RIDGEWAY, V.a— The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series arrives at Martinsville Speedway for the first short track race of the 2017 season. The STP 500 will be broken up into two 130 laps stages and a 140 lap shootout to the finish.
There are currently 38 drivers scheduled to arrive at Martinsville for the STP 500. The field is considered full due to the 36 charter teams being present at the speedway.
There have been 60 different pole winners throughout the 70 year history of Martinsville. 49 drivers have made their way to victory lane. 21 races have been won from the pole with Jimmie Johnson being the last driver to do so in 2013. In 1996, Jeff Gordon set the race record at 82.223 mph. Joey Logano set the qualifying record back in 2014 at 100.201 mph.
Kevin Harvick will be without Rodney Childress this weekend due to the team rescinding their penalty from Phoenix with the trackbar mount. Childress will only miss this weekend while Daniel Knost will pilot the No. 4 team.
“Well, Rodney Childers is going to get a one-week vacation. Obviously with everything that has happened, basically we got in trouble for a part that was drawn a certain way and didn’t appear that way on the car. The way that NASCAR works now is you submit drawings for pretty much every part on your car,” said Harvick. “It has to meet certain specifications and that part didn’t meet it, so Rodney’s going to get to go on vacation this week. I know this is probably one of the most painful weeks for him to go on vacation because Martinsville really hasn’t been our best track. He and everybody at Stewart-Haas Racing, and especially everyone on our No. 4 team, put a lot of effort into trying to go in a different direction”
Brad Keselowski will see the return of the Paul Wolfe following their decision to repeal their penalty from Phoenix where they had failed weights and measurements in post-race inspection. The team decided this week to repeal following their analysis of the car. Wolfe has only served one of three weekend suspensions.
The defending race-winner of the STP 500 is Kyle Busch.
“We’ve run well the last couple of times at Martinsville and we’re definitely pumped about getting back there. I’m hoping we can have a really good car there again this time around like we did last spring. We led a lot of laps and we were really fast. Hoping that some of those things we were able to push through there a year ago at Martinsville we’ll be able to do this time around with our M&M’s Camry,” said Busch.
Cup drivers are scheduled to have one practice session on Friday at 11:30 a.m. EST. Qualifying will also be held on Friday at 4:30 p.m. On Saturday, there will be two practice sessions at 10:00 a.m. EST and 1:30 p.n. EST. The STP 500 will begin at 2:00 p.m. EST. All coverage of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series will be broadcasted on Motor Racing Network and Fox Sports 1.
MARTINSVILLE, Va -- The last caution of the race brought chaos and confusion to fans, media, competitors, and NASCAR.
The final caution was brought out by a spin by Carl Edwards. The caution should have lasted a few laps, but the caution lasted 29 laps. The caution flew while green flag pit stops were underway.
According to NASCAR, little issues kept the caution flag in the air as they tried to sort out where everyone would restart.
The rule is that the order should start as lead lapped cars, lapped down cars, penalty cars, lucky dog, and then wave arounds.
Drivers were upset that NASCAR could not get the order correct.
“I know what happened. We got passed by four cars. That's what's frustrating. I don't know how many cameras are between my car, NBC cameras, but somebody has got to see. Even the pace car driver should see cars are passing that shouldn't be passing. Hey, savvy move by the 4 and the other guys who decided to do it. I think they caught two of them. There were more that you have to get right. I think the stakes are so high, I really wish we would have red flagged the race, gone, reviewed it and gotten it right. There's a 100% chance it was not right at the end. It changed the running order. Hopefully that doesn't change what happens going into Homestead. I know that NASCAR is doing everything they can with the scoring they have and things like that. But you have to get it right. It definitely was not right,” said Denny Hamlin, who finished third.
“I know at points like that, sitting up there being NASCAR, it’s the hardest thing in the world to run all those laps, but it is the right thing. I applaud NASCAR for getting it right, that means so much to all the competitors. For NASCAR to say, ‘Hey, we’re going to stop the show and get this right and move on,’ I have a lot of respect for them,” said Edwards, who brought out the caution.
Richard Buck, NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Managing Director, was made available to the media after the Goody’s 500. However, Buck would not get into specific details about the debacle.
“We took our time and we want to get it right,” Buck said. “We know what the stakes are and we felt we got it right.”
Steve O’Donnell took to twitter to also explain the situation. “Thought we had correct line up earlier then had several unique circumstances come up-If we knew amount of time-would have gone red flag,” tweeted O’Donnell, talking about why NASCAR did not red flag the event.
NASCAR will be looking at ways to expedite this process in the future.
