Brad Claims First Grandfather Clock at Martinsville

Brad Keselowski extended a personal record of five consecutive Top 5 finishes in the best way possible: with a win. Leading 116 of the STP 500’s laps, Kes claimed his first Grandfather clock.

“You know, the two wins this year have both come at tracks that I haven’t won at before and we haven’t won at as a team before, so certainly that feels really good to be able to check something off the list,” he said.

The triumph started from P4 as grid setting qualifying was rained out on Friday afternoon. From there, it didn’t take long for Brad to show the power of his the No. 2 Miller Lite Ford Fusion. Driving up to second on lap 3, he passed both Martin Truex Jr. and Chase Elliott. On lap 24, he passed Kyle Larson to take the race lead, and held it until the first caution on lap 69 from a Ricky Stenhouse Jr. spin. Pitting for four tires and fuel, he was able to maintain the lead but was busted for speeding on pit road. Relegated to a P28 restart on lap 76, the progress came through quickly. Three laps into the run, he cracked the Top 25; and another 20 laps in Kes broke the Top 20.

A lap 105 caution for a wrecked Jamie McMurray allowed crew chief Paul Wolfe to keep his driver out on track, set up for a third place restart. Using the inner line on lap 117, BK motored around Martinsville legend Jimmie Johnson, but was passed by Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch before the end of the 130 lap stage. The P4 finish awarded five Stage Points to the No. 2 Miller Lite team. Using the Stage 1 caution to pit, Wolfe put a new set of Goodyear Eagles on the car, along with an air pressure adjustment.

Restarting from P20 on lap 142, it took until lap 179 to break back into the Top 10. Brad then claimed his spot in the Top 5 on lap 211 after passing Trevor Bayne, Matt Kenseth, Erik Jones, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Johnson. Before the second stage ended without a caution, BK advanced to third, passing Penske teammates Joey Logano and Ryan Blaney.

Using the Stage as a chance to service the car, Wolfe & Co. completed another round of stops, while losing a spot to Johnson’s crew en route to a P4 restart. Miraculously, Brad was able to get that spot back from the outside line on the restart and passed Elliott for the runner-up spot on lap 287. Using the lap 333 Reed Sorenson caution as the next chance to visit pit road, a four-tire and fuel stop lined the White Lite up fourth, behind Stenhouse and Hamlin who stayed out. As Stenhouse spun his wheels on the start, it dropped Kes back to sixth, but he eventually clawed back to his second place position on lap 399.

Six laps after that, the 2012 Champion saw the lead again. It only lasted for a lap under green as Matt DiBenedetto hit the wall on lap 406. Taking the green again on lap 414, Busch claimed his spot at the lead back, before Kes took it back on lap 429. The duo traded the spot again on lap 444, and the final time on lap 458 – where Brad cruised to the checkers from there.

It was the first time since Kurt Busch’s 2002 Martinsville win that Ford Performance visited The Paperclip’s Victory Lane, and it was the first time for The Captain, Roger Penske since 2004 with Blue Deuce icon Rusty Wallace. Along with that, Martinsville was Brad’s 275th MENCS race, and race No. 1000 for Team Penske.

“There seemed to be a lot of numerology today with this being the Penske team’s 1,000th start here in this series, and it’s been a long time since Ford won here,” Kes said.

More than anything, the battle with Joe Gibbs Racing rival Busch allowed Brad to enjoy some hard-but-clean racing.

“It felt like we were due with the Miller Lite Ford, and if you ever can be, this is probably one of those tracks, and today was one of those days where we persevered in a special way with the battle there with Kyle at the end I thought was a lot of fun to be a part of,” Brad said. “Hopefully it was a lot of fun to watch and kind of harkens back to the legacy of this sport on short tracks and why this track has been around for 70 some years because of battles like that.”

Following his second victory of the season, it solidifies his Playoff position and proves that the 2 Crew can continue to win on new tracks. Scoring a total of 53 points, as well as 5 Playoff points for winning the overall event. Kes now claims a series-leading 10 Playoff points, just ahead of Truex with nine. The triumph also took out a chunk from point standings leader Kyle Larson, shrinking his gap over BK from 64 to 34 points, eliminating nearly half of the deficit.

From here, the Monster Energy Cup tour heads to Texas Motor Speedway, another track the 2 Crew has continually performed well at, but have never claimed a win.

As a freshly repaved track, their TMS notebook goes out the window, but knowing what happened at the last mile-and-a-half repaved track in Kentucky last year surely gives the team a confidence boost. To see how Brad handles the fresh asphalt, tune into the O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 on Sunday, April 9 at 1:30 p.m. ET on FOX.

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