Martinsville postscript

It’s hard not to be impressed with Brad Keselowski’s performance Sunday at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway. The Team Penske driver led 446 of 500 laps in winning the STP 500 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race.

Leading 400 or more laps in a single race is a rare occurrence. Keselowski’s achievement was the 12th time in 141 races dating back to 1949 that a driver has done so at Martinsville.

His laps led count checks in at No. 5 overall.

Topping the list is Fred Lorenzen, who led 493 of 500 laps in the fall race of ‘64. The only laps he failed to lead were paced by Richard Petty (5), Junior Johnson (1) and Ned Jarrett (1).

That rout capped a three-race Martinsville run that had already seen the popular racer lead 421 laps in winning the fall race of ’63 and 487 in winning the spring race of ’64. Three races and Lorenzen led 1,401 of 1,500 laps.

The 400-plus laps led list for Martinsville:

1. Fred Lorenzen                493           1964 (F)

2. Fred Lorenzen                487           1964 (S)

3. Junior Johnson                481           1965 (F)

4. Richard Petty                  480           1970 (F)

5. Brad Keselowski             446           2019 (S)

6. Bobby Isaac                     445           1971 (F)

7. Bobby Allison                  432           1972 (F)

8. Bob Welborn                   435           1957 (F)

9. Jeff Gordon                     431           1997 (S)

10. Fred Lorenzen              421           1963(F)

11. Rusty Wallace               409           1993 (S)

12. Ernie Irvan                     402           1993 (F)

All were race winners with the exception of Allison, who finished second to Petty. (F) Fall race & (S) Spring race designation.

Only one other facility, Bristol Motor Speedway, hosts 500-lap Cup races. Thirteen of its 116 races have seen a driver lead 400 or more laps, including the 1973 spring event that saw Cale Yarborough lead all 500.

It was interesting to hear Keselowski mention the NASCAR Hall of Fame when he was asked about milestones he hoped to accomplish. I don’t know that I’ve heard any competitor put win numbers to induction before.

“I would like to hit the 30-win mark before the season is over, which looks like we’ve got a great shot at that,” Keselowski said after career win No. 29. “I … look at a few markers for the Hall of Fame and one of the markers to me as a Cup driver is probably that 30-win mark. Championship is one of them. Kind of adding that 30-win mark in there and I think that’s kind of – you’re there.

“I think anyone who has 30 wins on the Cup level is going to eventually be in the Hall of Fame. So that’s a good mark for me.”

He has a point. Of the 21 drivers with 30 or more wins who are no longer competing, 19 are in the Hall of Fame. Tony Stewart, with 49 wins, is a 2020 nominee. Matt Kenseth, with one Cup title and 39 career wins, was not among this year’s list of 20 nominees.

In case you were wondering: A Martinsville tidbit. The track was the site of the final career Cup win for several drivers – Jeff Gordon, Rusty Wallace, Nelson Stacy, John Andretti, Earl Ross and Red Byron.

Keselowski has 29 career wins, 28 coming with Penske. Career win No. 1 came in 2009 at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway while driving for car owner James Finch and Phoenix Racing.

The win broke a three-way tie for 27th on the all-time win list, a mark he shared with Carl Edwards and 1960 series champion Rex White.

Will Keselowski wind up with more victories for Penske than Wallace, who remains tops in Cup competition with 37 victories for the team owner?

As impressive as Keselowski’s Martinsville run was, the effort from runner-up Chase Elliott was equally noteworthy.

How many laps was Elliott’s No. 9 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet in second place, pursuing Keselowski?  Is there a record for laps completed while running second?

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