«

»

Oct 23

NASCAR National Series News and Notes + Fast Facts

Past Martinsville success an opportunity for Johnson

logoNASCAR logoFor Jimmie Johnson, Sunday’s Tums Fast Relief 500 represents a huge opportunity – the opportunity to return to the lead of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup™ and take a major step toward a sixth series championship.

Past Martinsville Success An Opportunity For Johnson

For Jimmie Johnson, Sunday’s Tums Fast Relief 500 represents a huge opportunity – the opportunity to return to the lead of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup™ and take a major step toward a sixth series championship.

With the postseason winding down – just four races remain – the pressure is on Johnson to use his clear Martinsville Speedway advantage to overhaul points leader Brad Keselowski while distancing himself from pursuers Denny Hamlin and Clint Bowyer.

The championship needle failed to move at Kansas Speedway, where Keselowski, with an eighth-place finish, entered and exited with a seven-point advantage over Johnson, who finished ninth. Both drivers overcame significant handicaps: Keselowski’s 25th-place qualifying run and a mid-race accident from which Johnson rebounded solidly to effectively preserve his season.

Martinsville represents one of those can’t-wait-to-come-back moments for Johnson, a six-time winner – one victory shy of Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jeff Gordon, who leads active drivers.

Johnson fashioned five victories in six starts between the fall of 2006 and spring of 2009. Four of his six victories have come during the Chase, two in his 2007-08 championship years.

In 21 Martinsville appearances, Johnson ranks first in average finish (5.8) and second only to Gordon in top fives (14) and top 10s (18). His Driver Rating (121.4) is tops, along with Average Green Flag Speed (91.456 mph), Laps in the top 15 (6,854, 91.0%) and Quality Passes (542).

Contrast that with Keselowski’s log – two-plus seasons’ worth – of 14th-best Driver Rating (82.3), 13th-best Average Running Position (15.2) and an average finish of 13.4.

“If anything, we get a little frustrated through practice and then our qualifying effort usually isn’t what we want,” said Johnson, whose average start is 12.4. “But when they drop the green flag, and we are racing, we usually go [in] the right direction and I know it’s been a good track for us.

“There’s maybe a chance to pick some [points] up on the No. 2 (Keselowski).”

Keselowski sees Martinsville as a potential roadblock to his first title. The 28-year-old former NASCAR Nationwide Series champion has competed at the 0.525-mile track just five times, posting a pair of top-10 finishes including ninth this spring.

“Martinsville is just one of those tracks where it seems like there are numerous variables that we’ve struggled with, and I don’t think they’re our fault,” he said “I look at last year, I think we were running fifth or sixth in the fall and just got caught up in a wreck on a late race restart caused by somebody who retaliated on the track.”

Statistics notwithstanding, there are no guarantees. Johnson and Gordon led virtually all of Martinsville’s spring race before an accident during a green-white-checker restart relegated them to 12th and 14th. Twenty-two cars finished on the lead lap, making Martinsville a miniature version of Talladega where a driver can go from the lead to oblivion in the blink of an eye.

 

Junior Returns To Chase Wins In Final Four Races

Four words have boosted the excitement level of Sunday’s Tums Fast Relief 500: Junior’s in the show.

Dale Earnhardt Jr., who sat out the past two races at Kansas and Charlotte following a concussion suffered Oct. 7 at Talladega Superspeedway, has been medically cleared to return to NASCAR Sprint Cup competition.

And Junior immediately becomes a favorite to win even though he’s yet to visit Martinsville Speedway’s Victory Lane. By Driver Rating, 100.1, Martinsville is Earnhardt’s best track. He’s finished outside the top 15 just once since joining Hendrick Motorsports in 2008, fashioning three top-five and seven top-10 finishes in the No. 88 Chevrolet.

Earnhardt rides a Martinsville streak of four consecutive top 10s – including a third this spring. He came within four laps of victory a year earlier, the victim of a perfectly executed bump and run by Kevin Harvick.

With no championship on the line, Earnhardt and crew chief Steve Letarte likely will take an all-or-nothing approach to the remaining four races on the schedule. Regardless of points position, Earnhardt is on pace to chart his most productive season in terms of top fives and top 10s since joining the Hendrick organization. His 10 top fives match 2008’s output while 18 top 10s is the driver’s best and counting.

Martinsville and beyond loom as dress rehearsals for 2013 as Earnhardt and Letarte work to rebuild the season’s earlier momentum that carried the team to victory at Michigan, the NSCS points lead and a spot in the Chase.

 

Martinsville Speedway Has Been ‘Denny’s Place’

Denny Hamlin failed to gain on Chase leader Brad Keselowski in Kansas. In fact, he dropped five points to the leader while holding onto third in the standings.

