Ryan Newman won the 500 lapper in Martinsville on Sunday. Uh, after two green, white, checkered restarts, it was actually a 515 lap race. Newman never took the point until lap 504, then led the rest on his way to victory lane.
On the first green, white, checker restart at lap 503, Newman sped by the three cars in front of him as they tangled in turn one. After a brief battle with AJ Allmendinger, Newman was unchallenged on the way to the checkers.
Allmendinger hung on for second, while his Penske teammate, Brad Keselowski wound up ninth. Dale Earnhardt Jr, in third, was HMS's top finisher. Aric Almirola finished eighth for RPM.
After dominating, he led 328 laps, Jeff Gordon left the bottom groove unprotected on that lap 503 restart. That led to Clint Bowyer, on new tires, diving low and making it three-wide with Gordon and Jimmie Johnson. Gordon used Johnson to straighten his own car, then made sure Bowyer didn't continue without spinning. Low on gas, Gordon had to pit, and rolled home in 14th spot.
With each early season bad finish Kyle Busch and Kasey Kahne fall farther and farther behind their rivals for the twelve Chase spots in September. Both of these drivers were considered strong candidates to make the Chase this year, but have had mostly bad finishes so far.
I understand the reasoning for reserving starting positions for those cars which stay in the top-35 in points. NASCAR needs to assure the sponsors of the big teams that their car will start every week. I get that.
But Sunday, David Reutimann was attempting to limp around the track near the end of the race in order to remain in the points' top-35. His car eventually stopped with two laps to go, and changed the entire complexion of the race.
Reutimann was truly contrite afterwards, but that was of little solace to HMS drivers, Gordon and Johnson. One of whom would surely have won the race. Rooty was sorry, but I'm sorry for him for the lengths he has to go to try and have enough points so his part-time co-driver, Danica Patrick, won't have to worry about qualifying for her next foray into Cup racing.