Event: First Data 500 (Round 33 of 36)
Series: Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series
Location: Martinsville (Va.) Speedway (.526-mile oval)
Format: 500 laps, broken into three stages (130 laps/130 laps/240 laps)
Start/Finish: 6th/6th (Running, completed 500 of 500 laps)
Point Standing: 5th with 4,058 points, 25 points outside the top-four cutoff
Race Winner: Joey Logano of Team Penske (Ford)
Stage 1 Winner: Denny Hamlin of Joe Gibbs Racing (Toyota)
Stage 2 Winner: Joey Logano of Team Penske (Ford)
Stage 1 Recap (Laps 1-130):
● Kurt Busch started sixth and finished fifth, earning six bonus points.
● The No. 41 Monster Energy/Haas Automation Ford Fusion driver passed teammate Aric Almirola for fourth in the opening laps.
● Busch pitted for four tires and fuel during a lap-41 caution and came off pit road in seventh place.
● Busch advanced into the top-five before the stage ended and pitted for four tires, fuel and adjustments before Stage 2 began.
Stage 2 Recap (Laps 131-260):
●Busch started fourth and finished fifth, earning six bonus points.
● Busch raced the Monster Energy/Haas Automation Ford to third on the restart of Stage 2.
● He held the No. 41 Ford inside the top-five for the entirety of the stage and was the highest runner amongst his teammates.
● At the conclusion of the stage, Busch said his car started free but his track bar adjustment improved balance.
● Busch visited pit road for four tires, fuel and more adjustments before the start of Stage 3.
Final Stage Recap (Laps 261-500):
● Busch started fifth and finished sixth.
● Busch advanced to third place by lap 281 and ran inside the top-four under green until a lap-341 caution.
● The No. 41 pitted for four tires fuel and adjustments and restarted in sixth place.
● Busch opted to stay out of the pits during a lap-382 caution and ran in fourth until yet another caution just 15 laps later.
● After a final caution on lap 456, Busch ran the Monster Energy/Haas Automation Ford in sixth place and held that position until the checkered flag waved.
Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 41 Monster Energy/Haas Automation Ford Fusion for Stewart-Haas Racing:
“We had as solid of a day as you could have on the No. 41 Monster Energy Ford. Thanks to all our guys at SHR. I have never had a car that would run this consistent throughout the whole race at Martinsville. I am really happy with our effort. I needed a different outcome with the winner, but I’m really glad that Joey won and has his ticket to Homestead – it just makes our road tougher. We finished fifth in the first stage, fifth in the second stage and sixth at the end, and we probably lost points today. That is what the playoffs are about. We had to be a fuzz better today, and I don’t even know where.”
● This was Busch’s 20th top-10 finish of 2018 and his sixth top-10 in 37 career Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series starts at Martinsville.
● Busch finished fifth in Stage 1 to earn six bonus points and fifth in Stage 2 to earn an additional six bonus points.
● Joey Logano won the First Data 500 to score his 20th career Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series victory, his second of the season and his first at Martinsville. His margin of victory over second-place Denny Hamlin was .107 of a second.
● There were eight caution periods for a total of 68 laps.
● Twenty of the 40 drivers in the First Data 500 finished on the lead lap.
Playoff Standings: (with two races to go before the Championship 4):
1. Kyle Busch (4,104) +46
2. Martin Truex Jr. (4,083) +25
3. Kevin Harvick (4,083) +25
4. Joey Logano (4,074) 1 win
5. Kurt Busch (4,058) -25
6. Chase Elliott (4,052) -31
7. Clint Bowyer (4,041) -42
8. Aric Almirola (4,033) -50
● SHR is the only team to feature all four of its drivers in the Round of 8.
The next event on the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series schedule is the AAA Texas 500 on Sunday, Nov. 4 at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth. It is the eighth race of the 10-race playoffs and the second race in the Round of 8. It starts at 3 p.m. EST with live coverage on NBCSN.