NASCAR Barometer: Second Win This Season for Keselowski

NASCAR Barometer: Second Win This Season for Keselowski

This article is part of our NASCAR Barometer series.

The STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway was an ultra-competitive battle throughout the 500 laps, and Brad Keselowski was the driver on top to claim his second win of 2017. Not many cars escaped Sunday's rough and tumble race unscathed, but Keselowski's appeared to be in better condition than the rest. His car certainly had the legs on the field during long-green flag runs, and that ability to hold onto the handling for long stretches enabled Keselowski to overtake and pull away from Kyle Busch in the the final miles to become the first repeat winner in the 2017 season.

Sunday's afternoon's slugfest featured seven leaders in total. Kyle Busch logged the most out front with 274, but his car was always fastest early in the runs. It was another weekend where he walked away feeling like he was capable of a better finish. He and the rest of the field will have another chance again this week at Texas Motor Speedway. The high-banked oval couldn't be more different than Martinsville, however.

UPGRADE

Brad Keselowski – For much of Sunday's race it seemed as though Keselowski was the only driver capable of challenging Kyle Busch for the lead. He maintained that pace despite suffering an early pit penalty, only to take firm grasp of the lead after the final restart from caution. He then cruised through traffic to become the first two-time winner of the 2017 season. It was also his second first-time win at a track this year. Keselowski has

The STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway was an ultra-competitive battle throughout the 500 laps, and Brad Keselowski was the driver on top to claim his second win of 2017. Not many cars escaped Sunday's rough and tumble race unscathed, but Keselowski's appeared to be in better condition than the rest. His car certainly had the legs on the field during long-green flag runs, and that ability to hold onto the handling for long stretches enabled Keselowski to overtake and pull away from Kyle Busch in the the final miles to become the first repeat winner in the 2017 season.

Sunday's afternoon's slugfest featured seven leaders in total. Kyle Busch logged the most out front with 274, but his car was always fastest early in the runs. It was another weekend where he walked away feeling like he was capable of a better finish. He and the rest of the field will have another chance again this week at Texas Motor Speedway. The high-banked oval couldn't be more different than Martinsville, however.

UPGRADE

Brad Keselowski – For much of Sunday's race it seemed as though Keselowski was the only driver capable of challenging Kyle Busch for the lead. He maintained that pace despite suffering an early pit penalty, only to take firm grasp of the lead after the final restart from caution. He then cruised through traffic to become the first two-time winner of the 2017 season. It was also his second first-time win at a track this year. Keselowski has zero victories in 17 Texas tries but has led nearly 600 laps at the track. The prowess he has shown early indicates he could take his third first-time win at a track this week, too.

Martin Truex Jr. – Truex won the first stage at Martinsville on Sunday, which added his ninth playoff point of the season for the effort. He faded in the middle portion of the race but worked his way back inside the top 10 before spinning in traffic and losing track position again. He ended the day 16th, but his competitiveness means he continues to be a threat each week. Despite his success at similar 1.5-mile quad-ovals, Truex hasn't been as happy at Texas. However, his record at the track has been much better recently. Four top-10s from the last four races at the track means fantasy owners should expect him to be a contender again this week.

Chase Elliott – Martinsville was another week and another top-five finish for Elliott. The sophomore driver also snatched the win in the second stage at Martinsville off of the last corner after just beating Kyle Busch to the line. Busch dominated that segment, but connected with Ricky Stenhouse Jr. in the final turn to enable Elliott to capitalize and collect the bonus points. Elliott has been on the cusp of greatness this season, and Sunday's stage win was just one more example. He must be thinking that he has a victory in his grasp, and it could come this week in Texas. He finished in the top five in both races there last season.

