Martinsville Speedway

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Kyle Busch looks to Martinsville for first Cup win in 2018


It’s probably safe to say Kyle Busch is tired of not winning.

That’s saying a lot because it’s only been eight races since he last visited victory lane in the Cup Series.

In four of those races, the No. 18 Toyota was in the top three when the checkered flag waved. In three of those races, Busch finished in second.

Busch’s last victory celebration was in October at Martinsville Speedway.

The Cup Series returns to the 0.526-mile track this weekend for the STP 500, a race Busch dominated last year before he finished … second.

Busch has won two of the past four races in Martinsville and led 813 of 2,005 laps in that stretch.

“We’ve run well the last two years especially at Martinsville, and we’re definitely pumped about getting back there,” Busch said in a release. “I’m hoping we can have a really good car there again this time around, like we did the last two years, especially. We led a lot of laps, and we were really fast. Hoping that some of those things we were able to push through there last fall at Martinsville we’ll be able to do this time around with our M&M’s Caramel Camry.”

Busch has finished in the top five in each of the last five races at the oldest track on the Cup circuit. All of those results came after he started outside the top five.

Last March, he started 10th and led 274 laps before losing out to Brad Keselowski in the closing laps.

“It’s a tough racetrack, and anytime you come in the pits and make an adjustment on your car, you certainly hope it goes the right way, or you make enough of it, or you don’t make too much of an adjustment,” Busch said.

Pits stops have plagued Busch the last two weeks.

At Phoenix, he led 172 of 312 laps. But during the last green-flag run, Busch’s team elected to run longer than the other leaders during green flag stops. When he finally pitted, the jack dropped unexpectedly while changing tires on the left side.

That allowed Kevin Harvick time to build an insurmountable lead over Busch to win.

MORE: Dale Jr. explains Kyle Busch’s pit strategy at Phoenix

On Sunday at Auto Club Speedway, Busch led 62 laps. He was second when he and leader Martin Truex Jr. pitted on Lap 163. The No. 18 exited pit road first, but Busch’s crew made the wrong adjustment on the car, and he was told to use his track bar to compensate.

Truex eventually passed Busch on Lap 169.

MORE: NASCAR America analysts react to Kyle Busch’s Fontana Twitter storm.

Busch said the last run at Martinsville can be “tricky.”

“You can be coming off a 50-lap run on right-side tires and take four and you’ve only got 30 (laps) to go, or you could have 80 to go and you know you have to manage that run all the way to the end,” Busch said.

While it’s the shortest track on the circuit, Martinsville plays host to some of the longest races at 500 laps.

Busch says a key to navigating a Martinsville race is to not “worry about what lap it is, ever.

“That’s the worst thing that could happen to you,” Busch said. “You just try to not ever worry about what lap you’re on or what’s going on around you. You just keep battling, keep driving, keep your focus forward on what you’re doing. That’s the best way to go about those long, long races.”

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Bump & Run: Biggest upsets in NASCAR

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In light of UMBC’s upset of Virginia in the NCAA basketball tournament, what’s an upset in NASCAR that stands out to you?

Nate Ryan: David Gilliland in the Xfinity race at Kentucky Speedway in 2006. That’s the closest approximation in modern-day NASCAR of what the Retrievers pulled off last Friday.

Dustin Long: David Gilliland’s Xfinity win at Kentucky in 2006 with a part-time and independent team. Remarkable upset that eventually led to a Cup ride.

Daniel McFadin: Front Row Motorsports’ two Cup wins, at Talladega in 2013 and Pocono in 2016. The first because David Ragan‘s surge to the lead on the final lap is the definition of “Where did he come from?” The second, because Chris Buescher earned his first Cup win via pit strategy and … fog.

Jerry Bonkowski: Actually, a two-part answer. First, when Trevor Bayne came out of nowhere and was pushed to the win in the 2011 Daytona 500 by Carl Edwards. And then there was the 1990 Daytona 500, when underdog Derrike Cope won.

What was something that stood out to you from the West Coast swing?

Nate Ryan: That the storylines from the end of last season (Toyotas, particularly Martin Truex Jr. and Kyle Busch, are fast; Kevin Harvick is a championship contender; Hendrick Motorsports still is searching) generally have remained intact.

Dustin Long: Overlooked was that Erik Jones was one of only three drivers (Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr. were the others) to score a top-10 finish in all three races.

Daniel McFadin: Joey Logano going from 16th to first in four laps in the Xfinity race on Saturday thanks to fresh tires. It’s the closest thing to a video game I’ve ever seen in real life.

Jerry Bonkowski: I thought for sure that we’d see more success from some of the young drivers. But when it came down to it, veterans won all three races. Sooner or later, the young drivers have to start making more of a name for themselves, guys like Ryan Blaney, Chase Elliott, Erik Jones, William Byron and others. And by making a name for themselves, I mean winning.

What’s a special Martinsville memory you have?

Nate Ryan: John Andretti rallying from a lap down to win the first race I covered (and attended) there in April 1999. I was crossing the track in Turn 1 when Andretti drove the No. 43 right by into victory lane … with “The King” sitting on the driver’s window opening (to an enormous cheer from the crowd).

