Martinsville lived up to its reputation with 14 cautions on the day and lots of crunched sheet metal. When the smoke cleared, Kurt Busch had triumphed over Jimmie Johnson for his first win in 83 races and his first for Stewart-Haas Racing. This is Busch’s second win at Martinsville, with the first coming in October of 2002. Busch’s win didn’t come without his share of setbacks.
First he ran into Brad Keselowski on pit road under caution 40 laps into the race. He fought back and took the lead from Johnson with 28 laps to go. Johnson regained the lead with 18 laps left, but the handling was going away on the 48 car and Busch was able to pass Johnson back with only 11 laps left. Johnson managed to make a run late and get to Busch’s bumper but that was as far as he got. Congratulations to Busch and his new team. Now it’s on to the Lone Star State and Texas Motor Speedway.
Texas Motor Speedway opened in 1997 and was designed similar to Charlotte Motor Speedway and Atlanta Motor Speedway. For the first ten years of its existence, there was a new face in Victory Lane until 2007 when Jeff Burton broke the streak and became the first repeat winner at Texas. Ever since Burton broke the streak, other drivers have also picked up their second win at Texas. Carl Edwards matched Burton’s record in the spring of 2008 and then became the first 3-time winner when he won the fall race that year. Tony Stewart joined Burton in 2011 as multiple-time winners at Texas. Stewart had picked up his first Texas win in the fall of 2006. Denny Hamlin swept the 2010 races at Texas. Matt Kenseth became a multiple winner in the spring of 2011 after winning in 2002. Greg Biffle captured the 2012 spring race after taking the spring 2005 race and Jimmie Johnson picked up his second win at Texas with a win in the 2012 fall race, and tied Edwards with three wins by dominating last fall’s Chase race. Johnson’s first win came in the fall of 2007.
Texas Motor Speedway was initially given only one race, held in the spring. In 2005, Texas was given a second race date in the Chase, with the starting time late enough, that the race would end under the lights. From 1997 to 2010, the spring race was held in the daytime on Sunday afternoon. From 2011 to 2013 the spring race was moved to Saturday night. This year, with the NCAA basketball tournament’s Final Four being held at AT&T Stadium, the race was moved back to Sunday afternoon. It is unclear whether the spring race will return to a Saturday night date or not next year.
Speaking of AT&T Stadium, recently, Texas Motor Speedway unveiled “Big Hoss” which is a giant video screen on the backstretch. With Charlotte Motor Speedway unveiling a large video screen on their backstretch, TMS officials decided the phrase “everything is bigger in Texas” would be their motto when it came to their screen. At 218 feet wide by 94.6 feet tall it’s 79 percent bigger than the one in AT&T Stadium and 25 percent bigger than the one at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Most wins among active drivers: Three (Carl Edwards and Jimmie Johnson)
Defending Winner: Kyle Busch took advantage of a slow pit stop by Martin Truex Jr.’s crew and emerged from the pits with the lead that he kept for the last 16 laps.
Prediction: He’s gotten off to a slow start this year, but that might have something to with the fact that he was fighting for a championship last year and so his team wasn’t able to look ahead to this year. Given his success on the 1.5-mile tracks last year, I’m going with Matt Kenseth this week. Four of his wins last year came at 1.5-mile tracks and he finished 10th at Las Vegas and 4th the other week at Auto Club. If he is to prove that he is not going through a runner-up slump this year, he’s going to have to step up his performance and this is one of his best chances to win since he has two wins at Texas and this type of track was his bread and butter last year. Look for Kenseth to be up front and possibly in Victory Lane on Sunday.
David Barr is a graduate of Daniel Boone High School and is studying Communications at Mansfield University.