NASCAR Playoffs at Martinsville LIVE updates: Brad Keselowski wins Stage 1 over Kyle Busch – CBSSports.com

The NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs Round of 8 is now underway at Martinsville Speedway. The First Data 500 is the first of three races that will ultimately decide the Championship 4 for Homestead-Miami Speedway in November. The rules are simple: Win and you’re in or run well and advance on merit.

With point values being reset, Martin Truex Jr. again was atop the leaderboard heading into the race followed by Kyle Busch, Brad Keselowski, Kevin Harvick, Jimmie Johnson, Denny Hamlin, Ryan Blaney and Chase Elliott in that order. Five of the eight drivers have won at Martinsville in the past while the other three are hungry for their first trip to Victory Lane at the Virginia short-track. 

Please check out our live blog below for up to the second highlights, analysis and updates on the Round of 8 opener.

If the live blog below is not loading properly for you, please click here to view it. 

Stage 1: Penske cars dominate as Johnson climbs back

Keselowski won Stage 1 over rival Kyle Busch, Joey Logano and Johnson after qualifying seventh. Johnson began the race from the rear after spinning in qualifying and used a plethora of cautions to help guide his way back to the front. 

Prior to the green flag flying, Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s pregnant wife, Amy, paced the field while raising awareness for breast cancer in a pink Chevrolet. Her husband started the race, his final at Martinsville, from the 21st position.

Logano started the race on the pole and showed off his speed early while playoff contenders Ryan Blaney, Martin Truex Jr. and others chased. Logano, 2016 championship runner-up, of course playing the spoiler after failing to make the NASCAR Playoffs this season.

Just as Logano started to pull away from the field, Round of 12 knockout Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Ty Dillon got into each other and brought out the first caution of the day on lap 35. There was a scheduled competition caution 10 laps later, but NASCAR decided to axe it because of the crash.

Logano won the race off pit road and continued to lead upon the restart. Teammate Brad Keselowski took the lead away from him just a few laps later while future Penske Ford driver Blaney trailed not too far behind.

David Ragan went for a spin in turn 4 on lap 61, bringing out the second caution of the day. He was then penalized for a commitment line violation. Stenhouse earned the free pass as the first car a lap down in 36th at the time.

Keselowski held the lead on the restart but surrendered it to Logano roughly 10 laps later. Next, AJ Allmendinger brought out the third caution of the day after getting into it with Danica Patrick. With the two battling from the beginning of the race, a crash appeared inevitable.

Johnson stayed out with teammate Kasey Kahne and completed the comeback by assuming the race lead on the restart. It didn’t take long for Keselowski to rocket past Johnson for the race lead with fresher tires. This time he held it for good in the stage, taking the green-and-white checkered.

First Data 500 Stage 1 results

  1. Brad Keselowski
  2. Kyle Busch
  3. Joey Logano
  4. Jimmie Johnson
  5. Martin Truex Jr.
  6. Chase Elliott
  7. Ryan Blaney
  8. Kasey Kahne
  9. Austin Dillon
  10. Denny Hamlin

BOLD – indicates NASCAR Playoffs Round of 8 drivers

Stage 2: Keselowski, Busch rivalry heats up

Keselowski completed the mid-race sweep, winning Stage 2 over Kyle Busch. The No. 18 seemed to have the green-and-white checkered locked down, however lapped traffic opened the door for the No. 2 to assume the lead with less than five laps to go. 

Playoff contender Hamlin dropped from seventh place to 37th after speeding on pit road following Stage 1. It was the No. 11’s fifth speeding penalty of the year. Hamlin’s Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Busch took the lead on the restart from Keselowski. The No. 18 began the Round of 8 in second place after nearly being knocked out in the second round of the playoffs. Martinsville became the 16th-straight race led at some point by Busch, which is the longest active streak.

Blaney and Johnson engaged in a fierce battle for sixth place early in the stage with the No. 21 coming out on top. Round of 12 knockout Jamie McMurray had to bring his car into the pits under green for a tire rub after making contact with Erik Jones. Given the shortness of the track, the No. 1 went multiple laps down as a result.

Despite their rivalry, Busch and Keselowski continued to work together to pass through lapped traffic as the stage winded down. Lapped traffic proved to be a slight issue for Elliott, who got his nose into the back of Trevor Bayne’s No. 6 while trying to execute the pass.

Keselowski gained ground on Busch towards the end of the stage as the No. 18 struggled to lap his teammate Hamlin, who climbed back into the top 15 after the early setback. Hamlin was able to stay on the lead lap despite being tailed by the leaders for more than 20 laps.

First Data 500 Stage 2 results

  1. Brad Keselowski
  2. Kyle Busch
  3. Joey Logano
  4. Martin Truex Jr.
  5. Chase Elliott
  6. Ryan Blaney
  7. Kevin Harvick
  8. Matt Kenseth
  9. Clint Bowyer
  10. Jimmie Johnson

BOLD – indicates NASCAR Playoffs Round of 8 drivers

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