MARTINSVILLE — So much for Martinsville Speedway being a graveyard for Ford in NASCAR’s Monster Engery Cup Series.
Continuing its recent trend upward at the unique .526-mile oval, Ford posted its fourth victory in the past five races at the low-banked paperclip on Sunday as Brad Keselowski dominated the STP 500, leading for all but 54 of the 500 laps.
What a day of execution for Keselowski and his Penske Racing team.
“Yeah, it was,” a happy Keselowski said. “The car was really good. This new Ford Mustang — Ford worked really hard in the offseason to build these cars and make them real strong, and so far so good.
“Last fall, I sat in the wind tunnel and saw them work on the car and saw the numbers compared to Fusion and I felt the numbers said we were going to be successful this year.
“Just a great day for our team … awesome execution on pit road and big credit to Doug Yates and all the engine stuff.
“Just one of those days you dream of as a race car driver where you’ve got a great car,” added Keselowski, whose 446 laps led marked the most by a Martinsville winner since Fred Lorenzen paced the field for an incredible 493 circuits in a victory here in the early 1960s.
It was the second triumph of the season for Keselowski, who crossed the finish line by .594 seconds ahead of Chevrolet driver Chase Elliott. Toyota driver Kyle Busch, who had four top-threes and won twice in the season’s six Cup races before Sunday, settled for third.
Elliott ran in the top three most of the day, but never could muster much of a run at Keselowski.
“I felt like we were about even as we could be,” Elliott said. “I tried to move up there at the end, and I don’t know if I could have got to him. Maybe if I moved up the track a little sooner maybe. I tried to get him in [turn] 3
“I was pretty well content on moving him out of the way. But maybe next time!”
Keselowski said he didn’t really know if his car was as good as Elliott’s mount.
“I thought Chase had the dominant car today. If Chase had been out front, he would have been able to drive away and keep it going.
“He passed me with about 200 laps to go and I watched him and I studied him and kind of broke it down … and I knew what I had to do to hold him off with that fast of a car and we were able to pull it off that last run.”
Busch, who won Saturday’s Trucks race here, posted his third straight top-3 finish on the Cup circuit.
“Just lacking overall speed,” said Busch, who maintained a 21-point lead in the Cup standings over teammate Denny Hamlin. “Even when we unloaded here in practice, we just weren’t quite up on the speed charts like we expected to be.
“First run off the truck was really good, but as the track took rubber our car just kind of slowed down and we just didn’t have what we needed there. Around the midpoint of the race was a bit ugly for us, and then we turned it around.”
Ryan Blaney (Ford) and Hamlin (Toyota) finished third and fourth, respectively, in the short 36-car field.