And while Hamlin has at least one victory in each of the remaining four races, Sunday’s Tums Fast Relief 500 represents the Virginia driver’s best opportunity to overhaul Keselowski.

In short, Hamlin is golden at the 0.525-mile track, finishing outside the top 10 just twice in 14 starts. Between spring of 2008 and fall 2010, he won four times and finished second once leading 796 laps. His Martinsville career average finish, 6.4, ranks second only to Jimmie Johnson. Hamlin’s Driver Rating (113.4) is third best.

Hamlin finished sixth in Martinsville’s spring race, fourth among drivers ultimately qualifying for the Chase. He led 31 laps and finished ahead of both Keselowski and Johnson.

A Martinsville victory was pivotal in Tony Stewart’s run to the 2011 title. Stewart entered the season’s seventh race 19 points behind leader Carl Edwards, cut the deficit to eight and predicted he had Edwards exactly where he wanted.

Hamlin’s current deficit? Twenty points. In other words, definitely doable.

 

Can Newman Spoil The Party Once Again?

Ryan Newman was the benefactor of some typical Martinsville mayhem on the penultimate restart in this season’s spring race, nabbing victory from the likes of Jeff Gordon or Jimmie Johnson – and spoiling what was then an ongoing hunt for Hendrick Motorsports’ 200th NASCAR Sprint Cup Series victory.

Newman now looks to play a different kind of spoiler once again this weekend. Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup competitors have gone 6-for-6 to open the Chase, and show little sign of slowing down – especially at Martinsville.

Only once in the previous eight seasons has a non-Chase driver (a “spoiler”) won the Martinsville Chase race – Gordon in 2005.

Newman, who has scored top 10s in the last two Martinsville races, looks to continue a recent trend at Martinsville – the season sweep, which has occurred three times (Gordon, Johnson, Denny Hamlin) in the last seven years.

Though not technically “spoilers” in this particular sense of the word, watch for strong runs from Tony Stewart and Kevin Harvick, who both need to make up major ground to climb back into the championship hunt. Stewart, 47 points out of the lead in seventh place, won this race last year and finished seventh in the spring event. Harvick, 59 points back in 10th, has finished in the top five in three of the last four races, including a win in April 2011.

 

Roush Hoping Milestone Translates To Rare Martinsville Success

This is a milestone week for Roush Fenway Racing owner Jack Roush, whose organization celebrates its 3,000th NASCAR Sprint Cup Series start in Sunday’s Tums Fast Relief 500 at Martinsville Speedway.

Roush’s Ford team made its series debut on Feb. 14, 1988, when Mark Martin finished 41st in the Daytona 500. Since then, Roush has celebrated 130 victories – most recently last weekend, when Matt Kenseth drove his No. 17 Ford into Victory Lane at Kansas Speedway.

Kenseth, whose championship hopes were pretty much dashed after a 35th-place finish at Dover, has recovered some of the regular season magic that ranked him No. 1 in points on seven occasions. The Daytona 500 winner has two victories in his past three starts but stands ninth in points, 55 out of the lead.

Kenseth, who’ll leave RFR at season’s end, would like the momentum to continue although Martinsville Speedway hasn’t been a friendly place to either Roush or Ford in recent years. None of RFR’s current cadre of drivers – Kenseth, Greg Biffle and Carl Edwards – has been able to win at the southern Virginia track. Roush – and Ford – last won at Martinsville in 2002 with Kurt Busch doing the honors.

Roush has three other victories at the track, with Martin in 1992 and 2000 and Jeff Burton in 1997.

Kenseth finished fourth when the series visited Martinsville in the spring. Edwards was ninth in last year’s Chase event, the only Ford driver to finish among the top 10.

 

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, Etc.

Chevrolet can mathematically clinch its 10th consecutive NSCS Manufacturers’ Championship (and 36th overall) on Sunday in Martinsville. Currently, Chevrolet holds a 22-point lead. Chevrolet will guarantee a clinch with a finish of second or better. … Clint Bowyer will make his 250th NASCAR Sprint Cup Series start this weekend. … Points leader Brad Keselowski is 10 laps led away from reaching the 1,000th lap led of his career. … David Reutimann will make his 400th career NASCAR national series start. The breakdown thus far: 193 in NSCS; 127 in NNS; and 79 in NCWTS.

 

Magic Number Six Has Stenhouse In It To Win It

Six is the magic number for Ricky Stenhouse Jr. during the final open week of the NASCAR Nationwide Series season. Six you ask? Let us explain.

It is the number emblazoned on the door of his Roush Fenway Racing Ford, but that would be too obvious. Rather check this out: Stenhouse just posted his sixth victory of the season last weekend at Kansas, closing his championship point standings deficit down to six points and giving him a great chance to become the sixth driver in series history to win consecutive series titles.

