Dale Earnhardt Jr., Joey Logano among those who fail to make playoffs

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RICHMOND, Va. — Joey Logano, who raced for the championship in Miami in two of the last three years, was among those who failed to qualify for the playoffs Saturday night at Richmond Raceway.

Dale Earnhardt Jr., in his final full-time season in Cup, also will not compete for the championship.

Earnhardt took the lead on Lap 335 while others in front pitted under green. Earnhardt stayed in front through Lap 347 of the 404-lap race before Brad Keselowski, on fresher tires, passed. Earnhardt soon fell back.

“I think that’s all we could do to try to win,’’ Earnhardt said. “I don’t know if we could have outrun the top three. We had a long-run car that was really fast. We tried out butts off to get ourselves a good car. It was a really good car.’’

Still, a 13th-place finish wasn’t what Earnhardt needed to make the playoffs.

“I’m disappointed,’’ he said. “We had some odd luck, but when we didn’t have bad luck, we didn’t capitalize. We had a long summer. We just didn’t capitalize. We didn’t run like we should have. It’s on us. We can’t really put it on nobody else. We just didn’t do the job. We’ll try these next 10 to keep running well. I’d like to win a race, but, damn, if we can just run as well as we did tonight the next several races, that would be great for all these guys.’’

Logano won a race this season — Richmond in April — but the victory did not count toward playoff eligibility because his car failed inspection after the event.

With Logano not qualifying – and Carl Edwards not racing this year – half of last year’s championship four will not be in the playoffs.

“It stings a little bit,’’ Logano said after finishing second Saturday.

“This is the test of our character, not only as a driver but as a team and the way we handle these next 10 races. We don’t want to roll over. We want to help our teammates try to win a championship, and ultimately we want to win 10 races.’’

Clint Bowyer, in his first season at Stewart-Haas Racing, missed the playoffs for the second consecutive year.

Bowyer was fifth off pit road after Stage 1 but was penalized for having the crew over the wall too soon. He restarted 34th.

Bowyer’s woes continued just after a caution at the 250-lap mark. An ambulance was on the apron near pit entrance when the field came down for stops. The field slowed around the stopped ambulance, creating an accordion effect. Matt Kenseth ran into the back of Bowyer’s car. Both suffered damage. Kenseth could not continue and finished 38th.

Erik Jones, who finished third in the second stage and spent part of the race in the top five, also failed to advance. He had a final chance, restarting fifth on the final restart but missed a shift and couldn’t make a charge, placing sixth.

The playoffs begin Sept. 17 at Chicagoland Speedway on NBCSN.

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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.

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.”