Who is hot and cold entering the Goody’s Fast Relief 500 at Martinsville

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It took until his 22nd Sprint Cup start at Martinsville Speedway for Kyle Busch to visit victory lane at NASCAR’s shortest track.

And he stunk up the show.

Busch led 352 laps, the only time in the last six races at Martinsville that the winner led more than 100 laps. There were 11 lead changes, only the second time since 2009 that there were fewer than 15 at the short track.

It was one of four short-track wins Joe Gibbs Racing has earned this year of the five so far. Kevin Harvick‘s victory in the August Bristol race is the only exception.

JGR drivers have led 1,545 of the 2,307 laps raced on short tracks this year (67 percent).

Before Busch’s win, Denny Hamlin was the only current JGR driver with a Martinsville win (five).

Martinsville could be JGR’s best chance to end a six-race winless streak, which started after Hamlin won at Richmond International Raceway in the regular season finale.

Here’s who’s hot and cold entering this weekend’s Goody’s Fast Relief 500.

Who is Hot

Kevin Harvick

  • Finished 20th or worse in three of the six Chase races, had only two finishes outside the top 20 in the regular season.
  • Finished top 10 in four of the last six races at Martinsville.
  • Finished top five in last three races on short tracks including a win at Bristol in August.

Kyle Busch

  • Top-10 finishes in six of the last seven races.
  • Won at Martinsville in April, his only win at the track. Led 352 of 500 laps in April. It was the most laps led by a driver in the last 36 Martinsville races.
  •  His 686 laps led on short tracks in 2016 leads all drivers.

Matt Kenseth

  • Top-10 finishes in five of the last six races including two runner-up results.
  • Finished top 10 in four of the last six races at Martinsville, but not the last two.
  • Only one finish better than 15th in the last six races on short tracks, 36th or worse in four of the last six.

Joey Logano

  • Pole-winner for last three Martinsville races.
  • Finished top five in three of the last five races at Martinsville.
  • Led 435 laps at Martinsville, all in the last five races there.

Who is Cold

Chase Elliott

  • Only two top-10 finishes in the Chase (third at Chicagoland and Dover).
  • Finished 12th at Talladega, best finish in the round of 12 (finished 28 points back).
  • Finished 20th at Martinsville in April, best finish in two starts.

Carl Edwards

  • Only two top-10 finishes in the last eight races.
  • Six poles this season, most of 2016 and his most in a season.
  • Finished sixth at Martinsville in April, his second-best finish at the track and only top 10 in the last nine races there.
  • Only one top-five finish at Martinsville in 24 starts, tied with Indianapolis for his fewest at a track.

Denny Hamlin

  • Only three top 10s in six races since winning at Richmond.
  • Five wins, 16 top 10s in 21 Martinsville starts, but finished a career-worst 39th there in April.
  • Won last short track race at Richmond.

Brad Keselowski

  • Finished 38th in the last two races after having a streak of seven straight top-10 finishes (failed to
    finish in consecutive races for the first time in his career).
  • Only two finishes better than 31st in the last five races at Martinsville.
  • Finished fifth in the spring Martinsville race.

Other notes of interest entering the Goody’s Relief 500

  • Martinsville was not yet built the last time the Chicago Cubs were in the World Series (1945).
  • Jeff Gordon, making likely his final Sprint Cup start this weekend, has been running at the end of all 46 of his Martinsville starts.
  • From fall 2006-2010, Jimmie Johnson and Denny Hamlin were the only drivers to win at Martinsville (nine races).
  • The 18 cautions in this race last year were the third most at the track and tied for the most in the last 17
    Martinsville races.

 

Brad Keselowski Racing announces crew chief assignments

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Brad Keselowski Racing has announced the crew chiefs that will be paired with both of its full-time rookie drivers this season in the Camping World Truck Series.

Austin Cindric, driving the No. 19 Draw-Tite Ford, will work with Doug Randolph. Randolph has been a crew chief for BKR since 2012 and has six wins, including three with Tyler Reddick in the last two seasons. Randolph also has four Xfinity Series wins.

Mike Hillman Jr. will be the crew chief for Chase Briscoe in the No. 29 Cooper Standard Ford. Hillman is a two-time Truck series champion as crew chief for Todd Bodine (2006, 2010). He has 20 Truck Series wins, the last coming in 2013 with Jeb Burton.

“Austin Cindric has already had success in various forms of racing, and has shown a lot of potential in our Ford F-150 race trucks,” said Keselowski in a press release. “I certainly believe that Chase is ready to take the next step in his career, and we’re excited to have him join the BKR family. He won the ARCA championship in his first full-time season, and he’s proven to have the ability to learn quickly and win races. We’re pleased to give both Austin and Chase the opportunity to compete full-time at a high level in NASCAR.”

Briscoe, 22, enters his rookie season after winning the ARCA Racing Series title behind six race wins.

