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article imageNASCAR: Reigning champ wins first of race of year

By John Duarte     Apr 4, 2016 in Sports
Ridgeway - Kyle Busch assured NASCAR and its fans he will be there in September to begin his defense of the Sprint Cup Series title.
The reigning champion won his first race of the year with a dominating weekend at Martinsville Speedway that saw him sweep the STP 500, on Sunday, and the Camping World Truck Series race 24 hours earlier. The victory all but guarantees Busch a spot in the 2016 Chase for the Sprint Cup, which begins on Sept. 18 in Chicago.
“To finally put it all together is pretty cool,” said Busch after winning at Martinsville Speedway for the first time in his career, and doing it twice in one weekend of racing. “(To) take home not one but two Martinsville clocks is pretty awesome.”
Busch was especially pumped at taking home two grandfather clocks, the traditional trophy awarded to winners at the Virginia track, but added he had no idea where he was going to put them—which was the least of his problems.
“Where they are going to go, I don't know yet,” he said, adding he had some planning ahead. “I've got to get them in sync though, so they go off at the same time (and) you're not hearing these weird noises throughout the house.”
As for the race, it all went pretty smoothly. Busch started seventh on the grid, but showed his dominance by leading a race-high 352 of 500 total laps, including the final 173, to win for the first time at Martinsville Speedway. He was searching for answers, like everyone else, as to why he had never won at the Virginia track in his 13-year NASCAR career. Busch said it is a tough track to master when it comes to accelerating and braking points.
“Being able to put together lift techniques and braking techniques and how to utilize the speed of the car without trying to go too fast,” he said. “You are trying to go fast, but you are trying to do it while slowing down. That's probably one of the biggest things. I've never been very good at slowing down.
“I always probably try to overdrive this place a lot, and I feel like, over the last few years, I definitely honed on some things that helped me, and some techniques that helped me,” Busch concluded. “Being able to apply that here today and over the years has really helped me.”
Regardless of whatever lessons Busch has learned, runner-up AJ Allmendinger said it was going to be tough to beat him on this day. He said he was happy with qualifying, he started sixth, but realized “we weren't quite where we wanted to be” early in the race.
“We got our car really, really good on the longs runs, That's kind of where I thought we shined. We didn't have the short-run speed, but after 30, 40 laps we could really get rolling,” said Allmendinger, adding he hoped the final 100 or so laps would be raced without caution periods. “I figured that wasn't going to happen, but I was praying we had a shot at that because I felt like, if that happened, we had a great chance to win the race.”
Kyle Larson finished third in the race, which pleased hi.
“Our car was way better than it has been here in the past. I felt like I learned a lot throughout that race,” he said. “In the past, (Martinsville) has been my worst racetrack on the schedule, so to get a Top-3 finish here feels great, feels like a win to be honest.”
Busch's win moves him into third place on the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver standings, five points behind leader Kevin Harvick and trailing second place Jimmie Johnson by one point.
There's not much to lick the wounds for NASCAR drivers as the next Sprint Cup race on the series schedule, the Duck Commander 500, runs under the lights at Texas Motor Speedway on April 9.
More about Nascar, sprint cup ser, martinsville S, kyle busch, AJ allmendinger
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