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.

 

NASCAR suspends Camping World Truck crew chief one race

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NASCAR has suspended Camping World Truck Series crew chief Kevin Bellicourt one Truck event and fined him $5,000 because Justin Haley‘s truck failed minimum height requirements after last weekend’s race at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

The L1 penalty also docked Haley 10 points and the team 10 owner points. He finished 17th in an encumbered finish.

NASCAR also announced Thursday that Joseph P. Light has been reinstated after successfully completing NASCAR’s Road to Recovery program. He was indefinitely suspended March 16.

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Stewart-Haas Racing, Nature’s Bakery reach tentative settlement

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Counsel for Stewart-Haas Racing reported to North Carolina Superior Court on Wednesday that it has executed settlement documents with Nature’s Bakery.

A status report was pushed back 21 days to June 23 in the event the that the parties have not filed a stipulation of dismissal by that date.

No details of the settlement documents were detailed to the court.

Stewart-Haas Racing filed a $31 million breach of contract lawsuit against Nature’s Bakery on Feb. 3. Nature’s Bakery had two years remaining on a three-year contract to sponsor Danica Patrick’s team when the company sent the team a notice of termination on Jan. 19 . Nature’s Bakery was to have paid $15,212,000 each season to sponsor the team.

Nature’s Bakery filed a counterclaim Feb. 25 stating it did not see the return it was led to believe in sponsoring Patrick’s team.

Click here to read court document

Thursday’s schedule for NASCAR Cup, Xfinity at Charlotte

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Charlotte Motor Speedway kicks off its weekend leading up to Sunday’s main event, the Coca-Cola 600, with today’s action.

The Xfinity Series will hold two practices, while the NASCAR Cup Series has one practice and qualifies in the evening.

Here is today’s schedule:

(All Times Eastern)

11:30 a.m. – 9 p.m. – Cup garage open

1:30 p.m. – 9 p.m. – Xfinity garage open

2 p.m. – 3:25 p.m. – First Cup practice (Fox Sports 1)

4 p.m. – 4:55 p.m. – First Xfinity practice (FS1)

6 p.m. – 6:55 p.m. – Final Xfinity practice (FS1)

7:15 p.m. – Cup qualifying (multi-vehicle, three rounds) (FS1, Performance Racing Network)

Long: Hall of Fame moment is special for father and son

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CHARLOTTE — Sleep has not come easy for Doug Yates in some time.

It has only gotten worse lately.

He can’t stop thinking of his father, Robert, who battles liver cancer. Robert has undergone chemotherapy, but at one point doctors said they weren’t sure what how to treat the 74-year-old former NASCAR team owner and engine builder who was selected to the 2018 Hall of Fame Class on Wednesday.

That helpless feeling of not solving a problem counters what Robert and Doug have done all their lives. If there was an issue with an engine, they worked harder and longer until they fixed the matter.

This they can’t.

While Robert Yates undergoes experimental treatments, Doug is there to help take care of his father. There are bad days, Doug says, wincing.

“What I see is a man who is broken down and built back up because he is watching his father,’’ said Whitney Yates, Doug’s wife. “Sometimes (Robert) is so sick he can’t do anything and Doug is there.’’

They are more than father and son. They share a treasured relationship not every boy and his dad experiences, their bonds woven early and strengthened with each day together.

Doug fondly recalls sleeping on a cot in a race shop when he was about 5 years old while his father worked on an engine through the night. They traveled to races together. Doug reminisces of a trip to Richmond where his father, tired from work, told his son, then 12, to take the wheel while he slept. Yet, when a deer ran across their path, it was Robert who asked his son if he saw that.

They often went to the race shop together. Although family, Robert was still the boss. He would be hard on his son at times, but Doug cherishes even those memories.

Robert was only teaching his son what it took to succeed. Hall of Famer Dale Jarrett won two Daytona 500s and Davey Allison won another for Robert Yates Racing. Jarrett won the 1999 Cup championship with the team. As an owner, Robert Yates won 57 Cup races and 48 poles.

Now, Doug is the boss. He oversees the “vision” his father had of the Roush Yates Engines shop, which powered Kurt Busch to a Daytona 500 win and Ford teams to four other victories in the season’s first 11 races.

“He wants to make (his dad) proud,’’ Whitney said of Doug. “He’s always trying so hard.

“Doug is always moving the bar. I think Robert is so proud of that.’’

While Doug does what he can for his father and the family business, he couldn’t control what happened at the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

The past three years Robert, Doug and the rest of the family came to the Hall of Fame to see if Robert would be selected. Five are chosen each year. Robert ranked sixth in votes received twice, just missing enshrinement.

Robert Yates reacts after he is announced to the NASCAR Hall of Fame. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

Each time, Robert said the voting panel got it right.

“Selfishly, I didn’t think so, but he did,’’ Doug said. “That was a lesson for me. Everything happens for a reason.’’

As Wednesday approached, Doug Yates’ anxiety grew. It was worse Wednesday morning and throughout the day.

As Doug walked into Hall of Fame, ahead of his father, he conceded he was “nervous.’’

He also was prepared.

Doug stocked multiple tissues in the pockets of his slacks.

“If he didn’t make it, I was going to break down,’’ Doug said of his father making the Hall of Fame. “If he did, I was going to break down.’’

Robert also felt nervous.

“If I don’t get in,’’ Robert told himself before the announcement, “that’s the reason to work real hard to be here next year to get in.’’

The family didn’t have to wait long to celebrate.

Robert Yates, who received 94 percent of the vote, was announced first.

“Wow,’’ Doug said. “I’m glad that’s over.’’

His father, sitting a row in front of Doug, reached back. Doug leaned forward. They held hands. 

After that it was a matter of relishing what had happened as four other men — Red Byron, Ray Evernham, Ken Squier and Ron Hornady Jr. — were selected to join Robert Yates in the next Hall of Fame Class.

Doug stay composed throughout. He wiped his eyes once.

When the ceremony ended, Robert Yates reached his arm around wife Carolyn and embraced her.

“My family means so much to me because they allowed me to work night and day,’’ Robert Yates said. “Do I love engines? Yes, whether one cylinder, two cylinders, six or 12 or 24. I love engines.’’

That passion led him to this moment.

“I feel like I could take a jack,’’ said the former jackman.

“I don’t know if I’ll sleep tonight.’’

Doug Yates will.

His father will be in the Hall of Fame.

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