No. 2: Martinsville’s playoff race ended in anger
This is the fourth of a five-part series counting down our top five NASCAR Cup Series races of 2019.
If you talk about the First Data 500 – the second Cup Series race at Martinsville Speedway in 2019 – the altercation between playoff contenders Joey Logano and Denny Hamlin immediately springs to mind.
A post-race verbal exchange between Hamlin and Logano started with the look of courtesy and ended in chaos.
The point of contention was an incident on Lap 458 when Hamlin’s Toyota and Logano’s Ford made side-to-side contact off Turn 4 and Logano’s car banged into the outside wall.
Logano spun in Turn 1 to bring out the 10th caution, and he recovered to finish eighth, but he wanted answers from Hamlin after the race.
“We were having a discussion,” Hamlin said. “Everything was civil, and then, like Joey does, he does a little push and then runs away. So that’s Joey. Scared. He said, ‘Do you want to go?’ I said, ‘Yes, I’m here.’ But then he runs away.”
“I just wanted to see what his thoughts were, and it wasn’t quite the answer I was looking for,” said Logano, who initiated the physicality with a light push to Hamlin’s right shoulder.
There was pushing and shoving and such between the drivers and their pit crews. When all was said and done, only one crew member drew a suspension from NASCAR for foul play.
The fight took the focus off Martin Truex Jr. and his nearly perfect run to the victory, which put him in the Championship Round.
Truex led a career-high 464 laps in the 500-lap event.
“I can’t believe we just won Martinsville, man,” said Truex, who finished .489 seconds ahead of William Byron after a restart with 24 laps to go.”
“I don’t think anyone expected that,” Truex continued. “This racetrack, in general, you don’t see that. Hats off to my guys; pit crew was stellar, and we didn’t make many adjustments. We adjusted on it early and it came to life, and that was a lot of fun.”
After going years without a short-track victory, Truex swept both races at Richmond, then conquered Martinsville.
“I don’t know, maybe now I’ve got this place figured out,” Truex said. “Who knows? . . . I’m just proud of everybody for giving me a race car like that and being able to put it all together when it counted.”
Byron chased the veteran until the laps were all gone.
“He was really strong,” said Byron. “This isn’t a place that I’ve loved coming to, and it just clicked; the things we did with the car going into qualifying and then obviously our race. Super excited, but second is not super fun, either. We’ll try to get one spot better next time.”
This race all but knocked Chase Elliott from playoff contention.
Elliott finished 36th, 55 laps down after his rear axle broke on Lap 180. He exited Martinsville 44 points below the cut line.
Martin Truex Jr. celebrates after winning at Martinsville and advancing to the NASCAR Cup Series Championship Round at Homestead. His win was overshadowed by a post-race fight on pit road.