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Why Martinsville Speedway is one of NASCAR’s most historic race tracks

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Martinsville Speedway is one of the most historic and iconic tracks in NASCAR.

The southern Virginia short track has hosted 133 Sprint Cup races to date, and will add to that total with Sunday’s Goody’s Headache Relief Shot 500, the first race of Round 3 of the Chase for the Sprint Cup.

Many NASCAR fans are also avid history buffs of the sport. With that in mind, here’s a look at Martinsville over the years, courtesy of RacingInsights.com:

* Henry Clay Earles was the owner of The Spot service station and several houses in Martinsville. After attending a few races in 1947 with his friend Sam Rice the budding entrepreneur thought that racing would be a profitable business. With partner’s Sam Rice and Henry Lawrence a site for a racetrack was located at an overgrown 30-acre cornfield just outside Martinsville. The track was soon underway and ended up costing $60,000. The first race was for modified stock cars on September 7, 1947.

* NASCAR founder William H. G. “Big Bill” France had persuaded Earles that stock cars were the future of racing and he helped to promote the event for a percentage. The total purse for the first race was $2,000. Only 750 of the planned 5,000 seats were ready and parking capacity was 1,400 cars. The crowd was overwhelming. Earles said that nearly 10,000 fans attended, 3,000 unpaid. Red Byron won the race and $500.

* The first NASCAR-sanctioned race was for Modified stock cars won by Fonty Flock on July 4, 1948. The eighth-place finisher was Bill France.

* The first Sprint Cup (Grand National) race on September 25th, 1949, won by Red Byron over Lee Petty. Byron drove the No. 22 Raymond Parks owned Oldsmobile led by crew chief Red Vogt, the race consisted of a 15 car field.

* Martinsville’s racing surface was dirt for the first 12 races before it was paved with asphalt.

* In 1964 Earles decided it was time for a different type of trophy for race winners. His choice was a grandfather clock produced by nearby Ridgeway Clock Company. On September 27, 1964, Earles awarded the first Clock trophy to Fred Lorenzen, the winner of the Old Dominion 500 that afternoon.

* Richard Petty has the most clocks with 12 (he won three times at Martinsville prior to the introduction of the clock). Darrell Waltrip won 11 Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson each have 8 clocks.

* In 1976 the corners were resurfaced in concrete. The track was completely resurfaced following the spring 2004 race when Jeff Gordon ran over a chunk of concrete that had come loose in turn 3.

* International Speedway Corporation (ISC) purchased privately owned Martinsville Speedway in 2004 for $192 million.

* Starting with this year’s spring race in March, the so-called “Iconic Martinsville Hot Dog” was provided by Valleydale Hot Dogs, a subsidiary of Smithfield Foods. Valleydale provides a dog that closely resembles the Jesse Jones Southern Style hot dog in taste and color and will continue to cost $2. The change ended a relationship with Jesse Jones that dated back to 1947, shortly after the track opened. South Boston (Va.) Speedway and Ace Speedway in Altamahaw, N.C. will continue to sell Jesse Jones dogs. Martinsville.

* Martinsville Speedway is the only remaining NASCAR “charter” track on the current schedule.

* At 0.526 miles in length, Martinsville is the smallest track on the Cup series schedule and is 1/5 the length of Talladega.

* Martinsville is one of seven tracks to host over 100 Cup races: Daytona (137), Martinsville (133), Richmond (119), Charlotte (114), Darlington (112), Bristol (110), Atlanta (108).

* Richard Petty leads all drivers with 15 Martinsville wins followed by Darrell Waltrip with 11; Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon are tied for third with eight wins each, most by active drivers.

* When Denny Hamlin won at Martinsville in March, it ended an eight-race streak of Chevrolet wins. Chevrolet and Toyota have combined to win the last 22 Martinsville races. Ford has not won at Martinsville since Kurt Busch won in October 2002, 25 races ago.

* Hendrick Motorsports (12 wins), Joe Gibbs Racing (six wins) and Stewart-Haas Racing (three wins) have combined to win 21 of the last 22 Martinsville races.

* Hendrick Motorsports has 22 total Martinsville wins, the most at a single track by one organization in Sprint Cup Series history. Junior Johnson and Associates’ 21 Bristol wins rank second.

* Five different drivers won a race at Martinsville driving for Hendrick Motorsports, it is tied with Junior Johnson for the greatest number of different winners by an organization at Martinsville. Geoff Bodine’s April 1984 Martinsville win for HMS was the organization’s first win in series history.

* Jeff Gordon holds the NASCAR record for consecutive starts at a track without a DNF: 45 at Martinsville.

* Gordon will likely break Cale Yarborough’s all-time record of laps at Martinsville. Yarborough circled around the short half-mile track 3,851 times. Gordon is 107 laps shy at 3,744.

* Only one Martinsville race has been won with a last-lap pass: Darrell Waltrip got by Dale Earnhardt on the final lap to win there in September 1987.

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Austin Theriault not medically cleared by NASCAR to race at Kansas

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Austin Theriault announced Thursday morning he has not been medically cleared by NASCAR to compete in this weekend’s Cup race at Kansas Speedway after his involvement in a wreck in Monday’s race at Talladega.

Theriault, 25, competes for Rick Ware Racing and was set to drive its No. 52 Chevrolet this weekend. Theriault said Garrett Smithley will take his place.