“It’s an absolutely huge opportunity and such an honor to drive for Brad,” said Briscoe in a press release. “The competition level in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series is so high, but I’m going to be in the best equipment out there. It’s really cool to once again be working with the Keselowski family. When I moved to North Carolina three years ago, I was helping Brian and Bob in their shop, so things have come full circle. I’m truly blessed with this opportunity, and I hope to make the most of it. At the end of the day, it’s all about winning races and championships, and that’s what I plan to do.”

Cindric, 18, is the son of Team Penske president Tim Cindric. He has six starts with BKR over the last two seasons. His best result is 15th last November at Phoenix International Raceway.

“This is a massive opportunity from Brad and everyone at BKR who trusts me and believes in my abilities as a driver to move on to the next level for a full season,” said Cindric in a press release. “2017 gets more and more exciting for me with every day that goes by. I’ve only done a handful of one-off races in my brief stock car career, so I’m really looking forward to having the same guys by my side week in and week out. I’ve spent a lot of time at the shop the last few weeks and I know everyone is really excited to get back racing.”

The Truck Series season begins Feb. 24 at Daytona International Speedway.

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Kurt, Kyle Busch come up short in Nations Cup finale at Race of Champions

LAS VEGAS, NV - DECEMBER 04:  NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Kyle Busch hugs brother Kurt Busch during the 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Awards show at Wynn Las Vegas on December 4, 2015 in Las Vegas, Nevada.  (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images
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After early exits in the first day of the Race of Champion exhibition Saturday in Miami, Kyle and Kurt Busch returned on Sunday in hopes of winning the Nations Cup for the United States of America, but were swept in the finale by Germany’s Sebastian Vettel.

The brothers, representing Team USA NASCAR, were in Group A with USA IndyCar, USA Rally and ROC Factor Canada.

Kurt Busch’s struggles from Saturday continued in his first race against IndyCar driver James Hinchcliffe. The Canadian driver beat Kurt Busch by .002 of a second. The NASCAR representative would bounce back in his next race, beating action sports star and former NASCAR driver Travis Pastrana.

In Kyle Busch‘s first race of the day, he faced and beat karting champion Stefan Rzadzinski of Canada. He followed it up by beating Scott Speed.

After six races, Team USA NASCAR and IndyCar had four wins each and faced each other in the semifinal round. But the Busch brothers prevailed over Ryan Hunter-Reay and Alexander Rossi from USA IndyCar to advance to the Nations Cup final against Vettel, who represented Germany by himself.

But Vettel swept the race, betting Kurt then Kyle Busch to claim the Nations Cup. Vettel swept all of his races, finishing Sunday with seven wins.

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NMPA names Jimmie Johnson Driver of the Year among annual awards

HOMESTEAD, FL - NOVEMBER 18:  Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe's Chevrolet, stands in the garage area during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 18, 2016 in Homestead, Florida.  (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)
Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images
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Jimmie Johnson was named the Richard Petty Driver of the Year on Saturday by the National Motorsports Press Association as part of its annual awards banquet.

It’s the seventh time that Johnson – who was named on 62 percent of the ballots cast – has been recognized with the award. He previously won it in 2004, ’06, ’07, ’09, ’10, and ’13.

The award comes after Johnson became the third driver to win a seventh championship in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series.

The NMPA also named Al Pearce of Autoweek as its annual Pocono Spirit Award winner.

The award, sponsored by Pocono Raceway, “recognizes character and achievement in the face of adversity,
sportsmanship and contributions to motorsports.”

Pearce won for a four-year project that raised $13,000 through the auction of a racing helmet signed by the 20 living World Driving Champions and Phil Hill and Sir Jack Brabham prior their passing. Proceeds from the project went to the Victory Junction Gang Camp, the Kyle Petty Charity Ride, the Jimmie Johnson Foundation and the Jeff Gordon Children’s Foundation.

Dave Ferroni, the public relations representative for Furniture Row Racing,  was awarded the Ken Patterson Helping Others Award.

Involved in auto racing for more than 30 years, Ferroni was the publicist for the “Miracle on Ice” U.S. hockey team in 1980 before later serving working for Brainerd International Raceway and the National Hot Rod Association. His company, DMF Communications, has also worked with U.S. Army, Miller Brewing Co., Pennzoil, McDonald’s and Valvoline.

The Ken Patterson award is sponsored by Talladega Superspeedway, where Patterson served as the public relations director, and has been given out since 2004. The track will donate $1,000 in Ferroni’s name to the Kenneth Patterson Educational Trust Fund.

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NBCSN to broadcast NASCAR announcement at 6 p.m. ET Monday

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NBCSN will air live a press conference held by NASCAR industry stakeholders to discuss the upcoming 2017 season at 6 p.m. ET Monday.

The announcement will be attended by NASCAR executives, Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series drivers, NASCAR team representatives and NASCAR track representatives.

The press conference is being held at the Charlotte Convention Center.