Editor's note: Brad Parrott, a 19-time winner in NASCAR national series competition, has joined NASCAR.com as a guest writer for the 2014 season. Here is his first-person analysis after Sunday's STP 500 for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at Martinsville Speedway:
Wow. After 500 laps and a classic late-race duel, what else can you say? What a victory for Kurt Busch. To not only catch Jimmie Johnson but pass him late, it's probably more difficult to do that at Martinsville than at any other track on the circuit. Those two cars being so close together over the last 40 laps gives NASCAR fans something to cheer about. The fans saw beating and banging, they saw Brad Keselowski's temper flare, but they didn't see Kurt Busch's temper flare -- and that's why he's in Victory Lane.
I'm going to go back to the pit strategy call on Lap 220 for Busch, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Marcos Ambrose. All got top-five finishes, and they were the three cars to stay out on the race track when they had 13 laps on their tires while everyone else pitted. They were able to get a caution 10 laps later and take advantage. It was pit strategy that won this race and got Kurt the track position. And don't forget, Busch's win gives Stewart-Haas Racing its second victory of the year and puts two SHR cars in the Chase through six races this year.
Winning a race early in your career as a crew chief is so important, but it's also difficult. My second stint as a crew chief, I won in my second race in 2003. My first NASCAR Nationwide Series crew chief win came in my very first start. My brother (Todd Parrott) won as a crew chief in his very first full-time Cup start. With Daniel Knost winning in his sixth start with Kurt Busch, it really shows his talent and it shows the people that SHR has put in place this year. Rodney Childers is in his first year as a crew chief for Kevin Harvick and they've already won, too. Overall, you can't beat the communication level that SHR has with the crew chiefs, their engineers and their drivers right now.
As far as other drivers, you have to give a tip of the hat to Rick Hendrick. He was at Martinsville to celebrate 30 years of being a car owner and had cars finish 2-3 in Johnson and Earnhardt Jr. Joey Logano stayed steady all day to finish fourth. And it was a great run by the Richard Petty Motorsports cars again, having two cars in the top 10. It has to be extra meaningful for that group, considering what Richard Petty has gone through this week with the death of his wife, Lynda Petty.
I was surprised to see the Joe Gibbs Racing cars struggle, but that goes back to practice on Friday. With the rain hitting hard Saturday, all these guys made their adjustments off Friday's practice. It was a great run by Matt Kenseth to come back through the field and finish sixth, but his teammates didn't do as well. Kyle Busch finished 14th after starting on the pole. Denny Hamlin called the race as his to lose and then finished 19th.
Michael Waltrip Racing showed signs here and there, but unfortunately Clint Bowyer had a bad pit stop to relegate him to the ninth-place finish.The 15 car was the leader coming into the final pit stop with 40 laps left but lost nine spots on pit road. The tire changer is going to get the blame for that, but in my opinion, Clint stopping short in his box was the biggest reason for the slow stop.