Upon Further Review: Martinsville


The question was simple and so was the answer.

What did Kyle Larson take out of his season-best third-place finish Sunday at Martinsville Speedway?

“That I’m not as bad as I think I am here,’’ he said with a smile.

Sunday could prove to be a race that could be viewed as a key moment in his progress.

By running toward the front, Larson got to see how some top drivers at Martinsville run there, particularly Jimmie Johnson, Kevin Harvick, Kurt Busch and Brad Keselowski.

Remember, Johnson struggled early in his career at this track until he followed Tony Stewart in one race.

Larson got a similar experience Sunday.

“This track is single-file, but you can move your line around half a groove or a full groove and really pick up speed,’’ Larson said. “I’ve struggled with knowing when to move around before. Following Jimmie, it gave me a better idea of when to move around and stuff like that.’’

Larson said that running the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race on Saturday also helped, noting that Martinsville is one of the few tracks where a Truck drives similar to a Cup car. Good chance he’ll drive in the Truck race there when the series returns in the fall.

While Sunday was a good starting point for Larson, work remains. This weekend’s race at Texas Motor Speedway is a type of track where Larson and Chip Ganassi Racing teammate Jamie McMurray have not found speed this season.

“I know with the off week they worked on it quite a bit to learn on maybe some mistakes we made with our cars and I haven’t done a great job either,’’ Larson said.

— Woe is Matt Kenseth. He’s been fast at most tracks this season and in contention for wins but has just one top-10 finish.

Sunday continued his frustrating year.

He was second on the final restart but finished 15th. Earlier in the race, he and Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Kyle Busch worked together on restarts with the leader taking the outside lane and being allowed to cut down in front of the teammate.

That changed when they aligned for a restart with 11 laps to go and Busch leading.

On the radio Busch discussed the plan with crew chief Adam Stevens: “That’s right on the border of whether we do the deal or not. What do you want to do, Adam?”

Said Stevens: “It’s time to race, pal. It’s time to race.”

Busch remained in the preferred bottom line, keeping Kenseth on the high lane.

“We essentially told each other all bets are off with under 10 to go,’’ Busch said afterward of helping a teammate on restarts.

After being told on the radio by his spotter that it didn’t appear they would do the same thing as before, Kenseth said: “Yeah, I was going to race until we got off Turn 2. That’s fine. I got it. We’ll just pass him on the top here.”

On the final restart, AJ Allmendinger, who was third, got under Kenseth. That allowed other cars to do the same, keeping Kenseth in the slower top lane. Kenseth, who did not pit for tires during that final caution, could not get down to the bottom lane and soon fell back to eighth and was fighting cars that had fresher tires. Kenseth had no chance.

It’s just another case of bad timing, bad luck, bad karma or whatever you want to call it this season for Kenseth.


  • He led the Daytona 500 until attempting to block Denny Hamlin on the high line with less than a mile to go. Hamlin cut underneath them, they made contact and Kenseth fell back, finishing 14th.
  • At Atlanta the following week, Kenseth had a strong car early, leading 47 laps, but was penalized on an early pit stop. While the team argued the penalty, Kenseth was not told of the infraction and NASCAR did not score him a lap for ignoring the black flag. He lost a second lap while serving his penalty. He never recovered, finishing 19th.
  • At Las Vegas, Kenseth was running sixth with 43 laps to go when he slid up the track and was hit by Chase Elliott. Kenseth finished 37th.
  • At Auto Club Speedway, Kenseth had a strong car in the first half of the race before pitting under green for a tire issue. He was penalized for speeding on pit road. He fell a lap down, got it back and was penalized for an uncontrolled tire on the pit stop before the overtime finish. Kenseth placed 19th.

Brian Vickers will be back in the No. 14 car this weekend for Stewart-Haas Racing at Texas Motor Speedway. It marks the first time he’s been in the car back-to-back weeks. He’s shared duties with Ty Dillon but Dillon will be in the No. 95 car this weekend for Circle Sport – Leavine Family Racing.

“For me right now I’ve had plenty of time off, I’m rested and ready to go and looking forward to having two weeks in a row with these guys and build some momentum,’’ Vickers said after finishing a season-best seventh at Martinsville.

— Eight-time Martinsville winner Jimmie Johnson failed to lead a lap Sunday. This marks the fourth consecutive Martinsville race he has not led at least one lap. The only other time he’s gone so long without leading a lap at the track was in his first four starts there.

Carl Edwards’ sixth-place finish Sunday was his first Martinsville top-10 finish in the last nine races there. He has six career top-10 finishes in 24 starts there.

— The eight caution flags Sunday were the fewest at Martinsville since the spring race there four years ago had seven cautions. The seven Martinsville races before Sunday’s event had averaged 14.7 cautions per event.

— Richard Childress Racing placed all three cars in the top 10 for the first time since the Oct. 2014 race at Kansas. Add runner-up AJ Allmendinger’s JTG Daugherty Racing team, which is part of the RCR alliance, and it made for an even bigger day for that group.

— Five-time Martinsville winner Denny Hamlin finished 39th Sunday – his worst finish at the track.

— The pole has not proved to be the best spot in terms of finishing positions this season. Here’s a look at the average finish for the top five starting spots:

Pole-winner — Average finish 14.8

Second starter — Average finish 10.5

Third starter — Average finish 18.0

Fourth starter — Average finish 9.3

Fifth starter — Average finish 8.2

NASCAR Power Rankings: William Byron, Kyle Busch rank 1-2


Kyle Busch moved closer to the top spot after his win Sunday at WWT Raceway, but William Byron keeps hold of No. 1 after another top-10 run.

The series heads to Sonoma Raceway this weekend, the second race of the season on a road course.


