Brad Keselowski goes for season sweep at Martinsville Speedway (video)

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Brad Keselowski‘s win last April at Martinsville Speedway was a big deal, not just for the Team Penske driver, but for team’s manufacturer.

The victory was Keselowski’s first at the oldest track on the NASCAR circuit in 15 starts. But it was the first for Ford at the short track in 28 races.

Ford hadn’t celebrated a win at the half-mile track since Kurt Busch won in 2002.

Keselowski’s triumph also made him the first repeat Cup winner of the season after his victory at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Both were his first win at each track.

In Sunday’s First Date 500 at Martinsville (3 p.m. ET on NBCSN), Keselowski, who is one of the eight remaining drivers in the Cup playoffs, will try do something only Kyle Larson has done this year.

A win by Keselowski would make him and Larson the only drivers to sweep Cup races at a track. Larson accomplished the feat with his victories at Michigan in June and August.

But in his eight full-time Cup seasons, Keselowski has yet to complete a sweep at a track.

Keselowski’s recent stats at Martinsville have been favorable. In his last five starts, the No. 2 Ford has four top fives and three finishes in the top two. The only outlier is a 32nd-place finish in the fall 2015 race.

But in the last four races of the year, Keselowski’s win at Talladega Superspeedway on Oct. 15 is his only result better than 10th.

The N0. 2 team views Martinsville as a must-win situation in its quest to advance to the championship four at Homestead-Miami Speedway, which would be a first for Keselowski.

“I think I’ve told my team that,” crew chief Paul Wolfe said after Keselowski’s victory at Talladega. “We’ve looked at it.  You’ve got to be realistic about where you’re at right now, where our cars are at speed‑wise, what our strengths and weaknesses are, and you’ve got to do your best to capitalize when you can.  Absolutely, I look at Martinsville as we need to go there and win, and if we can do that, we’ll race for a championship.”

Should Keselowski make a return trip to Martinsville’s victory lane on its start-finish line, it would be his fifth on a short track. It would tie Dale Earnhardt Jr. with for seventh among active drivers.

Active Short Track Winners Wins
Jimmie Johnson 14 (9 at Martinsville)
Kyle Busch 11 (1)
Denny Hamlin 9 (5)
Kurt Busch 9 (2)
Kevin Harvick 6 (1)
Matt Kenseth 6
Dale Earnhardt Jr 5 (1)
Brad Keselowski 4 (1)
Joey Logano 4
Clint Bowyer 2
Kasey Kahne 2
Ryan Newman 2 (1)
Kyle Larson 1

Kyle Busch wins pole for Truck Series race at Atlanta

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Kyle Busch won the pole for Saturday’s Camping World Truck Series race at Atlanta Motor Speedway, his second Truck Series pole at the track.

Driving his No 4. Toyota, Busch put down a top speed of 179.743 mph.

Matt Crafton qualified second with a speed of 179.220 mph.

“My lap was pretty good, certainly felt more stuck (to the track) the first time around than the second time around,” Busch told Fox Sports 1. “We even picked up a little bit of time on that second one. … We were really, really tight here last year and made some good changes to it through the offseason with notes and things and coming back here better prepared.”

The top five is completed by Noah Gragson (179.214), Spencer Davis (178.862) and Justin Haley (178.775).

Gragson and Davis give Kyle Busch Motorsports three of the first four starting spots.

Johnny Sauter, who won last week at Daytona, will start ninth.

Busch’s pole is his second of the weekend. He also won the pole for Sunday’s Cup Series race.

The Active Pest Control 200 begins at 4:30 p.m. ET on FS1.

Click here for the starting lineup.

Christopher Bell on Xfinity pole at Atlanta

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HAMPTON, Georgia — Rookie Christopher Bell qualified first for Saturday’s Rinnai 250 at Atlanta Motor Speedway with a 181.176-mph lap in his No. 20 Toyota.

it’s the second pole in 10 starts for the Joe Gibbs Racing driver.

Joey Logano was second in his No. 22 Ford, followed by John Hunter Nemechek, Cole Custer and Kevin Harvick.

Click here for the Xfinity Series qualifying results and click here for the Xfinity lineup by row.

The Xfinity race will start at 2:16 p.m. ET, starting a doubleheader with the truck series at Atlanta.

Sunday’s Atlanta race moved to 1:06 p.m. ET start with threat of weather

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HAMPTON, Georgia – The threat of inclement weather has moved up the start of Sunday’s Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway by an hour.

NASCAR announced Saturday morning that the green flag will fall on the second race of the 2018 season at 1:06 p.m. ET.

Races become official after the second stage. The second stage of Sunday’s 500-mile race will end on Lap 170 of 325.

The wunderground.com site calls for an 80 percent chance of rain Sunday with the forecast worsening from 10 a.m.

Martin Truex Jr., Jimmie Johnson top list of drivers docked practice

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HAMPTON, Georgia — Martin Truex Jr. and Jimmie Johnson both will be held during the final Cup Series practice Saturday at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

Because his No. 78 Toyota failed to clear prequalifying inspection three times Friday, Truex will miss the final 30 minutes of the 80-minute session that will begin at noon ET. Johnson’s No. 48 Chevrolet will be out for the last 15 minutes because it failed the new Optical Scanning Station twice.

Harrison Rhodes also will miss 15 minutes for failing inspection twice. Jeffrey Earnhardt, Gray Gaulding Jr., Michael McDowell and Cole Whitt each will miss 15 minutes because they were late to qualifying inspection.

NASCAR changed its policy on how practice holds will be conducted this season. Instead of serving the penalty in the pits at the start of the session, drivers will park their cars for the length of the penalty up until the end of the session.