MARTINSVILLE, Va. (AP) - Martin Truex Jr. praised the NASCAR for its decade of safety improvements following a viscous accident at Martinsville Speedway.
The throttle stuck in Truex's Toyota near the midpoint of Sunday's race. His car veered directly into the outside wall, collecting Kasey Kahne on the way.
``Didn't hurt at all. Unbelievable, isn't it?'' Truex said after being checked by the at-track medical team.
The impact destroyed Truex's car, and damaged a portion of the Martinsville wall. NASCAR stopped the race for almost 25 minutes to fix it.
``Thanks to NASCAR and all the guys who build the SAFER barriers and these race cars, they are unbelievable,'' Truex said. ``Ten years ago, I wouldn't be standing here.''
NASCAR made significant safety improvements following the death of Dale Earnhardt in an accident on the last lap of the 2001 Daytona 500. Energy-absorbing barriers were added to race track walls, head-and-neck restraints became mandatory and NASCAR made major changes to the body and cockpit of the cars to make them safer.
All of it contributed to Truex immediately climbing from his car, then running to check on Kahne. Neither driver was hurt.
``Everything was fine and I went to let off (the brakes) to go into (turn) three and it stuck to the floor,'' Truex said. ``At that point, there's nothing you can do. It happens so fast, there's no way you can hit the kill switch or shut the thing off. Just lock up the brakes and you are just a passenger at that point.''
Kahne was surprised at how viscous the accident was considering the speeds at Martinsville.
``It was actually way harder than I thought it could hit at Martinsville, so Martin's was probably even harder,'' Kahne said. ``Hung throttles are the worst. He drilled me through the wall and then he follows with his. Pretty good wreck.''
Kahne ended the day 39th, and Truex was 40th.
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HOME TURF: Martinsville Speedway is considered the home track for Richard Childress Racing, which operates about an hour away in Welcome, N.C.
And it's the closest track to race winner Kevin Harvick's house in Oak Ridge, N.C., a 35-mile drive from NASCAR's oldest active race track.
But nobody had much to celebrate until Sunday at Martinsville, where RCR had gone winless since Dale Earnhardt's victory in 1995.
``It has been a long time, and to be so close to home, you always want to win here,'' Childress said. ``For Kevin to take the big win today was really special. I just walked by and I happened to think and look over there where that old (number) 3 car was tore down (after Earnhardt's win) ... brought back a memory.''
Childress, like Harvick, was able to sympathize that the victory came at Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s expense. Harvick passed Earnhardt with four laps to go, a race-winning move that stretched Earnhardt's losing streak to 99 races.
For as much as Childress wants to see his old friend's son get to Victory Lane, he didn't want it to come at the expense of his driver.
``We all want to see Dale Jr. win a race. If one of our four cars can't win, I'd like to see him win,'' Childress said. ``Kevin had to do what he had to do right there at the end and I was proud of him.
``Dale Jr. will win races. He will come back. We have been in that situation. We have had a long dry spell, so I know what it meant if he could have won that race. But like I said, we did what we had to do and that was win the race.''
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COMEBACK FOR KENSETH: It was a long day of penalties for many of NASCAR's top drivers, including Matt Kenseth, who was penalized for changing lanes too early at the start of the race.
Forced to come to pit road for a penalty, Kenseth dropped to 43rd and a lap down just minutes into Sunday's race. Then he rallied for a sixth-place finish - a near victory for a driver who doesn't count Martinsville among his favorite race tracks.
``It was probably one of our best runs at Martinsville,'' Kenseth said. ``I guess it was my mistake early and it was just circumstances as to why we didn't run any better.''
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TONY'S TOUGH DAY: Tony Stewart struggled at a short track for the second time this season, finishing 38 laps down for a season-worst 34th-place on Sunday.
His Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet was off from the start, he was penalized for passing too early on a restart near the halfway point of the race, then spent time behind the wall for a broken rear-end gear.
``Ugly day,'' said Stewart, a two-time Martinsville winner. ``We weren't very good to start with, but we got the car better to where it was competitive on long runs. I didn't help our cause with that penalty there, but in the end, it didn't really matter. I could smell the rear-end gear, and I knew it was just a matter of time before it broke.
``So, I just brought the car into the garage to see if we could fix it and at least finish the race.''
Stewart was 19th two weeks ago at Bristol, a track where he typically competes for the win.
Things weren't any better for Stewart's teammate, Ryan Newman, who led twice and ran with the leaders until a broken part cut his horsepower and a flat tire caused a later spin. He finished 20th.
``It could have been a lot worse,'' said Newman. ``We'll take it and go on to Texas.''

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