CP MOTORSPORTS - STP 500, MARTINSVILLE NOTEBOOK
FINAL NOTEBOOK - HAMLIN WINS HIS FIFTH GRANDFATHER CLOCK
After 500 laps at Martinsville Speedway Denny Hamlin got what he wanted – another grandfather clock.
The clock is a very special trophy for winning the STP 500. Hamlin's win was special given the challenges which have faced Joe Gibbs Racing.
“It is,” said car owner Joe Gibbs when asked if the win was significant. “I want to say a big thanks to everybody back at the race shop, all those guys back there. We've worked extremely hard. This sport is a humbling sport. It shows you how hard it is. We work hard, extremely hard, and yeah, it's been a long time since we've won a race. But I took -- I really felt great that we were able to run that well last week and led laps, had a chance with two of our cars, and then this week to come back on a short track and run the way we did.
“Denny and the guys, David, really overcame a lot. But, the thing I kind of focus on, and it tells you how hard our sport is, so each one of these things, when you win one, it's a humbling experience that you really want to enjoy, and we're going to do that this week.
While Joe Gibbs Racing enjoys the win, Team Penske will not cry out they are damaged by a second place finish.
“Yeah, it was a good run,” remarked Brad Keselowski, second to Hamlin. “(This was an) up-and-down day for us and we finished on a strong note, just not quite as strong as we wanted to. But man, it was a fun race. That's the best we've ever been here at Martinsville. Pumped about that but a little disappointed I'm not taking home a clock. That's how it goes sometimes.
“All in all, a really solid day, a fun day, and just one spot short.”
While Hamlin and Keselowski battled for the win, the rest of the field simply hung on. Joey Logano, Matt Keseth and David Ragan, subbing for the injured Kyle Busch, rounded out the top five. Martin Truex, Jr, Danica Patrick, Kevin Harvick, Jeff Gordon and Jamie McMurray rounded out the top ten.
Gordon actually had a shot at winning the race until he was caught exceeding the pit road speed limit on the final pit stop.
“Oh, my gosh. I’m so disappointed in myself,” admitted Gordon, who clearly took the blame for the disgression which cost the chance for the win, “I know I was pushing the limit. I didn’t think I had done anything different than I had all day long when I was behind other guys, so, we’ve got to look at that. I’m very, very disappointed. I felt like we finally got the car, got ourselves in a position to win that race. It was a struggle. We were really battling with tire wear and the car getting really loose with our AXALTA Chevrolet. I thought Denny (Hamlin) had the best car, but I thought with our track position there at the end, we had a shot at it. Oh my gosh, I’m so disappointed. I don’t even know what to say right now. Of course, then the car is the absolute best it had been all day when I drove up from the back (laughs).”
Three drivers suffered issues which literally ruined their days – AJ Allmendinger, Austin Dillon and Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Allmendinger was one of the first to fall out of the STP 500. Allmendinger went to the garage at lap 177.
“Motor issues of some sort,”stated Allmendinger when asked what happenned. “ I’m not sure what the exact problem is with the motor. We had a fast Bush’s Beans Chevy just trying to be patient. There were a lot of guys already starting to wreck out there, so I was just trying to keep the car clean for the first 400 laps.:
Fifty-one laps later Dale Earnhardt Jr., was involved in a four car acident which simply further added to the team's problems. Before the wreck Junior battled with a shifter which would not work.
“A lot of guys I think are having some transmission or gear problems,” said Earnhardt. “We got some real bad vibration in the car 30 laps into the race and it just kept breaking the shifter. The vibration is so bad it breaks the shifter off. It breaks right off, right at the top of the transmission. It’s just swinging up there just like a tuning fork. We got another shifter on it, a different one finally. We didn’t know if that was going to hold up. They stopped down there in the corner. I didn’t know they were stopping. I don’t know why they stopped. Somebody got checked-up there and we didn’t see it, didn’t have time, whatever; and knocked the radiator out of it. It’s been a tough race. The car has been fast and we’ve been having fun out there; but we’re not going to be having too much fun the rest of the day.”
Dillon became the second driver to shelve his helmet when engine problems ended his day.
“It is a motor issue. I think the same thing as the No. 47 (AJ Allmendinger),” stated Dillon. “We just have to do a better job of going through our procedures at ECR (Earnhardt Childress Racing) right now. We have some power, but we are not finishing races.”
