Penske’s Brad Keselowski dominated in Martinsville to claim a second NASCAR Cup Series victory of the 2019 season, beating Hendrick Motorsports’ Chase Elliott.
Keselowski led 446 of 500 laps – the first time a driver has led over 400 laps in one race at Martinsville since Jeff Gordon in 1997 – winning both stages en route to victory.
Elliott was the only real threat to Keselowski’s win, as the #9 Chevrolet driver snatched the lead away from the Penske driver after an early restart in the final stage, to lead his first laps of the 2019 season.
He was able to build a gap of over a second to Keselowski, but the positions were switched during a caution-induced pitstop window with 130 laps remaining.
After regaining the lead, Keselowski absorbed pressure from Elliott to lead each and every remaining lap.
Second placed Elliott, who secured his first top five finish since his win in Kansas last year, had to battle Kyle Busch in the final 50 laps.
The #18 Toyota finished stage one in ninth and stage two in 12th, before climbing into contention in the final segment.
When Busch was hampered by lapped traffic entering the final five laps, Elliott was able to mount a late charge towards Keselowski. Utilising aggressive wide lines through the turns, Elliott closed to within a car length of Keselowski but ran out of laps.
Penske’s Ryan Blaney ended up fourth, ahead of Denny Hamlin who had to fight back from a penalty for an uncontrolled tyre during his pitstop at the start of stage three.
Dropping from third place to 20th, Hamlin gradually climbed back through the pack.
He was 12th at the final restart, before climbing up four positions in five laps and continued to pick off cars until Blaney managed to fend off the Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota in the closing laps.
Clint Bowyer’s afternoon was similarly one of recovery, after he was hit with two pitlane speeding penalties in the final stage. He ended up in seventh, behind his Stewart-Haas Racing team-mate Kevin Harvick.
Despite setting impressive pace in practice, Martin Truex Jr was eighth ahead of Aric Almirola who prevailed in a tight tussle with team-mate Daniel Suarez in the final 50 laps.
Austin Dillon narrowly missed out on a top 10 finish after having recovered from 29th on the grid to take an eventual 11th place finish.
Polesitter and reigning NASCAR Cup champion Joey Logano struggled with balance issues in his Penske Ford throughout the race and slipped backwards. He finished in 19th.