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Kyle Busch isn’t fretting how Joe Gibbs Racing has started season

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BRISTOL, Tennessee — Joe Gibbs Racing hasn’t gone this late into a season without a victory since 2007, has more drivers outside the top 20 in points (Matt Kenseth and Daniel Suarez) than in the top 10 (Kyle Busch), and didn’t have a driver finish in the top 10 the last week.

Contrast that with how the organization won 26 of 72 Cup races the previous two seasons and it’s easy to question what’s wrong with Joe Gibbs Racing this season.

While Kyle Busch admits the organization has not had the start of past years, he does have a message for those raising doubts about JGR.

“I feel as though as we’re competitive and we’re close,’’ he said Friday at Bristol Motor Speedway. “There’s just some things that we see other teams doing that we haven’t necessarily ventured off to yet.

“We’re working on all those things. It certainly didn’t bode well for us last year to be as strong as we were in the beginning part of the season and the middle part of the season. We didn’t win a championship because of how strong we were early on. You look at (Jimmie Johnson) and those guys at Hendrick, they weren’t very strong at the start of the season and they picked up and won the championship.

“I don’t think there’s any reason for cause to be concerned yet. Ask me that question again in about 10 weeks.’’

Busch ranked second in Friday’s lone Cup practice session. Kenseth was fifth and Denny Hamlin was sixth.

Johnson won two of the first five races last season but then went 25 races without a victory before snapping it at Charlotte in the second round of the playoffs. He won three of the final seven races on the way to winning his seven series title.

Car owner Joe Gibbs said earlier this week that the organization is working to score only its second Cup victory since mid-September.

“Last year, we had one of our best years, were up front, very successful,’’ said Gibbs, whose team won seven of the first 12 races a year ago. “This year shows you how hard things are. Some people have improved. The hardest thing is to stay up there. It’s a short trip back down. We’ve isolated five different things we need to work on and improve on. Five things just overall with our program.’’

He did not name those areas.

Kenseth said earlier this week that this season has been a struggle. He enters this weekend 22nd in points.

“Martinsville has been one of our strongest tracks on performance since I’ve come to JGR,’’ Kenseth said. “We ran really, really bad the last time there. We didn’t finish bad, but we ran bad.

“We ran bad at tracks we historically run good at, which for me is a concern. If we run good this weekend and are competitive and part of the lead group, no matter where you finish, you feel you’re part of that lead group and can run with guys who have been running good all year, you’ll feel better about being on the right track and feel good about fixing problems and getting ahead of the curve.’’

Until then, questions will persist.

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Kyle Busch seeks alterations to Charlotte Roval after test

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Kyle Busch says he’s raised concerns about a couple of turns on Charlotte Motor Speedway’s road course to track officials after taking part in a Goodyear test there this week.

Busch, Trevor Bayne, Kyle Larson and Paul Menard tested Tuesday. Wednesday’s session was rained out and rescheduled for May 1. Busch is the winningest active Cup driver on road courses. He has four career road course victories (two at Sonoma and two at Watkins Glen).

Busch, said he talked with Marcus Smith, president and CEO of Speedway Motorsports Inc., and Don Hawk, SMI’s senior vice president of business affairs, about his concerns.

“They have an idea for changes to one of them, but not the other one,’’ Busch said Saturday at Martinsville Speedway.

One area of concern is the chicane on the frontstretch.

“When you’re coming down onto the front straightaway and you have that zone in the infield grass and then you turn (right), you have a direct, head-on impact into the wall on the front straightaway there so that’s kind of a concern,’’ Busch said.

“The chicane on the frontstretch, when you turn to the right (Turn 16 in the above diagram) heading head-on into a wall and then you have to turn back left going along the front straightaway (was an issue raised). When we were testing, it wasn’t bad because you could hop this curve and hop that curve, but then they wanted to straighten that out more from turn seven like at Sonoma, which is more of a 90-degree turn, and would make that angle worse.

“I expressed my displeasure with that idea and then we also had the same thing coming from Turn 7 to Turn 8 where you’re braking in a zone and heading head-on into the front straightaway wall to get back (from the infield course to Turn 1 of the oval). Softening up that corner as well and making that tighter and a softer corner where you can … get back on the main track a little safer.

“Those are some instances that I felt were kind of the worst instances. Other than that, I thought the track was kind of OK. It’s a bit narrow and tight in places, but I think you have that at some other road courses that I have not been at that NASCAR has. Montreal is really narrow, too and it puts on a decent show. I think it will be fine, it will just be different. I think it’s going to be about survival more than anything.”

The Cup series races on the Charlotte’s roval on Sept. 30 on NBC. It is the final race of the first round of the playoffs and will cut the number of title contenders from 16 to 12.

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Cup starting lineup at Martinsville Speedway

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Martin Truex Jr. will start on the pole for Sunday’s Cup race at Martinsville Speedway after qualifying was canceled by rain and snow Saturday.

“It’s definitely a big advantage to start out front,” Truex said. “First pit box obviously, everyone knows it’s a big deal here and that’s where you want to be so you get that clean stall in and out and not get torn up on pit road.”

The lineup was set by car owner points.

Kyle Busch will join Truex on the front row.

Row 2 will feature Team Penske’s Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski. Teammate Ryan Blaney starts fifth.

Click here for starting lineup

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.