Dustin Long: John Andretti’s April 1999 win, which completed a weekend sweep for Petty Enterprises. Jimmy Hensley won the Truck race for the organization the day before Andretti’s victory. “It looked like the good old times,’’ Petty said in victory lane after riding in on the driver’s window opening of the No. 43 car.

Daniel McFadin: When I covered my first race there in the fall of 2014 as an intern for Sporting News. It turned out to be Dale Earnhardt Jr.‘s first and only win at the track and the only time I attended a race he won. He’s retired now so I can say he’s my favorite driver. I still have confetti from the celebration in a plastic bag. 

Jerry Bonkowski: This is more of a sad rather than special memory. I was at the fall race in 2004 when the Hendrick Motorsports plane crashed into nearby Bull Mountain, killing all onboard. We got word about halfway through the race that there had been an incident, and as we got closer to the end of the race, things became confirmed. I recall it as if it was yesterday, and it’s a day I’ll never forget.

Preliminary entry lists for Martinsville

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NASCAR visits a short track for the first time this season when it heads to Martinsville Speedway, the oldest track on the circuit.

The Cup Series is joined by the Camping World Truck Series, which has been off the last two weeks.

Here are the entry lists for both races.

Cup – STP 500

There are 38 cars entered.

Jeffrey Earnhardt is listed as driving StarCom Racing’s No. 00 Chevrolet, but the team announced Sunday it has parted ways with Earnhardt.

Landon Cassill will take his place this weekend and at Texas Motor Speedway.

D.J. Kennington is entered in his third race this season, driving Gaunt Brothers Racing’s No. 96 Toyota.

Ross Chastain is entered in Premium Motorsports’ No. 15 Chevrolet for the fifth time this season.

Harrison Rhodes is entered in Rick Ware Racing’s No. 51 Chevrolet. Rhodes has one start in the No. 51 at Atlanta.

Last year, Brad Keselowski won this race after leading 116 of 500 laps. He beat Kyle Busch and Chase Elliott. In the fall playoff race, Busch won over Martin Truex Jr. and Clint Bowyer.

Click here for the entry lists.

Trucks – Alpha Energy Solutions 250

There are 36 trucks entered.

Todd Gilliland will make his first start of the season in Kyle Busch Motorsports’ No. 4 Toyota.

His father, David Gilliland, is entered in DGR-Crosley’s No. 54 Toyota.

Timothy Peters will make his first start of the year driving Ricky Benton Racing’s No. 92 Ford. A former driver for the defunct Red Horse Racing, Peters’ last start was in the 2017 finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Last year, Chase Elliott won this race over Johnny Sauter and Christopher Bell. The fall playoff race was won by Noah Gragson over Matt Crafton and Sauter.

Click here for the entry list.

Hot Dog! Jesse Jones wieners back in Martinsville

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Like a romance that ended only to reignite later, Jesse Jones hot dogs are back at Martinsville Speedway after a three-year hiatus.

The Southern Style red hot dog — consumed in bunches by team members during a Martinsville weekend — also will be joined by the Jesse Jones chili that goes on the fully loaded hot dog of chili, slaw, mustard and onions on a steamed bun.

“We at Jesse Jones are excited to partner with Martinsville Speedway again and be the exclusive provider of the world famous Jesse Jones weenie in the Famous Martinsville Speedway Hot Dog,” Jesse Jones representative Duncan White said in a statement.  “A long standing tradition that dates back to 1947 can be enjoyed together again by generations of race fans.”

The hot dog was replaced in 2015 in what was called a “business decision.”

“Our fans have told us they wanted Jesse Jones back and we have listened,” Martinsville Speedway President Clay Campbell said in a release from the track. “The Jesse Jones hot dog is part of what made The Famous Martinsville Speedway Hot Dog famous and we look forward to working with them for many years to come.”

The Jesse Jones hot dog will be available at all concession stands at the track for $2.

The Cup and Camping World Truck Series are at Martinsville from March 23-25.

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Martinsville Speedway removing seats as part of ‘facility optimization’

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Martinsville Speedway has begun a renovation project that includes removing grandstand seating in both turns of the half-mile track, according to the Martinsville Bulletin.

The track, which seats 55,000, will remove roughly 12 rows of seats, located at the top of Bill France Tower in Turns 3 and 4, along with all seats above the press box in Turns 1 and 2.

These seating sections were added in the early 2000s, according to track president Clap Campbell.

Campbell attributed the decision to remove the seats above the press box to a downturn in attendance as well as difficulty in reaching the seats. With no elevator available, fans must navigate 180 steps to reach their seats.

“We’re calling it ‘facility optimization,’” Campbell told the Bulletin. “It’s not a lot of seats but at the end of the day it’s going to make the experience better for everyone in that tower because by eliminating those seats people don’t have to walk to get to the top row. It will relieve pressure on our concession stands and our restrooms in that tower, we can only build so many in there. So it’s really a win-win for everybody concerned so that’s the reason we’re taking those out.”

Campbell said there were no immediate plans for repurposing the area where the seats are being removed. Season ticket holders in those areas have had their tickets relocated.

The renovation project also includes changes to the front entrance of the facility with an increase in gates from eight to 30.

The project will be done in two phases. The first will be done before NASCAR’s first race weekend in late March. The second will be complete before the Late Model night race in October.