A NASCAR spokesperson said its policy is to not discuss a competitor’s medical information.

A spokesperson for Rick Ware Racing told NBC Sports all info on Theriault would be released by the driver on social media or by NASCAR. The team said “we expect to have Austin back in the car very soon.”

The native of Fort Kent, Maine, has missed races due to medical issues before.

In 2015, while racing part-time for Brad Keselowski Racing in the Truck Series, he suffered a 10% compression fracture in his back in a wreck at Las Vegas Motor Speedway after his HANS device broke.

Theriault missed several races before returning in the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Since 2015 he has made five Cup starts, three Xfinity starts and four Truck Series starts.

Updated entry lists for Kansas Speedway’s playoff weekend

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The NASCAR playoffs continue this weekend with the second visit of the year to Kansas Speedway.

The Cup Series holds its second elimination race as the playoff field will be cut to eight drivers.

After a week off, the Xfinity Series will open its second playoff round.

Here are the preliminary entry lists for both races.

Cup – Hollywood Casino 400 (2:30 p.m. ET Sunday on NBC)

There are 40 cars entered.

Parker Kligerman is entered in Gaunt Brothers Racing’s No. 96 Toyota.

Reed Sorenson is listed for Premium Motorsports’ No. 27 Chevrolet.

Austin Theriault  was originally entered in Rick Ware Racing’s No. 52 car. Theriault announced Thursday morning he had not been cleared by NASCAR to compete Saturday following his wreck in Monday’s Cup race at Talladega and that Garrett Smithley would take his place.

Chase Elliott won this race last year over Kyle Busch and Kyle Larson. Brad Keselowski won the May race over Alex Bowman and Erik Jones.

Click here for the updated entry list.

Xfinity – Kansas Lottery 300 (3 p.m. ET Saturday on NBC)

There are 39 entries.

Ryan Truex is entered in JR Motorsports’ No. 8 Chevrolet.

Ross Chastain is entered in Kaulig Racing’s No. 10 Chevrolet. It’ll be his fifth start with the team this season.

Harrison Burton is entered in Joe Gibbs Racing’s No. 18 Toyota for the seventh time this season.

Bobby Earnhardt, the oldest son of Kerry Earnhardt, is entered in MBM Motorsports’ No. 66 Toyota. It will be his fifth career start and first since the Texas playoff race last year.

Joe Nemechek is now entered in Mike Harmon Racing’s No. 74 Chevrolet

Dillon Bassett is now entered in DGM Racing’s No. 92 Chevrolet

John Hunter Nemechek won this race last year over Daniel Hemric and Elliott Sadler.

Click here for the entry list.

 

Harrison Burton to drive Joe Gibbs Racing’s No. 20 Xfinity car full-time next year

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Harrison Burton will drive Joe Gibbs Racing’s No. 20 Xfinity car full-time in 2020, the team announced Thursday morning.

Burton, the son of NBC Sports analysts Jeff Burton, will succeed Christopher Bell in the No. 20.

Burton competes full-time in the Gander Outdoors Truck Series for Kyle Busch Motorsports. He is set to make his seventh start in JGR’s No. 18 Xfinity car this Saturday at Kansas Speedway (3 p.m. ET on NBC).

“Next year is going to be a really cool opportunity for me because I grew up watching my dad race in the Xfinity Series, Burton said in a press release. “Making my first start at Bristol this year was really surreal. I remember being a little kid and watching (Jeff Burton) race there and now, I will have the opportunity to compete for the Xfinity Series championship next year.

“On top of that I’ve got Dex Imaging continuing their support of me for a majority of races next season. That’s really cool because I’ve had them as a sponsor since I was 13 and to bring them from pro-late models all the way to the Xfinity Series is pretty wild. I want to finish this season strong, but I’m excited to get 2020 started. My time with JGR this season will really help me because I’ve already gotten to know so many people there and it’s such a great team and organization. They have a long history of helping to develop drivers and this is big for the next step in my career.”

In his six Xfinity starts, Burton has three top 10s and a best finish of fourth at Iowa Speedway.

In 35 Truck Series starts since 2016, Burton has 11 top fives and 17 top-10 finishes. This year he has seven top fives and 10 top 10s. He and teammate Todd Gilliland both failed to make the playoffs.

“As Harrison (Burton) moves up to the next level of his career, we’re happy to have him join JGR fulltime and go behind the wheel of the No. 20 Supra,” said Steve DeSouza, Executive Vice President of Xfinity Series and Development for Joe Gibbs Racing in a press release. “Harrison has continued to show progress this season in his limited starts and I know that will only continue to develop with more seat time while contending for the Xfinity Series championship.”

The crew chief for the No. 20 will be announced at a later time.

JTG Daugherty Racing’s No. 47 hauler experiences fire on way to Kansas

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JTG Daugherty Racing announced on social media Thursday morning that the hauler for Ryan Preece‘s No. 47 Chevrolet experienced a fire on its way to Kansas Speedway for this weekend’s Cup race.

In a statement, team owner Tad Geschickter said both its hauler drivers were “okay.”

He said the team is “assessing the damage to our trailer and race cars and will have more information as it becomes available.”

More: Kaulig Racing hauler involved in accident on way to Kansas