Dillon admitted he could feel the engine
Dale Earnhardt Jr., struggled with a shifter problem and then ended up in the garage after being involved in a four car accident.
“A lot of guys I think are having some transmission or gear problems,” explained Earnhardt “. We got some real bad vibration in the car 30 laps into the race and it just kept breaking the shifter. The vibration is so bad it breaks the shifter off. It breaks right off, right at the top of the transmission. It’s just swinging up there just like a tuning fork. We got another shifter on it, a different one finally. We didn’t know if that was going to hold up. They stopped down there in the corner. I didn’t know they were stopping. I don’t know why they stopped. Somebody got checked-up there and we didn’t see it, didn’t have time, whatever; and knocked the radiator out of it. It’s been a tough race. The car has been fast and we’ve been having fun out there; but we’re not going to be having too much fun the rest of the day.”
Eaarnhardt refused to be seriously disappointed with the shifter issues. Once the team made repairs from the wreck Earnhardt was back on the track.
“I have had a lot of good cars here. You’ve got to be toward the front and out of trouble. We weren’t there we were in the back. And it’s high risk back there. It bit us today. I’m not going to second guess what we were doing. I feel like our team is strong. We won’t have any problem coming back.”
The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series now has a weekend off so all the teams can celebrate Easter. After one week off the teams will drive down to Texas Motor Speedway one week before heading back to the Virginia/Tennessee area for races at Bristol Motor Speedway and Richmond International Raceway.
HER PLAYGROUND - Danica Patrick overcomes a variety of issues to score a 7th place finish in the STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway. Martinsville is one of the racetracks where Patrick's performance is highly respected.
KEEPING IN CHECK - Brad Keselowski wanted to take home a grandfather clock by winning the STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway, however he wasn't about to race overaggresively against Denny Hamlin. Keselowski did all he could without wrecking Hamlin and finished second
CLOCK STRIKES MIDNIGHT - Denny Hamlin scored his fifth win at Martinsville Speedway which qualifies him for the Chase for the Championship in the final 10 races of the 2015 season. He is also the first Joe Gibbs Racing and Toyota driver to take the checkered flag this year in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series
SATURDAY NOTEBOOK - LOGANO MAKES THE MOVE TO WIN GRANDFATHER CLOCK
Joey Logano capitalized on a late race Green - White - Checkered to win the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Kroger 250 on Saturday afternoon at Martinsville Speedway.
Driving for Team Penske teammate Brad Keselowski, Logano started on the pole leading 150 of 250 laps to capture his first victory in his first start of the season in the truck series. The win is Logano’s first of his career in the Camping World Truck Series.
"I just had a good restart," Logano said of his final run to the checkered flag. "My tires were hooked up well. I prepped them good down the back straightaway and made sure I had them clean enough. We got a good jump and then I just drove it in there and hoped for the best.
“It’s a lot of work here at Martinsville, they make you work for these things here."
A Green - White - Checkered finish was necessary after Cole Custer, driver of the #00 Haas Automation Chevrolet, was involved in an accident with former series champion Matt Crafton. Custer was the leader at the time of the incident.
Custer had just taken the lead from Crafton and Logano, who were battling hard during the last 32 laps, with a hard move towards the inside of the track.
Crafton, who led for 100 laps during the race, was the leader on the Green - White - Checkered restart. Logano restarted in third place but quickly made a move to the bottom to pass Crafton in turn one.
"The #29 (Joey Logano) got a huge – he lagged back big, big on us getting into the restart area,” Crafton said. “I knew it was going to be big because I saw him coming with that run and I couldn't do anything about it at that point.”
“I knew if I shut the door we were all going to get wrecked."
Kyle Busch Motorsports driver Erik Jones finished third in the race, which moved him to third in the series points standings, just six points behind points leader Matt Crafton.
"I wish I could have raced the 88 (Matt Crafton) for (thw win), I was looking forward to having a shot at it," Jones said. "Figured he (Logano) was probably going to do that. Thankfully it worked out and we were able to drop in third.
"The tires are just killed on this thing and we got too loose the last run."
Johnny Sauter finished fourth followed by Logano's Brad Keselowski Racing teammate Tyler Reddick, who trails Crafton in the series standings by just two points.