MARTINSVILLE, Va -- After a debacle on the final caution of the race, Jimmie Johnson was able to punch his ticket into the final four at Homestead-Miami Speedway as he will win the Goody’s Fast Relief 500. This will be his ninth career win at Martinsville, and his fourth win of 2016. Johnson goes into Homestead vying for his seventh championship.
“I’ve been trying to ignore this conversation about seven (championships) but now I can’t! We’re locked in. I’m just honored to be in this position. I wouldn’t be in this position without the belief of Lowe’s and all their employees had in me back when I was running 10th or 15th in the Busch Series. Rick Hendrick, Jeff Gordon… all of the people who have believed in me to get this point. It’s crazy that we have a shot at seven now. We couldn’t do it without our partners at Chevrolet, Valvoline and the list goes on and on. Thanks to them all very much,” said Johnson in his post-race celebration.
The first half of the race started with Martin Truex Jr. leading the field to green. Truex was able to get a good jump on the start and lead the opening laps of the race. The caution flew on lap 20 for a spin by Ricky Stenhouse Jr., who was already in a backup car. However, Martin Truex Jr. pitted losing the lead giving it to Joey Logano. On the restart, Truex was making gains to the front of the field. Truex was able to prove that having new tires was the way to go. NASCAR black-flagged David Ragan, and threw out the caution for fluid being dropped by the 23. Logano attempted to get to the bottom of the racetrack on the restart, but was unable to and continued to drop. Kyle Larson was able to get to the bumper of Truex and take the lead away, but was unable to gold onto the position. After leading for awhile, Kyle Busch was able to pass Truex to gain the lead, but held onto the lead for a couple laps. As the race went green, teams were becoming more conservative with their equipment. The caution flew for debris as teams were getting prepared for green flag pit stops. On the restart, Truex Jr. was able to gain the point, but let Matt Kenseth take the lead to gain a bonus point. Kenseth was able to take the lead back from Truex Jr at Lap 180. As Kenseth remained in the lead a battle for sixth between Jimmie Johnson and Hamlin ensued as Hamlin continued to march after his pit road speeding penalty, and gained the position as they bumped and banged. Johnson suffered a tire rub from the contact, but the caution flew for a torn banner on the backstretch. On the restart, Kenseth was the control car as Logano tried to get to the inside of the track and was able to find his way back to the eighth position. As the race approached the halfway point, the sun began to peak from behind the clouds. At the halfway point, Kenseth was the leader, Hamlin was second, Ky. Busch was third, Gordon was fourth, and Truex Jr. rounded out the top-five as the race entered into the second half.
The second half of the race continued a green flag run. Toyota continued to show their dominance as Kenseth, Ky. Busch, and Hamlin lead the field. As Kenseth hits strong lapped traffic, Hamlin was able to close in on Kenseth, but couldn’t gain the lead. Hamlin was being help up by Casey Mears. As pit stops were coming up, Kenseth was reporting that the left rear tire was going down, but seemed to recover. As green flag stops were underway, the caution flew for contact with the wall by Carl Edwards. As the field was under caution, Johnson ran out of fuel on the backstretch. The caution period was long due to mass confusion by NASCAR and drivers about where they were starting. Hamlin had the race lead as the race restarted. After a couple laps battling for the lead, Johnson passed Hamlin to gain the lead. Johnson was able to build a lead over the Joe Gibbs Racing teams of Hamlin, Kenseth, and Ky. Busch as the race winded down. As the race went green, Keselowski was on the move to the front in an effort to pounce on Johnson for the race win. However, time ran out for Keselowski as Johnson sat sail to victory.
The race experienced five cautions for 54 laps. The average speed of the race was 78.537 mph. The margin of victory was 1.291 seconds. There were 15 lead changes among nine different drivers. Ky. Busch led the most laps at 176, Truex Jr. led 147 laps, Johnson was able to lead 92 laps, Hamlin led 48 laps, Logano led 21 laps, Larson led six laps, Allmendinger led five laps, Ky. Busch led three laps, and Regan Smith led two laps. 38 drivers were running at the end of the race. Only 10 drivers were on the lead lap.
With the win by Johnson, he is an automatic lock as one of the four championship contenders at Homestead. The four drivers who are out as of right now include Logano who is four points away from the cutoff line, Harvick who is 16 points behind the cutoff, Ku. Busch who is 18 points behind the cutoff, and Edwards who is 32 points behind the cutoff.
The NASCAR Sprint Cup heads to Texas Motor Speedway for the AAA Texas 500 for the second race of the “Round of Eight” in the Chase for the Sprint Cup. Coverage from Texas will begin on Friday with first practice beginning at 12:30 p.m. EST on NBCSN.
