Getty Images

NASCAR ‘aggressively pursuing’ new manufacturers


NASCAR is in “aggressive conversations” with manufacturers to join the sport, Steve O’Donnell told “The Morning Drive’’ on Monday.

“We are aggressively pursuing new (manufacturers),’’ O’Donnell said on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio without divulging details. “We want to make sure that they come in similar to how Toyota did and it’s really changed the sport. They’ve done a tremendous job and really helped the industry.

“Those conversations are ongoing. It’s a tough process. There’s a lot to consider doing this, but that is a huge goal for the sport right now.’’

Toyota was the last manufacturer to move to the Monster Energy Cup Series, joining in 2007. Toyota debuted in NASCAR’S Goody Dash Series in 2000 and moved to the Truck series in 2004 before going to Cup and Xfinity three years later.

Toyota won its first Cup title in 2015 with Kyle Busch and Joe Gibbs Racing.

The Cup series last had four manufacturers in 2012 with Chevrolet, Dodge, Ford and Toyota. Dodge left the sport after that season, going out with Brad Keselowski and Team Penske winning the Cup title for the manufacturer. Fiat Chrysler Automobiles CEO Sergio Marchionne told reporters in December that he thought the Dodge brand, owned by Chrysler, possibly could return to NASCAR but didn’t give any timetable.

Talk of manufacturers come as Keselowski stated last week on “Race Hub” on Fox Sports 1 that adding a fourth manufacturer is the “most important things that we could do to this sport right now. … Everyone wins with the increased competition, the increased investment and the return to our fans and to the sport in general.’’

After crashing Saturday night at Kentucky Speedway, Keselowski was vocal about the car design, saying that changes need to be made.

“It is time for the sport to design a new car that is worthy of where this sport deserves to be and the show it deserves to put on for its fans,’’ he said.

O’Donnell said he was “disappointed” in Keselowski’s comments about the current car.

“My immediate (reaction) is that Brad Keselowski had input on this rules package,’’ O’Donnell said on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio on Monday. “I think he was frustrated. He had a tough night, and the cars are supposed to be hard to drive. These are the best drivers in the world. You’ve got one of the best seasons we’ve had in a while in the terms of different winners. I’d chalk that up with frustration, heat of the moment, but it’s something we always work on improving the racing.

“Brad is a leader of our sport. Understand heat of the moment but definitely disappointing to see that because I think you’ve got to take the entire context and that’s more of our job. You can’t react just to one event, obviously, unless it’s a safety thing where you’ve got to make an immediate change. For us it’s balancing what we’ve seen over the entirety of the year to so far.’’

O’Donnell said last week on the NASCAR on NBC podcast with Nate Ryan that NASCAR would meet with team owners this month to begin working on the long-term strategy for the Gen 7 car, which could make its debut in two to four years.

 and on Facebook

Martinsville Truck race postponed to Sunday after Cup race

Getty Images
Leave a comment

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

Getty Images
Leave a comment

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

Photo by Sarah Crabill/Getty Images
Leave a comment

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

Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images
Leave a comment

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.