The Camping World Truck Series will return from another break in the schedule May 8th at Kansas Speedway.
CHATTING WITH THE TRUCK WINNERS - Erik Jones and Matt Crafton talk about their respective finishes in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Kroger 250 at Martinsville Speedway.
SATURDAY'S PRACTICE - Denny Hamlin and Kurt Busch were the fastest drivers in Saturday’s practice sessions.
Hamlin, a four-time Martinsville winner, led Saturday's morning practice session with a speed of 97.113 mph. Busch, Martinsville winner last year, led the second session of the day at 97.098 mph.
Eight time Martinsville winners Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon were second and third in both of Saturday’s practices, respectively. Johnson recorded a mph of 96.988 in the first practice and 96.810 mph in the second session.
Gordon posted a mph of 96.884 in the morning session and a 96.726 mph in the final session.
STP 500 pole winner Joey Logano was 15th in morning practice with a speed of 96.347 mph. Logano improved to seventh in the final practice recording a speed of 96.460 mph.
Rookie Chase Elliott recorded a speed of 96.166 mph in the weekend's second practice session, making him 20th fastest. Elliott would fall to 27th in final Happy Hour practice.
Carl Edwards recorded the fastest 10 lap average in the final practice of Saturday, recording a speed of 95.941 mph.
FRIDAY NOTEBOOK -
FRIDAY’S PRACTICE - Ryan Newman was the fastest driver in Friday's first practice session from Martinsville Speedway.
The driver of the #31 Quicken Loans Chevrolet posted a speed of 97.835 mph.
Following Newman on the board was A.J. Allmendinger at 97.679 and Jeff Gordon at 97.664.
Chase Elliott, who hopes to make his Sprint Cup debut, was 29th fastest in the practice session at 96.337 mph. Elliott completed 27 laps durimg the solepractice session He must run fast enough during qualifying to be in the top 32, unless qualifying is rained out. Elliott would then start 27th in the STP 500.
Alex Kennedy, driver of the #33 Dream Factory Chevrolet, completed 37 laps which was the most in Friday's practice session.
Ryan Newman's Richard Childress Racing teammate Austin Dillon went up in smoke late in the practice session with what appeared to be a failed engine.
Weather rearranged Fridays practice schedule for both the Sprint Cup and Camping World Truck Series.
CREW CHIEFS, SPEAK OUT - Crew chiefs are not like drivers. They don't mind talking to reporters in a short and quick manner, but to sit down for an interview is a very rare moment.
On Friday morning, with rain slowing the pace at Martinsville Speedway for the upcoming STP 500 NASCAR was able to talk Chad Knaus and Alan
Gustafson, crew chiefs of the #48 and #24 respectively, to sit down with the media for nearly 30 minutes.
Both crew chiefs were candid in their answers to a variety of questions. Still at certain points their respective answers were made in a safe mode.
KURT BUSCH VYING FOR ANOTHER CLOCK – Last March Kurt Busch held off eight-time Martinsville winner, Jimmie Johnson, to win his second grandfather clock.
Busch won despite a car which sustained damage early in the race and a notable run in with 2012 Sprint Cup champion, Brad Keselowski. Busch led a total of 23 laps in the win.
“Track position is everything, everywhere, but at Martinsville it is just so easy to lose it,” Busch said. “It’s a goal all day to work forward and then just to have smooth pit stops to carry you through those midpoints of the race. Then, at the end, when everything’s on the line, you have to be aggressive and you can’t be afraid to use the fenders on people to get that solid finish.”
Prior to Busch’s 2014 Martinsville win, he had not finished inside the top ten at the track since 2004.
“To me, the toughest part of Martinsville is that you just never have a moment to breathe,” Busch admits. “You have to be on your game non–stop for 500 laps because somebody’s on you or you are on top of somebody the whole time and there’s just no room for error.”
Since returning from suspension, Busch has two consecutive top five finishes. He led a majority of the laps in last week’s Auto Club 400 from Auto Club Speedway.
DALE AGREES, SHORT-TRACK RACING IS TOUCHY - Dale Earnhardt Jr sat down with the media at Martinsville Speedway as rain fell over the paperclip shaped speedway. He answered questions. A
few more precisely than others,.
In all, Earnhardt has not been a short track driver like his father, Dale Sr. Still,
Dale Jr. has a grandfather clock from Martinsville because after many tries he clocked his way into victory lane.