Kyle Busch – For another week this season Busch was one of the top drivers, but victory slipped through his fingers yet again. He dominated long stretches of Sunday's race and held most challengers at bay throughout the afternoon. It was not meant to be, however. Busch didn't have the long-run car Sunday's race demanded, and that meant acquiescing to a second-place finish. He won the spring race at Texas last season to collect his second win at the track and came back in the fall to finish inside the top five. That result was his fifth-consecutive top-five there. He should be racing for the win again this weekend. It won't be long before he nabs that elusive win.

Joey Logano – After starting Sunday's race on the front foot by running strongly inside the top five, Logano suffered a cut tire. The issue forced him into the pits and put him two laps behind the leaders. The day wasn't over, though. He continued to fight and through hard work he found his way back into the top 10 in the final stage of the race and ran competitively despite his early trouble. He salvaged an impressive fourth-place finish by refusing to give up, which could pay dividends later in the championship battle. Next week could be good for the No. 22, too. He won at Texas in 2014 and finished third and second there last season with 178 laps led in the fall edition.

DOWNGRADE

Dale Earnhardt Jr. – Earnhardt again stumbled as he tried to gain momentum in this 2017 season but recovered nicely if only momentarily. He spun just before the conclusion of the first stage of Sunday's race, but kept it off of the wall and got back to the front of the field shortly thereafter. However, it was all lost when he was involved in a crash that terminated his afternoon. A punctured radiator from the incident caused the car to give up its long fight. The good news for this team is that Earnhardt has only finished outside of the top 10 at Texas once in the last six races. He won there in 2000 and has finished in the top 10 more than half of the times he has raced there since.

Jamie McMurray – A chain-reaction bump from Jimmie Johnson caused rear fender damage to the No. 1 machine, which ultimately ended his afternoon. While he should have been capable of finishing inside the top 10 again, McMurray's collapsed fender caused a blown tire that sent him hard into the outside wall and out of Sunday's race. The DNF was McMurray's first finish worse than the 15th-place result he had in the Daytona 500. Fantasy players shouldn't give up completely on McMurray, however. He hasn't finished outside of the top 20 at Texas since 2013. There's a good chance the team can recover this week, but the bitter taste from Sunday will have to be swallowed and forgotten first.

Daniel Suarez – It was a difficult first visit to Martinsville in the Cup series for Suarez. He crashed in practice and was forced to start in the back after not turning enough laps in his backup car. The deck was stacked against him from that point onward. Just after the start of the race's second segment the situation got even worse when he suffered heavy front damage after contact with another car. The rest of the afternoon was futile as he just made laps in the severely damaged car multiple laps behind the leader. He did finish in the top 10 twice at Texas in four visits in the Xfinity series. So, now he must forget Sunday and focus on the upcoming O'Reilly Auto Parts 500.

Kurt Busch – Busch had a terrible start to the final segment of Sunday's race in Martinsville. He was caught in a crash at the start and a cut tire after he failed to fully fix the damage sent him into the outside wall and out of the race for good. He already had the lowest point total of all the 2017 winners before Sunday's race and now has an even bigger hole to dig out of after failing to score a top-10 finish in the last five races. While he can rest easy knowing he's virtually locked into the playoffs, dismay is surely settling into the garage. He does have one Texas win. That was in the fall of 2009. He finished ninth and 20th there last season.

BIGGEST SURPRISE

Chris Buescher – The 11th-place finish Buescher landed in Martinsville on Sunday was his first top-20 of the season and his best finish since the fifth-place result he got at Bristol last August. Buescher is with a new team this season, and the deeper resources should give him the leverage he needs to start consistently scoring top-20 finishes and the occasional top-10. Sunday's performance may be a glimpse of what Buescher should now expect given his new surroundings. Teammate A.J. Allmendinger finished sixth making it an impressive day for the JTG Daugherty Racing organization. What is important is that Buescher builds his confidence with this finish. His best Texas result was last fall when he finished 21st, and perhaps now he can start claiming results that match his talent.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
C.J. Radune
Radune covers NASCAR, Formula 1 and soccer for RotoWire. He was named the Racing Writer of the Year by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association in 2012 and 2015.
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