MARTINSVILLE, VA -- Chase Elliott will start from the pole in today’s Texas Roadhouse 200 from Martinsville Speedway. This is his second career pole in 10 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series starts. Elliott was able to sweep all three rounds of qualifying.
The first round of qualifying was stopped after fluid was reported on the speedway in turns one and two. The caution flew again with less than two minutes remaining for a spin by Brad Foy. Once the track went green, there was a mad dash to get a fast lap in. However, Elliott was the fastest in the round at 95.767 mph, Christopher Bell was second fastest at 95.550 mph, Cameron Hayley was third fastest at 95.420 mph, Cole Custer was fourth at 95.280 mph, and Ben Kennedy rounds out the top-five at 95.170 mph. Four drivers will not have the chance to qualify include Foy, Kyle Soper, Casey Smith, and Donnie Levister. All Chase drivers were able to advance into the second round.
The second round of qualifying saw a mad dash onto the speedway to lay down a fast lap. This round went without accident. Elliott was the fastest in this round at 96.122 mph, Bell was second at 95.878 mph, Daniel Suarez was third at 95.874 mph, Custer was fourth at 95.733 mph, and William Byron rounded out the top-five at 95.685 mph. Chase drivers who did not advance to the final round were Ben Kennedy who will start 18th and Timothy Peters who will start 19th.
The third round of qualifying went without accident. Elliott was fastest at 96.254 mph, Suarez will start second at 95.922 mph, Custer will start third at 95.903 mph, Tyler Reddick will start fourth at 95.883 mph, and Sauter rounded out the top-five at 95.854 mph.
The Texas Roadhouse 200 from Martinsville will be on Fox Sports 1 and Motor Racing Network. The green flag is scheduled to wave at 1:41 p.m. EST.
Fire up the scanners, it is time for Crew Chatter with Speedway Digest writers. This week we tackle Martinsville with the question, “Of the chase drivers who have been eliminated, who has the best chance of "spoiling the show" on the Round of 8?
It's really difficult to choose just one driver because everyone that is no longer in title contention will be looking to redeem themselves.
Who would have thought that Brad Keselowski and Martin Truex Jr. would be eliminated this early. Those engine woes they both had were big hits to their championship hopes and also busted a lot of Chase grids. I do think that if anyone comes back and 'spoils' the next four weeks (can you believe there are only that many left?), it will be Truex Jr. I just think he went out too early because of rotten luck. That Furniture Row Racing team has shown what they are made of and they will come back.
I'm not counting Keselowski out either. If you got the chance to listen to his interview at Kansas after he wrecked, he has the mentality to put this behind him and move on to the next race. I feel like he will be gunning for them the rest of the season. He was on pace to win Talladega before engine issues and I be he comes back and wins at least one more race before the year is over. It will also be interesting to see if he helps out his teammate Joey Logano, who does have a berth into the 'Round of Eight'.
I don't know why but part of me thinks the race winner at Homestead could be a 'spoiler' and not one of the 'Championship Four'
If you really think about it, there are actually more drivers than you think are "hot" heading into the Round of 8 that are more than ready to spoil the party.
Austin Dillon has two straight top ten finishes, and if it weren't for a call to take two tires that backfired on him at Charlotte, that could be three.
Chase Elliott has been in contention for the win in almost every race so far in this Chase (no pun intended), and is in some of the best equipment in all of NASCAR.
Brad Keselowski has been one of the most consistent drivers all season. He top-fived his way to the Round of 12, and was a spin into the grass and blown engine away from possibly another Talladega win and a spot in the next round.
And finally, there's Martin Truex Jr. My championship pick, and a very popular one amongst NASCAR fans and drivers alike. Is it fair that the dominant team, driver and car for 30 races won't contend for the title due to bad luck? Probably not. But it is what it is, and you can bet the No. 78 Toyota will win some more races this season.
I believe that we will see the Chase Elliott, Martin Truex Jr., and Brad Keselowski have the chance at winning races in the “Round of Eight”. Why? Keselowski and Truex would have advanced if it was not for engine issues last weekend at Talladega they would have advanced to this round. Both drivers were competitive all throughout the season, and I do not see that their competitiveness will not linger despite not cotending for a championship. With Elliott, he has been knocking at the door each and every week for a win. I would have to consider Austin Dillon as the very darkhorse to spoil this next round because he has been knocking on the door of a win, but barely missed this round. Dillon has been consistent all year, but will have to get a win soon.