SUBSTITUTES LOOK FOR SUCCESS ON SHORT TRACK – When the green flag drops for Sunday’s STP 500, there will be three substitute drivers in the field.
David Ragan, who has won two Sprint Cup events, is substituting for an injured Kyle Busch in his Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota. Ragan’s best finish at the Virginia short track was eighth in the 2011 spring race.
“I think Martinsville, from a driver’s perspective mentally it’s a tough race,” Ragan said. “It’s also important to manage your equipment throughout the race as the track rubbers up and changes throughout the day.”
Brett Moffitt will continue his rookie campaign substituting for Brian Vickers, who is battling a reoccurrence of blood clots.
The 22–year old Moffitt has substituted for Vickers in three races this season.
“Martinsville is a tough track but it’s the type of track I am more used to driving from my days in the K&N East Series,” Moffitt said. “I have a Grandfather clock from winning there in 2010 which is kind of cool. Not many can say that. Now the competition is certainly going to be a heck of a lot tougher this weekend and I don’t think I’ve ever raced a 500-lap race anywhere.”
Filling in for Ragan in his Front Row Motorsports Ford is 22–year old Chris Buescher. Sunday will mark Buescher’s first start in any series at Martinsville Speedway.
“I’ve only had one test session at Martinsville, and I know how tough it was by myself to get around that racetrack,” Buescher admitted. “So, putting 43 cars on a track that small, it’s going to get tight in a hurry. I just need to be patient and try to take care of my equipment.”
Richard Petty is the youngest race winner in Martinsville Speedway history, when he won at 22 years old in 1960.
HENDRICK AIMS TO CONTINUE DOMINANCE - Hendrick Motorsports has enjoyed much success at Martinsville Speedway through the years.
Rick Hendrick owned cars have piled up 22 wins and 74 top five finishes since 1984 at Martinsville. In the same amount of time, Hendrick Motorsports has racked up 114 Top Ten finishes. Which is more than any other Sprint Cup team has achieved at any other track.
The most recent winner at Martinsville for Hendrick Motorsports was also a first time winner at the track, Dale Earnhardt, Jr.
Earnhardt, Jr, is fond of the shortest track on the NASCAR circuit and the style of racing it creates.
"Getting the clock at Martinsville was something that I always wanted to do," Earnhardt, Jr, said. "Short track racing is something I love. It's not a lost art but it's definitely something we don't get a lot and don't get to do very often. Martinsville is a great ticket and it's a great racetrack. It's a great place to go see a race."
Jeff Gordon and Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jimmie Johnson are both tied with eight victories at the track. Gordon's 28 top five finishes and 3,723 laps led are tops among active Sprint Cup drivers.
"I love the challenge of Martinsville," Gordon said. "There's one line there, and everybody is in it. You have to attack the corners at Martinsville, but you have to do it in a very smooth way -- in a very patient way."
While Gordon announced his retirement prior to the 2015 season, defending xfinity series champion Chase Elliott will make his Sprint Cup debut at the STP 500 on Sunday.
Elliott is straight forward about his goals for his debut at Martinsville Speedway.
"If we could go run all the laps, stay on the lead lap and be inside the top 15 at the end of Sunday's race, I'd say that would be a day well done across the board," Elliott said. "This is something I've wanted to do ever since I can remember -- it has been a dream of mine."
NASCAR policy allows a Sprint Cup team to run a fifth car as long as the driver fits the rookie status.
GOODYEAR TIRE NOTES – Sprint Cup teams will have five sets of tires for practice and qualifying sessions. They will have ten sets for the STP 500 on Sunday.
Camping World Truck Series teams will have seven sets for the event.
Sprint Cup and CWTS teams will be running the same tire codes this weekend. Goodyear is providing the same tire as last October's Martinsville race.
YOUNG ROUSH-FENWAY DUO EYES MARTINSVILLE CHALLENGE - The STP 500 on Sunday at Martinsville brings a unique set of challenges for Ricky Stenhouse, Jr, and Trevor Bayne.
Stenhouse, Jr, who is in his third year at the Sprint Cup level for Roush-Fenway Racing will make his fourth start at Martinsville on Sunday. His average finish is 27.8 in three prior starts at the track.
