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Crowds flock to Martinsville Speedway for first NASCAR short-track race of the season; Keselowski wins

RIDGEWAY, Va. — Tens of thousands of race fans flocked to Martinsville Speedway on Sunday to see the best of what NASCAR has to offer battle it out at the first short-track race of the 2019 season.

NASCAR’s biggest and best tried to master Martinsville in the STP 500 — with driver Brad Keselowski coming out on top, driving the No. 2 Ford Mustang for Team Penske. Keselowski swept stages 1 and 2. He led most of stage 3, swapping places briefly with Chase Elliott and Kyle Busch, who came in second and third, respectively. Keselowski led all but 54 laps.

Derrick Hammock of Martinsville was missing Sunday afternoon’s University of North Carolina-Washington game to attend the NASCAR race.

Hammock said he watched UNC win a national championship with his dad in 2017, just four months before his dad passed away. “Nothing will ever trump that game.”

So he didn’t mind missing the game for the race, where he was pulling for Chase Elliott to win.

The STP 500 is an annual 500-lap Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series stock car race held at the 0.526-mile (0.847 km) Martinsville Speedway in Ridgeway, Virginia. It had no name from 1950 to 1955, before taking the name Virginia 500 in 1956. It is the first of two races at the track, the other one being the First Data 500 in the NASCAR playoffs.

Unlike other races, the trophy is in the form of a grandfather clock, which has been a tradition since 1964.

In 2017, Brad Keselowski (Team Penske Ford) won the race, followed by Clint Bowyer (Stewart-Haas Racing Ford) in 2018.

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