Coincidence? Perhaps. But the stats are pointing to Stenhouse making a serious run at the championship. Unlike last season when Stenhouse was in the standings lead by 15 points over Elliott Sadler and the final three races were about defending his point lead. This season he sits in second, six points behind Sadler and winning the championship this time around means taking it.

Thirty races are in the book and the 2011 series champion has posted six wins and a series-high 17 top fives. His season-to-date Driver Rating leads the series at 110.1 and he has an Average Running Position of 8.884, third best in the series.

At the final three tracks on the schedule, Stenhouse has a better average finish (6.8) than Sadler (16.3). Stenhouse (198 laps led) has also led nearly twice as many laps as Sadler (105) at the same three tracks.

 

Patrick On Track To Become Highest-Finishing Female

Although Danica Patrick is 394 points behind Elliott Sadler in the NASCAR Nationwide Series standings with only three races left, she is on the verge of making history. If Patrick, currently 10th, remains in the top 10, she will become the highest-finishing female in national series history.

Just 16 points behind ninth-place driver Brian Scott, Patrick has three top-10 finishes this season (eighth at Texas, ninth at Bristol and 10th last weekend at Kansas). She has one top-five finish in her career; that came last season (fourth at Las Vegas, setting the record for the highest-finishing female in a national series race).

Sara Christian, who raced in NASCAR’s premier series in 1949-50, is the only other female to post a top-five finish in a race. She finished the 1949 season in 13th, the current top spot for a female.

Perhaps the most celebrated female driver in the 1970’s was Janet Guthrie (1976-80). Her highest standings finish was 23rd in the 1977 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season.

Currently, Patty Moise (1986-98) has the most starts for a female in a national series – 133 in the NNS. However, her highest points finish was 22nd in 1990.

 

NASCAR Nationwide Series, Etc.

Iconic No. 43: Michael Annett posted his eighth consecutive top-10 finish in the No. 43 car this past weekend at Kansas. It’s a feat that hasn’t been accomplished in 32 years in any of NASCAR national series in a No. 43 car, not since Richard Petty did it in 1980 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. … Back on track: Eric McClure tied his NNS career-best finish (15th) at Kansas. McClure was sidelined earlier this season due to an injury but has since rebounded in impressive fashion. …  Helping Hand:  Justin Allgaier will head to Indianapolis on behalf of his primary sponsor (BRANDT) this weekend to join 40,000 Future Farmers of America (FFA) students from across the country at their National Convention. Allgaier will assist FFA members in the Rally to Fight Hunger, which has 10,000 students packing one million meals over three days. The project is in conjunction with Kids Against Hunger, a humanitarian food-aid organization.

 

Home Tracks Roundup

The NASCAR K&N Pro Series East – where the top three drivers are separated by just eight points – returns to Greenville (S.C.) Pickens Speedway for its second-to-last race. The series will resume the show that was rained out on Labor Day. Because qualifying was canceled and the starting lineup already set before the rain delay, third-place Brett Moffitt will start on the pole beside points leader Kyle Larson.

Corey LaJoie, who trails Larson by one point, was fastest in that Labor Day practice and is scheduled to start third. But he will have to drop to the rear of the field prior to the green flag because of missing the drivers meeting.

Darrell Wallace Jr. edged LaJoie at Greenville in March to become the first two-time winner on the historic half-mile.

Suarez Heads To Mexico With Lead

With two races remaining, Daniel Suarez will carry a two-point lead over Jorge Goeters into the weekend as the NASCAR Toyota Series makes its inaugural visit to El Dorado Speedway, a .625-mile oval in Chihuahua, Mexico, on Sunday.

Morris Holds Off Champ For Win

Philip Morris held off national champion Lee Pulliam in a final six-lap sprint to the finish to win the Virginia is for Racing Lovers 300 at Martinsville Speedway this past Sunday in the annual NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Late Model event.

 

Leaders Dillon, Buescher Dueled In Spring Martinsville Race

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series frontrunners Ty Dillon and James Buescher are one point apart entering Saturday’s Kroger 200 at Martinsville Speedway.

That equates to one position on the race track – and the difference in their finishes at the 0.525-mile track earlier this spring. Dillon finished second in his first trip to the southern Virginia track. Buescher was third.

Dillon qualified second to Richard Childress Racing teammate Kevin Harvick, who took the outside lane on restarts thus sparing the rookie from having to battle for the bottom groove. “The plan was to get our trucks out front and it worked out pretty well,” said Dillon, whose No. 3 Chevrolet headed the only two laps that Harvick didn’t lead.

Buescher, who drives Turner Motorsports’ No. 31 Chevrolet, improved on a 10th-place finish in last year’s Kroger 200.