"Martinsville is a difficult half-mile track that I have struggled at in the past," Stenhouse, Jr, said. "Last fall, I felt more comfortable there and could give the needed feedback to get our car dialed in. We are coming off two top-15 finishes so hopefully our Fastenal team can leave Martinsville with another top-15."
2011 Daytona 500 champion Trevor Bayne will be making his first start at Martinsville for Roush-Fenway Racing's Sprint Cup team on Sunday. This will be Bayne's second start at the Virginia short track; he finished 35th in his first effort.
"Martinsville will be fun this weekend," Bayne said. "I have one race under my belt there from when I ran with the Wood Brothers, it'll be different this weekend for sure since it's our first short track race of the season. Hopefully, we can keep all of the fenders clean on our AdvoCare Ford and bring it home with a good finish."
Roush-Fenway Racing has not won at Martinsville Speedway since Kurt Busch won back in 2002.
STP 500 ENTRY LIST NOTES - There are 46 cars on the initial entry list for Sunday’s STP 500.
Most notable of the entries is the #25 NAPA Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet to be driven by Chase Elliott. The defending XFINITY series champion will be making his Sprint Cup debit on Sunday and is not eligible for points during the 2015 Sprint Cup season.
Jeb Burton, who has started every race this season, and Brett Moffitt, who is substituting for Brian Vickers in the #55 Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota, are the race's Sunoco Rookie of the Year candidates.
Former Camping World Truck Series champion Ron Hornaday will pilot the #30 Curtis Key Chevrolet.
The #44 Xtreme Racing entry has officially been withdrawn, according to NASCAR.
THIS WEEKEND’S EVENT SPONSOR – American-owned lubricant and fuel additive company STP will sponsor this weekend’s spring race at Martinsville Speedway. STP has been the primary sponsor of the Spring NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Martinsville since 2013.
“To work with a company that has such legendary status in our sport is exciting to me,” said Martinsville Speedway President Clay Campbell. “Bringing together two companies that have so much history and such fan recognition is going to be a winning combination for everyone, especially the fans.”
In addition to being the race’s title sponsor, STP will also be the primary sponsor on Aric Almirola’s #43 Richard Petty Motorsports Ford.
"Having STP on the car on the car at Martinsville is really special," Almirola said. "There is so much history at Martinsville with The King and STP. It's really cool to see that retro paint scheme on the car at a track where the Pettys were so successful in that car. Hopefully, we'll score a good finish and add to the Petty history at Martinsville."
Petty won 15 Sprint Cup races at Martinsville Speedway. In addition to the victories, Petty also has a record 67 starts at the paperclip shaped, Virginia race track.
In last season’s STP 500, Almirola brought home an 8th place finish while carrying the STP banner on his Ford Fusion.
SUAREZ TO MAKE MARTINSVILLE DEBUT – Daniel Suarez will make his Martinsville Speedway debut during Saturday's Kroger 250.
Suarez, xfinity series regular for Joe Gibbs Racing, will pilot the #51 Arris Toyota Tundra for Kyle Busch Motorsports in Saturday's Camping World Truck Series race at the Virginia short track.
Suarez hopes to continue the strong start he and his team are off to in 2015.
"I've never raced at Martinsville before but the team and I are hoping we can keep the trend of strong finishes from the first two events of the season going," Suarez said. "Even we're surprised at how good a start we've had and how much we've progressed so far this year and I hope that Martinsville is no exception."
With Suarez behind the wheel, the #51 Toyota has raced it's way to a ninth place finish at Daytona and a fourth place finish at Atlanta.
KROGER 250 ENTRY LIST NOTES – 36 trucks are included on the entry list for the Kroger 250, which runs Saturday at Martinsville Speedway.
Gray Gaulding, who announced Sunday that he would be leaving NTS Motorsports, is entered in the #7 Krispy Kreme Toyota for Red Horse Racing.
17–year old Cole Custer will drive the #00 Haas Automation Chevrolet for JR Motorsports.
Only three drivers are ineligible for Camping World Truck Series points. They include Daytona 500 champion Joey Logano who will drive the #29 Cooper Standard Ford for Brad Keselowski Racing, David Gilliland who will drive the #92 Black’s Tire Ford for Ricky Benton Racing and Daniel Suarez who will drive the #51 Arris Toyota for Kyle Busch Racing.
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