Crew Chatter: Martinsville
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.
Truex Edges Logano for Martinsville Pole
MARTINSVILLE, VA -- Martin Truex Jr. will start from the pole in the second consecutive week in the Goody’s Fast Relief 500. Truex beat Joey Logano by .008 seconds in the final round. This is Truex’s fifth pole in 2016 and first pole in 22 races at Martinsville.
“Mostly because it’s Martinsville – I’ve been second here a few times. This place is just so tough and that first pit stall is just so critical to having a shot at winning here. I would love to get my first grandfather clock. And a little bit after last week, this helps a little bit. All in all, just proud of the guys for coming here with a game plan and executing,” said Truex Jr after qualifying was complete.
“I had a good center, when I went to the gas, I just got loose. I could get a good launch, I was just a little aggressive inside the car, may of cost us a little. But that’s what it takes here at Martinsville. You have to be right there on that edge to go fast,” said Logano after missing the pole position by a narrow margin.
The first round of qualifying saw Kurt Busch and Landon Cassill go out on the track and get heat in the car. After five minutes passed in the round. Jeffrey Earnhardt was the only driver to make a hard lap as drivers sat on pit road waiting for the track to cool. The caution flag flew in this round due to a spin by Ricky Stenhouse Jr. The caution once again flew as Austin Dillon hit the wall in turn one. Both driver wheel-hopped going into turn one. Once the track went green, there were no more accidents. No drivers will be sent home. Logano was the fastest at 98.323 mph, Tony Stewart was second at 98.145 mph, Truex Jr. was third at 97.785 mph, Denny Hamlin was fourth at 97.739, and Chase Elliott rounded out the top-five at 97.709 mph. Michael Annett was the only driver who did not post a time in the first round
The second round of qualifying went without accident. Elliott was the fastest in this round at 98.129 mph, Truex Jr. was second by .001 seconds at 98.124 mph, Ky. Busch was third at 98.114 mph, Stewart was fourth at 98.012 mph, and Kyle Larson rounded out the top-five at 97.790 mph. Chase drivers who did not advance include Matt Kenseth who qualified 17th, Kevin Harvick who qualified 20th, and Kurt Busch qualified 23rd. Notable drivers who advanced to the final round were David Ragan and AJ Allmendinger.
The third round of qualifying also went without accident. Truex Jr. was fastest at 98.206 mph, Logano was second at 98.165 mph, Johnson was third at 97.840 mph, Allmendinger was fourth at 97.729, and Elliott rounded out the top-five at 97.699 mph. Ragan was able to qualify 12th at a speed of 96.830 mph.
The NASCR Sprint Cup Series will have two practice sessions on Saturday at 9:00 a.m. and 12:00 p.m. on NBCSN in a final attempt to dial in their vehicles for Sunday’s Goody’s Fast Relief 500 from Martinsville Speedway.
Texas Roadhouse 200 Preview
The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series bump drafts their way out of the 2.66-mile Talladega Superspeedway to the 0.526-mile Martinsville Speedway nestled in the mountains of Virginia for the 18th annual Texas Roadhouse 200. This will kick off the “Round of Six” for the Chase. A win by a Chase driver will guarantee a lock at a chance for the championship at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
37 drivers will be competing for 32 spots in Saturday’s headliner. Harrison Burton will be making his first career NASCAR Camping World Truck Series start for Kyle Busch Motorsports (KBM) this weekend. Daniel Suarez will field a second entry for KBM. Chase Elliott will be competing in Saturday’s event for Contreras Motorsports.
Martinsville Speedway was built in 1947 by H. Clay Earles, and is the only track to host NASCAR sanctioned races since 1949. Martinsville is known on the NASCAR circuit as “The Paperclip”, due to its shape and its tight corners. The track width is only 55 feet. The turns are 588 feet in length and the straights are 800 feet. Pit road begins at the entrance of turn three and goes to the exit of turn two and is only 46 feet wide.
There have been 24 different pole winners at Martinsville. 25 different drivers have won in Truck competition. Eight races have been won from the pole at Martinsville with Joey Logano being the last driver to do so back in 2015. In 1999, the race record was set by Jimmy Hensley at 74.282 mph. Logano holds the qualifying record set back in 2015 at 97.088 mph.
Drivers talk about what it means to race at Martinsville.
“My dad (Jeff Burton) said that protecting the bottom is huge at Martinsville. We watched tape and it gets crazy there, so he says you have to be cautious, but very assertive while protecting the bottom. He also told me that since this is my very first truck race and I am 16, I need to soak in this opportunity to learn and gain experience and the respect of the other drivers,” said H. Burton on the advice given to him by his father.