(Previous ranking in parenthesis)

1. William Byron (1) — He goes into Sonoma with six consecutive top-10 finishes after his eighth-place result at WWT Raceway. Byron has led a series-high 717 laps this season.

2. Kyle Busch (4) — Recorded his third win of the season Sunday. He is tied with Byron for most wins this year. Busch scored 59 of a maximum 60 points and won his first stage of the year Sunday. He has 16 playoff points. Only Byron has more with 17 this season.

3. Kyle Larson (3) — His fourth-place finish continued his up-and-down season. In the last nine races, Larson has two wins, four top fives, a 20th-place result and four finishes of 30th or worse. He has led 588 laps this season, which ranks second this year to Byron.

4. Martin Truex Jr. (2) — His fifth-place finish is his sixth top 10 in the last eight races. He ranks third in laps led this year with 383.

5. Denny Hamlin (7) — Runner-up result at WWT Raceway is his fourth top 10 in the last seven races.

6. Ryan Blaney (10) — Followed Coca-Cola 600 win with a sixth-place run at WWT Raceway. He had an average running position of 2.6 on Sunday, second only to winner Kyle Busch’s average running position of 1.9.

7. Joey Logano (9) — Third-place finish is his second top 10 in the last four races.

8. Kevin Harvick (NR) — His 10th-place finish is his fourth consecutive finish of 11th or better.

9. Ross Chastain (6) — Lost the points lead after placing 22nd, his third consecutive finish outside the top 20.

10. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (NR) — Headed for his eighth top 15 in a row until he was collected in a crash after the contact between Austin Cindric and Austin Dillon late in Sunday’s race.

Dropped out: Chase Elliott (5th), Tyler Reddick (8th)

NASCAR will not penalize Austin Cindric for incident with Austin Dillon


Despite Richard Childress and Austin Dillon saying that Austin Cindric intentionally wrecked Dillon late in Sunday’s Cup race at WWT Raceway, NASCAR will not penalize Cindric.

Elton Sawyer, NASCAR senior vice president of competition, said Tuesday on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio that there would be no penalty to Cindric after reviewing the contact.

Dillon and Childress were upset about the incident, which brought out the caution on Lap 220 of the 243-lap race. Dillon said NASCAR should suspend Cindric for the contact, just as NASCAR suspended Chase Elliott one race for hooking Denny Hamlin in the Coca-Cola 600.

Contact between the left front of Cindric’s car and the right rear of Dillon’s car sent Dillon up the track into Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Dillon finished 31st. Cindric continued and placed 13th.

Dillon told Frontstretch.com: “I was wrecked intentionally by (Cindric), hooked right just like Chase and Denny and Bubba’s deal (in wrecking Kyle Larson at Las Vegas in 2022). He better be suspended next week.”

Childress said: “(Dillon) had drove up to about 10th until (Cindric) wrecked him in there on purpose, sort of a payback.”

Sawyer said a review of the incident included viewing video and data.

“We didn’t see anything — and haven’t seen anything — that really would rise to a level that would be a suspension or a penalty,” Sawyer said. “It looked like hard racing. One car coming up a little bit and another car going down.

“As we said last week, we take these incidents very serious when we see cars that are turned head-on into another car or head-on into the wall. I spent a lot of time (Monday) looking at that, looking at all the data, looking at TV footage and just deemed this one really hard racing.”

Sawyer said NASCAR plans to talk to both Cindric and Dillon “to make sure we’re all in a good place as we move forward to Sonoma.”



Seven Cup drivers entered in Xfinity race at Sonoma


Kyle Larson is among seven Cup drivers entered in Saturday’s Xfinity Series race at Sonoma Raceway.

The race marks the first time the Xfinity Series has competed at the California road course. Teams will get 50 minutes of practice Friday because this is a new event on the schedule. That additional time will give those Cup drivers more laps on the 1.99-mile road course.

MORE: Sonoma Xfinity entry list

Here is a look at what Xfinity rides the Cup drivers will pilot this weekend:

The race is scheduled to start at 8 p.m. ET Saturday.

The ARCA Menards Series West also is competing this weekend at Sonoma Raceway. Cup driver Ryan Preece is entered in that event. Xfinity drivers Cole Custer, Riley Herbst, Sammy Smith and Parker Retzlaff also are entered in that race, which will be held at 6:30 p.m. ET Friday.


Winners and losers at WWT Raceway


Winners and losers from Sunday’s Cup race at WWT Raceway:


Kyle BuschWins the pole, leads the most laps and holds the field off over the last five restarts to win the race. He scored six playoff points, giving him 16 on the season, second only to William Byron’s 17. Busch left Joe Gibbs Racing after last season for Richard Childress Racing. Busch’s three wins this year equals what JGR has done so far.

Ryan BlaneyHis sixth-place finish moved him into the points lead. He last led the points after the spring 2022 Richmond race. Blaney also won a stage Sunday to collect another playoff point. He has seven this season.

Kyle LarsonFourth-place finish was a big turnaround after struggles earlier in the race. It has not been easy for this team the last few weeks. He has three top-five finishes and four finishes of 20th or worse in the last seven races.

Daniel SuarezHis seventh-place finish moved him up two spots to 16th in the standings, the final playoff transfer spot at this time.


Ross ChastainHe finished 22nd for his third consecutive result outside the top 20. He entered the weekend leading the points and fell to fifth afterward. He is 29 points behind new series leader Ryan Blaney with 11 races left in the regular season.

Tyler ReddickRebounded from an early spin to lead but had his race end after a brake rotor failed. He was one of four drivers eliminated by brake rotor failures. The others were Carson Hocevar, Bubba Wallace and Noah Gragson.