Talladega run gives Brian Scott best day of Sprint Cup career

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Sunday was Brian Scott’s greatest day in Sprint Cup racing — no ifs, ands or buts about it.

When Sunday’s green flag dropped, Scott had never earned a top-10 finish in NASCAR’s premier series. His best finishes to date were 12th place showings earlier this year at Fontana and last year at Kansas. And in three previous starts at Talladega Superspeedway, his finishes were 42nd, 43rd and 30th.

But Sunday was different. He scored a second at Talladega Superspeedway — his best career Sprint Cup finish (By comparison, Scott had 208 career starts in the Xfinity Series and hasn’t won in NASCAR’s junior league, but did have four runner-up finishes.)

In addition, Scott’s teammate Aric Almirola had his first top-10 and best finish of the season (eighth).

It marked the best overall finish for RPM team this season and the team’s best Talladega finish since Kasey Kahne was second in 2009.

We had a team meeting before the race,” Scott said after the race. “We knew that we were going to have to be perfect.

“We were going to have to have no mistakes on pit road, going to have to have a fast Ford, keep good track position all day and try to make friends throughout the race so they would work with us at the end, and our game plan was really just executed really well.

“The guys did a great job on pit road.  We had a really solid car. Roush Yates Engines were amazing today and we were able to show our speed to a lot of the field, and when it came down to the finish or the restart there at the end, lucky enough to have Denny Hamlin and some guys work with us to give us an opportunity at the win.”

Scott’s and Almirola’s respective finishes were a boost to the RPM, which has struggled all season.

“A good finish always helps,” Scott said. “It helps with the team, it helps with the guys at the shop – the morale – just trying to get any bit of a bright spot in this year has been difficult, and I think that this is by far the brightest spot that we’ve had in a really challenging year for Richard Petty Motorsports.

“I guess the results and what this does for us going forward is yet to be determined, but I’m just proud.  The guys have worked hard all year.  They’ve deserved a lot better finishes than we’ve given them, and I’m just proud to deliver a good, solid top five, to do my job behind the wheel to give us a shot at the win, just have a good day for Richard Petty Motorsports.”

Scott’s runner-up finish was helped by a late push from Hamlin, who finished third and advanced to the Round of 8.

“I was thankful to have Denny,” Scott said, adding with a laugh, “I don’t know if playing golf with him occasionally helps or not, but, yeah, that’s always a fear of mine.

“When you have a yellow sticker (indicating a rookie Cup driver) on your bumper normally people avoid you like the plague. They go elsewhere, and there was a lot of opportunities where I felt guys tried to do it, but I had a great spotter in Stevie Reeves and was able to block and do the right things to keep our Goody’s Ford with good track position towards the front.

“I don’t know, maybe because this is an elimination race it changed the way Denny raced at the end, but he gave me a great push and gave me an opportunity to get a run at (race winner Joey Logano).

“I just probably didn’t do everything I was supposed to get a strong enough run or back away from him as much as I could have, and just couldn’t get to his quarter panel, but it was exciting there at the end.”

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Martinsville Truck race postponed to Sunday after Cup race

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The Alpha Energy Solutions 250 Truck race at Martinsville has been postponed until Sunday afternoon, following the Cup race.

Ben Rhodes led the field to green 2:05 p.m. and held the lead until Mike Senica stalled on the track. Rhodes led the first 23 laps until precipitation red flagged the event at 2:17.

The Truck race will be televised on FS1.

Martin Truex Jr. sweeps Martinsville Cup practice

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After posting the fastest single lap and quickest 10-lap average in the first practice, Martin Truex. Jr. also topped the fastest lap chart in final practice for the STP 500 with a speed of 95.415 mph.

Also repeating his performance from the first practice, Brad Keselowski was second on the leaderboard. Keselowski was fast on long runs with the quickest 10-lap average of 94.579 mph.

Sophomore Daniel Suarez was notably fast. His lap of 95.588 mph was third on the chart.

