What drivers said after the Goody’s Fast Relief 500 at Martinsville

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Here is what drivers had to say after the 68th annual Goody’s Fast Relief 500 at Martinsville Speedway.

Jimmie Johnson – Winner: “I’ve been trying to ignore this conversation about seven (championships) but now I can’t! We’re locked in. I’m just honored to be in this position. I wouldn’t be in this position without the belief of Lowe’s and all their employees had in me back when I was running 10th or 15th in the Busch Series. Rick Hendrick, Jeff Gordon … all of the people who have believed in me to get this point. It’s crazy that we have a shot at seven now. We couldn’t do it without our partners at Chevrolet, Valvoline and the list goes on and on. Thanks to them all very much.”

Brad Keselowski – Finished second: “It was a good day for us, not the win. I think we had the speed capable to pull it off, but still a really strong day. The car was good. The team executed really well, we just kind of missed out on the racing Gods today. We have a lot to be proud of, a great effort, and showed that we’re still a strong team if not the strongest in the garage and I’m really proud of that.”

Denny Hamlin – Finished third: “It’s hard racing those guys (Jimmie Johnson) and racing very, very tough. Out of character for him over the last few years in the Chase, but they’re doing what they think is successful, but upsetting me is not going to make their job any easier. I think that he nearly wrecked us at New Hampshire and then we raced him hard for the lead. It’s one thing if it’s the lead at Charlotte because I was upset about New Hampshire and then we race like a bunch of dummies for seventh or eighth or something like that during halfway. That’s their prerogative and they can race however they want and we can race the way we want, but in turn they’re doing what they think they need to do to win a race.”

Matt Kenseth – Finished fourth: “We had a good day, not a great day. The guy doing a great day is the guy doing a burnout. We had a great car, we just got a caution when we didn’t need one – we were on pit road and then at the end when we needed a caution, I saw a car hit the wall and a car smoking so I was hoping to get another yellow and get a shot at it, but just didn’t get it. The chips just didn’t fall our way today, but we had a good car, we led some laps and ran a little better than we finished, but we still got a pretty decent finish out of it.”

Kyle Busch – Finished fifth: “You can’t wreck each other and that’s all there is to it I guess. We worked so good together that we gave the 48 (Jimmie Johnson) car the win today. That’s how good JGR is. We had a great M&M’s Camry and we could have been a little farther up front, but we were held up there and we couldn’t pass and if I did try to make moves or try to make a pass, I got cutoff. But we came through it with a top five. We probably could have been about second, I don’t know if we could have got up there and caught the 48 as long as we got caught up behind all that stuff, but we had a fifth-place car today and we showed that today. (Matt) Kenseth led the most laps today I think and we were right there with him much of the day so it’s frustrating not to be higher up.”

Jeff Gordon – Finished sixth: “Well, I had a lot of fun out there. It is great to be here in front of all these awesome short track and Martinsville NASCAR fans. It’s just a special place to me and I had a lot of fun and had a great car. This No. 88 Nationwide Chevrolet was really good. I knew we didn’t have the short run speed for some of those Gibbs cars. I don’t know where Jimmie (Johnson) came from, wow; he is just so good here. You get him out front like that and he is just unbelievable. Congratulations to those guys stamping that victory and getting them to Homestead that is amazing just like we did last year. Had to overcome a lot of adversity, but that last run I don’t know if it was from running so many caution laps there trying to figure out the scoring, which was kind of a disaster, but that was a tough one for NASCAR to figure out. I don’t know if that had an effect on our tires or what, but the car just didn’t feel the same on that last run and had to settle for sixth.”

Martin Truex Jr. – Finished seventh: “This was a good step forward for us at Martinsville. Probably had the best car we ever had here. We started up front (on the pole) and led a bunch of laps early (147). We were up there all day, but have to figure out how to be better the second half of the race at Martinsville. Once we can do that we’ll have a shot at winning one of those grandfather clocks.  I really want one of those clocks. The second half of the race it was typical Martinsville — tight in the center and too loose on exit. We fought that for almost the entire second half of the race.”

Jamie McMurray – Finished eighth: “We had a good car. We got a little bit lucky with the caution there after we had a bad run and got a lap down there. It is nice to have a little bit of luck on our side. We had a really good car; we got a little bit of luck and got a good finish.”

Joey Logano – Finished ninth: “Overall, we had a top-five car, but we didn’t have the race play out the way we needed it to. No one made a mistake or is at fault, but that caution came out that jumbled the field up and we had the wave around to get back on the lead lap. Then when we waved around we were like thirty-something on the race track, so we just maintained. I just needed a caution to get caught up. I was hoping for a quick five-lap run and a caution so we could get caught up with those guys, but our car was better than ninth. We raced in the top five early in the race and that’s probably where we should have finished, but that’s racing sometimes. Sometimes you’re on each end of it. We got an OK day out of it – nothing bad and nothing great – but we got through it.”

