MARTINSVILLE, VA. -- Brad Keselowski passed Kyle Busch with 43 laps to go and pulled away to win for the first time in his career at Martinsville Speedway on Sunday.
The victory was the 23rd for Keselowski, the 2012 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion, and his second in the first six races of this season. It made him just the eighth active driver with a victory in the top series on NASCAR's oldest and shortest oval.
"We've ran so good here ... but something always happens and we haven't been able to bring it home," Keselowski said in Victory Lane. "Martinsville is just one of those champion's tracks. The guys that run well everywhere, run good here, and it's really just an honor to win here."
The victory was the first for Ford on the 0.526-mile oval since 2002, and gave Keselowski five straight top-five finishes this year.
Keselowski and Busch swapped the lead several times during a green flag run that began with 64 laps to go.
Keselowski had the lead coming out of a caution, but Busch quickly slipped underneath him to go back in front. Keselowski stalked him for 14 laps, the nose of his Ford inches from the rear bumper of Busch's Toyota.
When he finally got around Busch again, he gradually pulled away, opening a lead of nearly two seconds that helped him when he also had to navigate around lapped traffic. He won by 1.8 seconds.
"All we did was put four tires on, and when we did, it went to junk," Busch said of his car. "I hate it for our guys. They've deserved all year better finishes than what we've been able to produce, and here's another one today. Just frustrating season so far."
Busch led a race-high 274 laps and finished second, followed by Chase Elliott, Joey Logano and Austin Dillon.
It was the first time NASCAR tried its new stage racing on a short track, and it provided some excitement.
Martin Truex Jr. won the first stage in a three-lap sprint to the finish that featured lots of banging in the pack as drivers jostled to make the point-scoring top 10.
Elliott won stage two when Ricky Stenhouse Jr., trying to get back on the lead lap, nudged Busch on the final lap of the stage, getting Busch just loose enough for Elliott to slide underneath him to score the regular season points and coveted playoff point.
Busch said he has no problem with being bumped, as long as the other drivers expect the same treatment in reverse.
"I actually was rolling into Turn 3 and was kind of going higher out of the way and was going to let (Stenhouse) back by and give him the lap," Busch said. "That was my intent, and then he just drove through me and cost me my spot to (Elliott). I was trying to be a nice guy."