Getty Images

Who’s Hot, Who’s Not heading into Martinsville?

Leave a comment

Sunday’s race at Martinsville Speedway marks the start of the Round of 8 semifinal playoff round.

Here’s this week’s edition of Who’s Hot and Who’s Not heading into Martinsville:

WHO’S HOT

 No. 78 Martin Truex Jr. (Hot)

  • Won at Charlotte, 23rd at Talladega, Won at Kansas.
  • Seven wins in 2017, the most by a driver since Matt Kenseth had seven in 2013.
  • Finished in the top-five 15 times and the top-10 22 times this season, both are the most.
  • Won 19 stages this season, the most.
  • 69 Playoff Points this season, the most.
  • Has led a series-high 2,068 laps, led the most laps in eight races.
  • Three of his seven top-10 finishes at Martinsville came in the last five races.
  • Finished 16th at Martinsville in April, spun from seventh on lap 431.
  • Best short track finish of 2017 came at Bristol in April finished 8th.
  • Look ahead to Texas: Winless at Texas in 24 starts, runner-up in Spring 2013. … Finished top-10 in the last five races at Texas, led in the last four. … Six wins on 1.5-mile tracks in 2017, most ever in a season, won the last four.

No. 11 Denny Hamlin (Hot)

  • Finished 4th at Charlotte, 6th at Talladega, 5th at Kansas.
  • Finished top six in seven of the last nine races.
  • Five wins at Martinsville rank ninth all-time and second among active drivers (Jimmie Johnson has nine).
  • Five wins at Martinsville are his most among all tracks.
  • Finished 30th or worse in two of the last three races at Martinsville including 30th in April.
  • 30th-place finish at Martinsville in April is his only finish worst than 10th this season on a short track.
  • Look ahead to Texas: Won both races at Texas in 2010, his only wins there in 23 starts, but has only three top-10 finishes there in the 12 races since with no top-fives. … Finished 25th at Texas in April.

No. 18 Kyle Busch (Hot)

  • Finished 29th at Charlotte, hit the wall while running 2nd, 27th at Talladega (accident), 10th at Kansas.
  • Four wins this season, all in the last 12 races.
  • Led laps in the last 15 races this season, a personal best and the best streak ever among the active drivers.
  • Finished top five in the last four races at Martinsville (the longest active streak) including a win in April 2016 (his only at the track).
  • Led 42 percent of the laps raced at Martinsville in the last three races (629 of 1500).
  • 469 laps led on short tracks in 2017 lead all drivers.
  • Look ahead to Texas: Two-time Texas winner, both came in his last eight starts there. … Finished top-15 in his last 10 Texas starts (seven top-fives). … Finished 15th at Texas in April 2

 No. 2 Brad Keselowski (Good)

  • Finished 15th at Charlotte, won at Talladega after having radio issues, Finished 13th at Kansas after two speeding penalties.
  • Advanced to the round of 8 with his win at Talladega.
  • Won at Martinsville in April (led 116 laps), his only win there in 15 races.
  • Finished top five in the last three races at Martinsville, top 10 in eight of the last 11.
  • Only two top-10 finishes on short tracks in 2017.
  • Look ahead to Texas: Winless at Texas in 18 starts, best finish of second in this race in 2015 after leading 312 of 334 laps. … Finished top 10 in seven of the last 10 races at Texas (sixth there in April).

No. 4 Kevin Harvick (Decent)

  • Finished 3rd at Charlotte after winning the first two stages, 20th at Talladega and eighth at Kansas.
  • Only  two top-10 finishes in the last five races.
  • Only four top-10 finishes in the last 11 races at Martinsville, finished 20th in each of the last two.
  • Won at Martinsville in Spring 2011 but as only one top-five finish there since.
  • Finished top-10 in three of the five races on short tracks this season.
  • Look ahead to Texas: Winless at Texas in 29 starts, two time runner-up. … Finished in the top-10 in the last six races at Texas (fourth in April).

No. 21 Ryan Blaney (Putting it together)

  • Finished 8th at Charlotte, 18th at Talladega, accident after leading 27 laps, third at Kansas.
  • Finished top 10 in three of the last five races of 2017.
  • Best finish at Martinsville is 19th (two times)
  • Finished 25th at Martinsville in April.
  • Finished 10th at Bristol in August 2017, only top 10 ever on a short track.
  • Look ahead to Texas: Five Texas starts with a best finish of 12th in each of the last two races there. … Led 148 laps at Texas in April but finished 12th after sliding through his box from eighth on his last stop.