Dillon and Buescher shouldn’t get too comfortable racing each other. Timothy Peters, 26 points out of the lead, is a former Martinsville winner (2009). He led every lap at Bristol Motor Speedway in August and also claimed avictory earlier this summer at Iowa Speedway. Peters finished fifth in Martinsville’s spring race.

“It always gives me confidence going back there knowing that I was able to check the win box off my first time there,” said Peters, driver of the No. 17 Red Horse Racing Toyota. Peters’ teammate, Parker Kligerman, enters this week’s race in fourth place with RCR’s Joey Coulter fifth.

 

Tough Week To Chase Bonus Points

With four races remaining in the season, every point is valuable, especially bonus points for wins and leading laps. They could be hard to come by this week. Only two NSCS double-duty drivers are among an entry of more than 40 trucks but both are formidable. Kevin Harvick bids to become the second driver – and first since Mike Skinner in 2007 – to sweep both Martinsville races. Harvick, Skinner and Dennis Setzer are the track’s only three-time winners, giving the Bakersfield veteran the opportunity to head the all-time victory list by himself.

Last year’s Kroger 200 winner Denny Hamlin also will do double duty at the wheel of Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Kyle Busch’s No. 51 Toyota. Kyle Busch Motorsports will field a pair of entries with the wheel of the No. 18 Toyota being turned by NCWTS alum and NNS regular Brian Scott.

Martinsville winners in the field include Hamlin, Harvick, Peters, Ron Hornaday Jr., Scott Riggs, Johnny Sauter and David Starr.

 

Truex Among Newcomers In Kroger 200 Field

Ryan Truex will make his truck series debut behind the wheel of the No. 27 Hillman Racing Chevrolet in Saturday’s Kroger 200. This start will mark a Truex family trifecta with all three Truex family members (Martin Truex, Martin Truex Jr. and Ryan Truex) having a start in each of the three National touring series at Martinsville Speedway.

Father Martin Truex made his Martinsville debut in the NASCAR Nationwide Series in the 1989 Miller Classic. Older brother Martin made his first start in the DirecTV 500 in 2006 in the Sprint Cup Series. “Martin [Truex Jr.] has given me a lot of advice on how to get through the tight corners and where it’s best to pass,” Ryan said.

Martinsville Speedway is added to the list of only four tracks (New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Dover International Speedway and Watkins Glen International) on the current NASCAR national series schedules where the all three Truex family members have competed in a NASCAR national or touring series race.

Ryan Blaney, the winner at Iowa last month, makes his Martinsville Speedway debut. Matt Merrell, a 27-year-old ARCA veteran from Portland, Texas, will attempt to qualify for his first truck race at the wheel of the No. 35 Win-Tron Racing Chevrolet. Returning to the series is Cooper Hill, Va.’s Jeff Agnew, who recorded a series-best finish of 14th in last fall’s Kroger 200. Also back are two-time World of Outlaws late model champion Josh Richards in the No. 5 Wauters Motorsports Ford, Tyler Young and Grant Enfinger. Natalie Sather, who failed to qualify for the spring race, has entered as well.

 

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, Etc.

Chevrolet can clinch the series’ Manufacturer’s Championship this weekend. If Chevrolet leaves with a 19-point lead over Toyota, it will clinch the title. It currently holds a 21-point advantage. … Only one driver – Johnny Benson in 2008 – has won at Martinsville Speedway in his championship season. … Starr has the most series starts in Martinsville, 22, among drivers entered in the Kroger 200. … The last Ford driver to win at Martinsville was now-ESPN commentator Ricky Craven in the fall of 2005, 14 races ago.

Fast Facts

NASCAR SPRINT CUP SERIES

  • The Race: Tums Fast Relief 500
  • The Place: Martinsville Speedway
  • The Date: Sunday, Oct. 28
  • The Time: 1:30 p.m. (ET)
  • TV: ESPN, 1 p.m. (ET)
  • Radio: MRN, Sirius XM Ch. 90
  • Distance: 263 miles (500 laps)

NASCAR NATIONWIDE SERIES 

  • The Race: O’Reilly Auto Parts Challenge
  • The Place: Texas Motor Speedway
  • The Date: Saturday, Nov. 3
  • The Time: 7:30 p.m. (ET)
  • TV: ESPN, 7 p.m. (ET)
  • Radio: PRN, Sirius XM Ch. 90
  • Distance: 300 miles (200 laps)

NASCAR CAMPING WORLD TRUCK SERIES

  • The Race: Kroger 200
  • The Place: Martinsville Speedway
  • The Date: Saturday, Oct. 27
  • The Time: 2 p.m. (ET)
  • TV: SPEED, 1:30 p.m. (ET)
  • Radio: MRN, Sirius XM Ch. 90
  • Distance: 105.2 miles (200 laps)

 

source: nascar.com



Switch to our mobile site