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 America: Matt DiBenedetto on Indy success with small team

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Matt DiBenedetto has just three top-10 finishes in his three years of competing in the NASCAR Cup Series. But two of them have come this year in two of the biggest races in the sport.

DiBenedetto, who drives the No. 32 Ford for Go Fas Racing, finished ninth in the Daytona 500 in February and eighth in Sunday’s Brickyard 400.

DiBenedetto, who was also celebrating his 26th birthday, joined NASCAR America to discuss his run at Indy and what is considered a successful race for his team, which has 15 crew members.

“You’ve got to keep it in the perception of your versions of wins are a little bit different than everybody else’s version,” DiBenedetto said. “We look at it as who we’re racing around. I would say on a regular week where there’s not a ton of chaos like Indy was, a top 20 is a really good day. A top 25 is if we just do our job.”

Watch the video for the full segment.

Chase Elliott, AJ Allmendinger unveil Darlington throwback schemes

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Both Chase Elliott and AJ Allmendinger have revealed the paint schemes they’ll drive in the Sept. 3 Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway.

Elliott will use his No. 24 Chevrolet to pay tribute to the car his father, NASCAR Hall of Famer Bill Elliott, drove in his first Cup start.

The light blue look was on his No. 9 car when he started in the Feb. 29, 1976 race at Rockingham Speedway.

The car was revealed on Facebook in the below video.

AJ Allmendinger will pay tribute to two-time Cup champion Terry Labonte with his No. 47 Chevrolet.

The car will resemble the No. 44 Piedmont Airlines Oldsmobile that Labonte drove in during the 198 Cup season when he competed for owner Billy Hagan.

NASCAR America: Felix Sabates: ‘I’m lucky to be here’ after near-death experience from illness last year

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For nearly a month last year Felix Sabates was at death’s door.

The fears were so great that Sabates might not wake up from a coma he spent 29 days in, Chip Ganassi bought a blue suit for the possibility he might have to attend his co-owner’s funeral.

But the 71-year-old made a full recovery through a rehab process that included learning to walk again.

NASCAR America’s Kyle Petty and Sabates have a special relationship. Petty drove the No. 42 car for Sabates’ SABCO Racing for eight years in the 1980s and 1990s, winning six of his eight Cup races for the millionaire owner from Cuba.

Sabates sat down with Petty to discuss the ordeal, which began in January 2016 when Sabates began feeling ill during the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

“I came home and woke up the next morning and I (couldn’t) breath,” said Sabates, who drove himself to the hospital. “The minute they saw me I was in intensive care.”

Sabates was in the hospital for two and half weeks before he was released, but Sabates “should’ve know I wasn’t cured.”

The Chip Ganassi Racing co-owner returned to his usual grind until it caught up to him in August.

“My blood pressure was through the roof, my oxygen level was 55, which you should be dead then,” recalled Sabates, who has no memory of a three-month stretch. “They thought was I was brain-dead. They were pretty much going to disconnect me. So 4 o’clock in the morning, they took my tubes out.”

That’s when Sabates began the process of waking up.

“I’m lucky to be here,” said Sabates, who aside from being back at the track is also back to playing golf.

“I used to worry about little things,’ Sabates said. “Now I don’t even worry about big things.”

The full feature will air Sunday on Countdown to Green, which begins at 2:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN before the Cup race at Pocono.

NASCAR America: Ryan Blaney glad Team Penske news is finally out in the open

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On Wednesday it was finally announced that Ryan Blaney would move from Wood Brothers Racing to Team Penske full-time next year in the Cup Series in the No. 12 Ford while Paul Menard will take over the No. 21 Ford.

NASCAR America’s Dave Burns caught up with Blaney on Thursday. Blaney was happy that his 2018 plans were finally public knowledge.

Blaney also acknowledged how a technical alliance between the two teams helped Wood Brothers Racing return to a competition level that allowed Blaney to get his first Cup win this season earlier this year.

“That was a big deal,” Blaney said. “That was getting us to where we could run a full-time season. That was really helpful not only to me but to (crew chief) Jeremy Bullins, will be coming with me to the 12 car.”

Blaney has been driving for Team Penske part-time in the Xfinity Series since 2012.

“It’s been nice to get the news and tell everybody finally about what we’re doing,” Blaney said. “But mainly we’re trying to finish this year out strong with the Wood Brothers, getting their 100th win, that’s really big. That’s on my bucket list for this year and getting as far as we can in the playoffs.”

The No. 21 team returns to Pocono Raceway this weekend, the site of Blaney’s first Cup win last month.

Watch the video for the full interview.