No. 24 Chase Elliott (His time is coming)

  • Finished 2nd at Charlotte, sixth career runner-up finish, 16th at Talladega, fourth at Kansas.
  • Four top-five finishes in the playoffs rank second to Martin Truex Jr. (five).
  • Worst finish in the last eight races is 16th at Talladega.
  • Finished third at Martinsville in April, only top-10 finish there in four starts.
  • Made his Cup debut at Martinsville in March 2015 (finished 38th).
  • Three of his four Cup top-10 finishes on short tracks came in 2017.
  • Look ahead to Texas: Finished top-10 in all three of his Texas starts with a best of fourth in October 2016. … Got his first Xfinity win at Texas in April 2014.

No. 88 Dale Earnhardt Jr. (Warming up)

  • Finished seventh in each of the last two races.
  • Finished top 12 in the last four races, best streak this season, including three top 10s.
  • Won at Martinsville in Fall 2014.
  • Finished top 10 in four of his last seven Martinsville starts.

No. 42 Kyle Larson (Hot in 2017 but unlucky at Kansas)

  • Finished 10th at Charlotte, 13th at Talladega, involved in accident, 39th at Kansas, engine.
  • Eight runner-up finishes this season.
  • Four wins in 2017, had one entering this season.
  • Finished third at Martinsville in April 2016, only finish better than 14th in seven starts there.
  • Finished 17th at Martinsville in April, dropped from top-10 late due to power issues.
  • Finished top-10 in three of the five short-track races this season with a win at Richmond in September.

WHO’S NOT HOT

 No. 48 Jimmie Johnson (Just doesn’t seem to have it lately)

  • Finished 7th at Charlotte, 24th at Talladega, accident, 11th at Kansas after two accidents.
  • Top 10 finishes in four of the last seven races.
  • Four top five finishes this season, three were wins.
  • Nine-time winner at Martinsville including this race last year, nine wins are tied for third most all-time and the most by an active driver.
  • Finished 15th at Martinsville in April.
  • Only two top-10 finishes in his last six races at Martinsville.
  • Win at Bristol in April is his only top-five finish on a short track this season.
  • Look ahead to Texas: Seven time winner at Texas, most of all drivers. … Won six of the last 10 Texas races including the race there in April.

No. 1 Jamie McMurray (Not)

  • Finished 5th at Charlotte, 37th accident at Talladega, 34th accident at Kansas.
  • 16 top-10 finishes this season, six more than this point last year.
  • Five DNFs because of accidents in 2017.
  • Finished top 10 in three of the last five races at Martinsville.
  • Two-time runner-up at Martinsville.
  • Finished 38th at Martinsville in April, damage to the left rear fender while battling for 6th with Johnson on lap 100 led to an accident on lap 107.
  • Finished sixth at Richmond in April, only short track top-10 finish this season.

No. 17 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (Not)

  • Finished 13th at Charlotte, 26th accident at Talladega, 29th accident at Kansas.
  • Best finish of 10th at Martinsville in April, his only top-10 finish there in nine starts.
  • Finished top 10 in three of the five races on short tracks this season.

No. 20 Matt Kenseth (Unlucky)

  • Finished 11th at Charlotte, 14th at Talladega, 37th at Kansas.
  • No top-10 finishes in the last four races, tied for his longest streak of the season.
  • Martinsville is one of only five active tracks he has not won on, best finish of second twice in 35 starts.
  • Finished ninth at Martinsville in April.
  • Six top-10 finishes in the last eight races at Martinsville.
  • Finished top 10 in three of the five races on short tracks this season with a best of fourth at both Bristol races.

No. 3 Austin Dillon (Not hot)

  • Finished 14th Kansas, best finish in the last seven races.
  • Only three top-15 finishes in the last 13 races.
  • Only four top-10 finishes this season, had 13 at this point last year.
  • Won on fuel mileage at Charlotte earlier this year.
  • Finished top-five in two of the last three races at Martinsville including a fifth in April 4.

