500.
● It was SHR’s fourth victory in the first six races of 2018, as Harvick scored back-to-back-to-back wins at the second, third and fourth events of the season at Atlanta Motor Speedway, Las Vegas Motor Speedway and ISM Raceway near Phoenix.
● This was the second time in five races that all four SHR cars finished in the top-14.
● This was Bowyer’s first Cup Series victory since joining SHR in 2017 and his first since winning on Oct. 13, 2012, at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway.
● This was Bowyer’s first win and third top-10 finish of 2018, and his first victory in 25 career Cup Series starts at Martinsville.
● Bowyer led twice for a race-high 215 laps to bring his career laps-led total at Martinsville to 571.
● The 215 laps led Monday were more than he led in seven of his previous 12 full-time Cup Series seasons.
● With the win, Bowyer earned five playoff points. He finished fifth in Stage 1 to earn six bonus points and second in Stage 2 to earn an additional nine bonus points.
● There were four caution periods for a total of 33 laps.
● Fourteen of the 38 drivers in the Martinsville 500 finished on the lead lap.
Clint Bowyer, driver of the No. 14 Haas Automation Demo Days Ford for Stewart-Haas Racing:
“This is a place where I’ve gotten so close. I wanted to win this grandfather clock (trophy) so bad. I got so close back in 2012. Obviously, Harvick came on strong at the end of last year, but it was a learning year for our team, the 14 bunch. For whatever reason, it felt right driving up here. It’s such a cool place to be able to drive up through the countryside on a two-lane road and think about the race. I told my son this morning, I was like, ‘Dammit, we’ve got to get our picture in victory lane.’ He told me he wanted a checkered flag. Let me tell you something, Gene Haas, Tony Stewart, to give this old dog a fresh chance and fresh blood with a new opportunity and finally to get the 14 in victory lane is just a weight off the shoulders. It’s been a long time. You start to question if you can get it done or not. To have it come at this place meant a lot. This place is an acquired taste. When I first got here, I was a duck out of water just like everybody else who starts here. I learned from Jimmie Johnson and learned from Jeff Gordon – sometimes the hard way – but, nonetheless, I learned over the years and finally put it to good use. To keep Kyle Busch, one of the best in the business, behind you in those closing laps, the nerves were through the roof. It’s unbelievable how it all came true and to have everybody here. The dirt boys, they had a good weekend, and I told them guys to come up here and that we were gonna have a good one. Mobil 1, the technology they gave us is second to none. It’s awesome. To watch those Haas F1 cars run as good as they did this weekend, and then all four of our Stewart-Haas cars had a good weekend, so it was a great weekend for the Stewart-Haas company.”
The next event on the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series schedule is the O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 on April 8 at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth. The race starts at 2 p.m. EDT with live coverage provided by FS1.