"Martinsville is a place I'm always looking forward to getting back to. As someone who grew up short-track racing, it's a place where I feel like I can excel, and it's also one of the places I have the most experience at. Track position at a place like Martinsville is key, especially in this shorter 200-lap race. You don't have a lot of time to make your way to the front, so you have to unload fast, qualify well and make the right decisions to stay up front. We are 100-percent focused on winning races at this point, so we're able to take some chances we may not have been able to make if we were still in contention for the championship,” says Daniel Hemric, who was eliminated from the Chase last weekend at Talladega.
"I would say Martinsville is one of my best tracks. I've been competitive every time I have been there. I'm not nervous. That's strange to say knowing that it's a track where anything can happen, but I'm really confident in this team and what everyone at GMS Racing has built,” says Johnny Sauter.
The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series will have two practice sessions on Friday at Martinsville, beginning at 12:30 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. Qualifying for the Texas Roadhouse 200 will be at 10:15 a.m. on Saturday. The race will begin at 1:30 p.m. on Fox Sports 1 and Motor Racing Network.
Goody's Fast Relief 500 Preview
The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drafts their way out of the 2.66-mile Talladega Superspeedway to the 0.526-mile Martinsville Speedway nestled in the mountains of Virginia for the 68th annual Goody’s Fast Relief 500. This will kick off the “Round of Eight” for the Chase for the Sprint Cup. A win by a Chase driver will guarantee a lock at a chance for the championship at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
40 drivers are vying to compete for 40 spots in Sunday’s main event. Notable drivers in the field include Jeff Gordon, who will race for the final time in 2016 filling in for Dale Earnhardt Jr. Dylan Lupton will be making his third start of 2016 this weekend in Martinsville.
Martinsvile Speedway was built in 1947 by H. Clay Earles, and is the only track to host NASCAR sanctioned races since 1949. Martinsville is known on the NASCAR circuit as “The Paperclip”, due to its shape and its tight corners. The track width is only 55 feet. The turns are 588 feet in length and the straights are 800 feet. Pit road begins at the entrance of turn three and goes to the exit of turn two and is only 46 feet wide.
There have been 59 different pole winners at Martinsville. 49 different drivers have won at the prestigious speedway. 21 races have been won from the pole with Jimmie Johnson being the last driver to do so in 2013. In 1996, Gordon set the race record at 82.223 mph. In 2014, Jamie McMurray set the qualifying record at 99.905 mph.
Besides the Chase for the Sprint Cup, there are numerous storylines coming into the weekend. Ford has not won a race at Martinsville since 2002 with Kurt Busch. The other storyline is can Joey Logano win his fourth consecutive pole to become the first driver to do so.
Drivers talk about Martinsville and going into the “Round of Eight”.
“We’ve run well the last couple times at Martinsville and 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 time. We led a lot of laps and we were really fast. Hoping that some of those things that we were able to push through there at Martinsville, we’ll be able to do this time around,” says Kyle Busch, driver of the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota.
“These next three races line up really well for us. We’ve been fortunate to have won at Martinsville before and we ran really well there the first race. The 1.5-mile tracks have been our bread and butter and Phoenix has been really good pretty much every single time we’ve been there. First it was just trying to get to Martinsville and we’ve accomplished that. Now we have to focus on getting the best finish that we can out of each racetrack. I guess if I’d have to pick one that we’ve been most successful at it would be Phoenix hands down. But, our 1.5-mile stuff has been our bread and butter this year as we’ve gone through the season, so that should be good; and Martinsville has been good to us in the past,” says Kevin Harvick, driver of the No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevy.
“We had a really good test at Martinsville a few weeks ago and I’m looking forward to the race this weekend. It seemed like we found some speed and we’ve been pretty good at Martinsville the last two races. I’m feeling pretty optimistic about running in the top 10 this weekend and maybe even better than that,” says Greg Biffle, driver of the No. 16 Roush Fenway Racing Ford.
Track activity begins at 11:00 a.m. EST with first practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series to prepare for qualifying which will be at 4:40 p.m. EST. On Saturday, teams will have two practice sessions at 9:00 a.m. EST and 12:00 p.m. The Goody’s Fast Relief 500 will begin at 1:00 p.m. EST. All activities from Martinsville Speedway will be broadcasted by NBCSN and Motor Racing Network.