No. 5 Kasey Kahne (Not hot)

  • Finished 15th at Kansas ending his streak of top-10 finishes at two.
  • Only three top 10 finishes in the last 22 races.
  • Six DNFs due to accidents this season.
  • Won at Indianapolis ending a 102-race winless streak, took a super lucky timed caution and turned it into a win.
  • Only one top-10 finish in the last eight races at Martinsville.

No. 31 Ryan Newman (Not good lately)

  • Finished second at Talladega, only top-10 finish in the last six races.
  • DNF because of accident in two of the last three races (40th at Charlotte, 33rd at Kansas).
  • Finished top-10 in four of the last six races at Martinsville including an eighth in April.

No. 41 Kurt Busch (Not Hot)

  • Finished second at Kansas but it is his only finish better than 19th in the last six races.
  • Two-time Martinsville winner but his win in Spring 2014 is his only top-10 finish in the last 23 races there.

No. 14 Clint Bowyer (Disappointing 2017) 

  • Finished 19th at Kansas, best finish in the last three races.
  • Finished runner-up three times in 2017.
  • Only two top-10 finishes in the last 10 races of 2017.
  • Finished seventh at Martinsville in April, only top-10 finish in the last five races.

No. 22 Joey Logano (Disappointing season)

  • Finished 4th at Talladega, only his fourth top-five finish since his Richmond win and his only top-10 finish in the last four races.
  • 12 finishes outside the top 20 in the last 23 races.
  • Won at Richmond after starting in the rear due to a transmission change, but win was ruled encumbered due to illegal suspension.
  • First time he missed the playoffs with Team Penske.
  • Finished top-10 in five of the last seven races at Martinsville, fourth there in April.

No. 77 Erik Jones (Lost his momentum)

  • DNF due accident in the last two races of 2017.
  • Top-10 finishes in seven of the last 12 races this season but only one in the last six.
  • Started 15th, finished 12th at Martinsville in April in his only Cup start there.
  • Finished top-10 in each of the last two short track races, including a career-best 2nd at Bristol.

 

Follow @JerryBonkowski

 

Kevin Harvick penalized time in final Cup practice

Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images
Leave a comment

HOMESTEAD, Florida — Title contender Kevin Harvick will miss 15 minutes of Saturday’s final practice because of inspection issues last weekend at Phoenix.

Harvick is the only one among the four title contenders who will miss practice time Saturday.

Final practice is from 1 – 1:50 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

David Starr is the only driver who missed time in Saturday’s first practice. He missed 15 minutes because his team was late to qualifying inspection Friday.

Jimmie Johnson, David Ragan and Michael McDowell will each miss 30 minutes of final practice because their cars failed qualifying inspection three times Friday.

Harvick, Chase Elliott, Cole Whitt and Starr each will miss 15 minutes of final practice because their cars failed inspection twice before last weekend’s Phoenix race.

Austin Dillon and Matt DiBenedetto each will miss 15 minutes of final practice because their cars failed inspection before qualifying twice Friday.

 and on Facebook

 

Justin Allgaier ‘in the best place mentally’ a year after disappointing title finish

Leave a comment

The biggest disappointment of Justin Allgaier‘s NASCAR career has turned into “the best thing that’s ever happened” to it.

It only took “about a week” for the 31-year-old driver to accept that.

The JR Motorsports’ driver is one of the four competing for the Xfinity Series title in today’s Ford EcoBoost 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway (3:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN).

It was in this race a year ago that Allgaier was within arm’s reach of a possible championship, his first in NASCAR.

But it was snatched away on the final restart.

With three laps to go, Allgaier restarted in the third row on the outside. In front of him was fellow championship driver Erik Jones. In front of Jones was Cole Whitt in a car normally found toward the back of the pack. Whitt had not pit under the caution because his team had used up its tire allotment.

Elliott Sadler (far right) and Daniel Suarez pull away on the final restart of last year’s Xfinity race at Homestead as Justin Allgaier (red car, middle) boxed in. (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)

At the green flag, Whitt spun his tires and backed-up the outside lane. That allowed Elliott Sadler and Daniel Suarez to get separation from Allgaier and Jones and race each other for the win and championship, which Suarez claimed.

“We’re sitting here and not standing on that (championship) stage over there like I think all of us would have liked to have been,” Allgaier said after he finished sixth.

Before Allgaier could come to terms with anything positive from the experience, he spent the following week just wanting to be left alone.