Kyle Busch (95.122) and Ryan Newman (94.756) rounded out the top five.

Jimmie Johnson (93.831) was hoping to carry over momentum from last week’s top 1o at Auto Club, but struggled to find single lap speed. He landed 28th on the speed chart.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. wheel hopped entering turn three with 33 minutes remaining. He rolled out a backup car and will start at the back regardless of where he qualifies.

Click here for the full final practice times.

History looms for the Wood Brothers

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Glen Wood first came to Martinsville, Virgina in November 1953, making the short 30-minute drive from Stuart for his NASCAR debut in a family owned car. Nearly 65 years later, the famed Woods Brothers are still racing the iconic No. 21 on the half-mile bullring.

The torch has since been passed to Glen’s sons, but the history remains.

“Our dad came here and raced,” Eddie Wood said in a press release before the STP 500. “He raced here in the fifties and it’s just a special, special place and knowing that the Ford Fusions ran really well last year here that gives you a lot of confidence. I’m sure it gives Paul (Menard) a lot of confidence, but it’s just a special, special place.”

Last fall, Ryan Blaney returned the 21 to the top 10 on the team’s home track for the first time in 12 years. He finished eighth in the First Data 400. This year, Blaney turned the car over to Menard and as the series comes to Martinsville for the first of two races this year, the legacy continues.

“The pressure is all what you make of it,” Menard said. “I know a couple things – I’ve got a great team behind me. We’re gonna have a fast Ford and we’re gonna have a lot of fans cheering on the 21 car, so you can think about that every waking second you’re up here, or you can go to work and do your business. It’s obviously an honor to drive this car and to be a part of the Wood family driving the 21 at Martinsville, and I’m really gonna think about that when I put my firesuit on, but once you get the helmet on it’s all business.”

The gravity of protecting the Wood Brothers’ legend at Martinsville is increased by the fact that this week marks NASCAR’s first short track race of the season and a return to its grassroots. It is easy to feel the history of racing on this little track nestled in rural Virginia—not only for the iconic team, but the entire field.

“It’s getting back to grassroots,” Menard said. “Over half the guys, probably more than that, started racing at short tracks with late models somewhere. We were running 25 laps back then versus 500 now, but the stage racing is kind of like a couple of heat races before the A Main, so you try to get your points when you can and be smart about things when you can and let it rip when you can.”

“You can race here year after year, race after race and there’s no way anybody can mess this race up,” Eddie Wood said. “This is just always a great race because it’s tight and it’s grassroots, it’s NASCAR roots.”

The STP 500 is not just another race for the Wood Brothers. On a track that puts a premium on mechanical grip and driver ability, as opposed to flat out horsepower, Menard has greater control over his fate. That is both good and bad news, because a milestone has been within reach for the past 27 races –  the team’s 100th win.

“It would be huge,” Menard said of the 100th win. “I’ll take it anywhere. We started at Daytona and didn’t get it there, and we’ll keep working until we get it. Martinsville would be a huge one for us, obviously, and if we do that, we’ll have another one for the museum down the road.”

Ben Rhodes grabs Martinsville Truck pole

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Ben Rhodes laid down a lap of 95.942 mph in the final round of qualification for the Alpha Energy Solutions 250 Truck series at Martinsville to win his third career pole.

Teammate Matt Crafton will line up beside him on the outside of the front row with a lap of 95.704 mph.

Grant Enfinger qualified third to give ThorSports a clean sweep of the top spots.

Round two: Kyle Benjamin was fastest 95.830 mph. With time running off the clock, Myatt Snider (94.984) bumped Harrison Burton (94.770) out of the top 12.

Round one: Todd Gilliland topped the chart with a speed of 95.213 mph. He will have to drop to the back to start the race because of an engine change, so he did not attempt to post a time in the second round.

Click here for the race lineup.

Weather permitting, the green flag will wave over the field at 2 p.m.