AJ Allmendinger – Finished 10th: “Just a good day. Just missed it a little bit, couldn’t quite get the car to turn kind of right through the exit of the center of the corner to get it pointed. Just kind of struggled with the same thing all day. Compared to the spring I thought we were just a little bit off, but we still had good speed, ran in the top 10 all day. The way that played out I thought we were actually going to be real fortunate and have a shot and unfortunately I just ran out of fuel and had to make the decision to try to go right to pit road there to make sure we didn’t get stuck on the racetrack. Never seen a race at Martinsville last 100 laps green, I thought if we could have got a caution there we could have maybe fought back up to sixth, seventh or eighth that is kind of where we could run, I thought on outright speed. Third top 10 in a row, I think it’s the first time I’ve ever had three top 10’s in a row. I think it’s the first time the team has ever had it. Martinsville has always been a good place, but it just shows we are getting more speed in the car. A lot of these places that we are going to it’s definitely helping. Looking forward to the last three races, brand new cars and Texas and Phoenix are places we have kind of struggled at, look forward to going there and trying to improve.”

Greg Biffle – Finished 13th: “It feels good. We still split the nose apart around lap 30 and that cost us a top-10 finish today. Nothing has changed. We just keep learning every week about what we’ve got to do to our cars to get them better.  I’m pretty happy with coming home 13th.”

Aric Almirola – Finished 15th: “This is progress and it’s something we need to keep doing. It was a solid day for us. That’s what we need to do. Our team is capable of running top 15 and that’s what we need to do. It takes executing perfectly and getting everything right and today we did that. We did a good job on pit road. We executed the best we could and the car was decent. I’m proud of everybody on the Smithfield Ford Fusion. We’ll get ready for next week.”

Ryan Newman – Finished 16th: “We had a good Caterpillar Chevrolet during the first half of the event and we were able to race our way to as high as fifth. However, we had a few lengthy green-flag runs where we fought a tight-handling condition through the corners and that hindered us a bit. We never got the final caution to be able to adjust before the end of the race. We’ll move on from today and get ready for Texas Motor Speedway.”

Austin Dillon – Finished 17th: “We started the race with a challenge after we qualified 32nd on Friday but the entire Dow-Dow Corning team did a great job of giving me everything I needed to get the No. 3 Chevrolet up front. As we raced into the top 10, we were consistently clocked as one of the fastest cars. We were on the charge and made it as high as seventh before the caution was displayed in the middle of one of our fastest runs. As the race progressed, the track bar adjuster started to give us problems. It made it really difficult to work on the car’s handling and I wasn’t able to use it at all. Eventually, we were pinned a lap down. It’s a shame because we had a fast car all weekend.”

Ryan Blaney – Finished 19th: “It was kind of an up-and-down day for sure. On some runs we were OK and other runs we kind of struggled a little bit. I didn’t think we were that bad. Our strong point was up to about lap 40 of a run and then we’d kind of fall off, but this is a place I’ve struggled pretty bad as a driver. I need to change some stuff up here, but I thought we were gonna finish better than what we did. I kind of got in some trouble there and lost a bunch of spots, but, overall, it was a decent day. I need to get a lot better here and that’s probably the biggest thing.”

Kevin Harvick – Finished 20th: “We were slow all weekend. We could just never get the handle on it.”

Kurt Busch – Finished 22nd: “We missed it. I don’t know where, how, why, we missed it. Even SHR (Stewart-Haas Racing) as a group we didn’t perform well.  That was not the day we needed. Sorry to State Water Heaters, their only race of the year and we didn’t perform well for them. We just missed it.”

Trevor Bayne – Finished 23rd: “We were really tight on the short-run. We had a really fast AdvoCare Ford on the long-run but we just lost too much track position on the short-run because of how tight we were. We fought hard all race long and my guys never gave up. We’ll move on from this weekend and get ready to head to Texas next week and race in AdvoCare’s backyard.”

Danica Patrick – Finished 24th: “That was a tough one. The Nature’s Bakery crew did a great job on pit road all day, and I have to give them credit for that. The brake issue just hurt us so much, especially early in the race, and we weren’t able to rebound as well as we would have liked. It’s tough having days like this, but when you’re down, you just have to dig in and do all you can to finish it out as best you can.”

Paul Menard – Finished 25th: “The car just wouldn’t turn today. We made adjustments to fix it but nothing seemed to stick for the long run. We had the handling better after final practice on Saturday, so we came a long way from Friday to today’s race. I’m not sure what caused the balance issues, but we’ll go back to the shop and look at our notes on Monday. I’m proud of this Dutch Boy Paints/Menards team for not giving up today.”

Tony Stewart – Finished 26th: “We just couldn’t get our car to turn today.”

Carl Edwards – Finished 36th: “Goodyear was kind enough and I have a lot of respect for them – they came down here and looked at the tire and said it was a belt failure so that’s really big of them to say, ‘Hey, there’s nothing you could have done about it.’ We had a really good race going and sometimes that’s just what happens in racing. I just feel bad for Sport Clips, I think we had a top-three car. I was having a lot of fun and now we just go to Texas and try to win there and Phoenix – we could win at either one of those race tracks.”

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. – Finished 40th: “It was the same thing that happened in qualifying. I just got in the brakes and the rear end started hopping. You lose all grip as soon as it happens, so that seems to be a typical thing for us at Martinsville – not finishing these races clean. I hate it for all the Fastenal guys and all of our fans.”

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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.