“If I could have locked myself in a dark room and not talk(ed) to anyone, I’d have been perfectly okay with that,” Allgaier said Thursday during the NASCAR championship media day in Miami Beach, Florida.

Allgaier got back in touch with those year-old feelings this week when he watched a replay of the race while flying to Florida.

“It still bugs me that we didn’t have a shot because of somebody else’s decision,” Allgaier said.

But Allgaier views the end of the 2016 race through a wiser lens. One where he accepts there’s only so much he can do in a 200-lap race against 39 other drivers.

“What if I had broken a transmission or run into the wall a little bit too hard on one of those times that I got (into) the wall like 37 times in the race last year and cut a tire?” Allgaier said. “What if a meteor fell out of the sky? … There’s so many things that, when you have 40 competitors on the racetrack every week, there’s so many things that can happen that are out of your control.”

His attitude has been helped by the best year of his career. Allgaier enters the championship race with a career-best two wins – including at his home track Chicagoland Speedway.

Allgaier also leads all Xfinity regulars with 497 laps led.

 “I look at 2017 as we have done everything we can do up to this point,” Allgaier said. “We’ve had the best race cars I’ve ever had. We’ve had great pit stops. We’ve got guys that work together on the race team that are incredible. I feel like for me personally I’m in the best shape of my life, on and off the track. I’m in the best place mentally.

“And at the end of the day, no matter what happens on Saturday night, I know that we have the best product on the racetrack and we’re in the best position we can be. And if it doesn’t work, it’s not because we weren’t in the right spot or because we didn’t do things right. It’s because circumstances are out of our control. And that’s taken so much pressure off of me this year.”

MORE: Previewing the Xfinity championship drivers

 

Goodyear signs extension with NASCAR

Getty Images
Leave a comment

HOMESTEAD, Florida — NASCAR announced Saturday a multi-year renewal with Goodyear for the company to be the series’ sole tire supplier. The deal goes through the 2022 season.

The move wasn’t in doubt with NASCAR and Goodyear having previously done tests for the 2018 season. Goodyear has been the exclusive tire supplier for all three of NASCAR’s top series since 1997. Goodyear has been a race tire supplier for NASCAR since 1954.

“We proudly join Goodyear in celebrating our renewed and longstanding partnership,” said Brent Dewar, NASCAR president, in a statement. “For more than half a century, NASCAR and our teams have trusted Goodyear tires. Our partners’ commitment to innovation and excellence plays a key role in our unyielding pursuit to deliver the best racing product in the world.”

Goodyear’s current five-year deal was set to expire after this season.

 and on Facebook

 

 

Today’s Xfinity race at Miami: Start time, weather, TV/radio info

Getty Images
Leave a comment

The Xfinity season comes to an end this afternoon with the Ford EcoBoost 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Elliott Sadler, Justin Allgaier, Daniel Hemric and William Byron will race for title in the 200-lap race, which concludes the 33-race season that began in February at Daytona.

Below is all the vital info you need prior to the race.

(All times are Eastern)

START: Wild Bill Wichrowski from Discovery Channel’s “Deadliest Catch” will give the command to start engines at 3:37 p.m. Green flag is scheduled for 3:45 p.m.

DISTANCE: The race is scheduled for 200 laps (300 miles) around the 1.5-mile oval.

STAGES: Stage 1 ends at Lap 45. Stage 2 ends at Lap 90.

PRERACE SCHEDULE: Garage opens at 7:30 a.m. Qualifying is slated for 11:15 a.m. Driver/crew chief meeting is 12:45 p.m. Driver introductions are at 3:05 p.m.

NATIONAL ANTHEM: Jacqie Rivers wil perform the anthem at 3:31 p.m.

TV/RADIO:  Countdown to Green begins at 3 p.m. on NBCSN. NBCSN will air the race at 3:30 p.m. Motor Racing Network will broadcast the race on radio and at mrn.com, starting with its pre-race show at 3 p.m. SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will carry the MRN broadcast.

FORECAST: The wunderground.com site predicts a temperature of 79 degrees and a four percent chance of rain at race time.

LAST TIME: Daniel Suarez won the race and clinched the series title, beating Ty Dillon and Elliott Sadler. Suarez led 133 laps from the pole to become the first foreign-born driver to win a national NASCAR title.

STARTING LINEUP: Qualifying is scheduled for 11:15 a.m.