It took until his 22nd Sprint Cup start at Martinsville Speedway for Kyle Busch to visit victory lane at NASCAR’s shortest track.
And he stunk up the show.
Busch led 352 laps, the only time in the last six races at Martinsville that the winner led more than 100 laps. There were 11 lead changes, only the second time since 2009 that there were fewer than 15 at the short track.
It was one of four short-track wins Joe Gibbs Racing has earned this year of the five so far. Kevin Harvick‘s victory in the August Bristol race is the only exception.
JGR drivers have led 1,545 of the 2,307 laps raced on short tracks this year (67 percent).
Before Busch’s win, Denny Hamlin was the only current JGR driver with a Martinsville win (five).
Martinsville could be JGR’s best chance to end a six-race winless streak, which started after Hamlin won at Richmond International Raceway in the regular season finale.
Here’s who’s hot and cold entering this weekend’s Goody’s Fast Relief 500.
Who is Hot
- Finished 20th or worse in three of the six Chase races, had only two finishes outside the top 20 in the regular season.
- Finished top 10 in four of the last six races at Martinsville.
- Finished top five in last three races on short tracks including a win at Bristol in August.
- Top-10 finishes in six of the last seven races.
- Won at Martinsville in April, his only win at the track. Led 352 of 500 laps in April. It was the most laps led by a driver in the last 36 Martinsville races.
- His 686 laps led on short tracks in 2016 leads all drivers.
- Top-10 finishes in five of the last six races including two runner-up results.
- Finished top 10 in four of the last six races at Martinsville, but not the last two.
- Only one finish better than 15th in the last six races on short tracks, 36th or worse in four of the last six.
- Pole-winner for last three Martinsville races.
- Finished top five in three of the last five races at Martinsville.
- Led 435 laps at Martinsville, all in the last five races there.
Who is Cold
- Only two top-10 finishes in the Chase (third at Chicagoland and Dover).
- Finished 12th at Talladega, best finish in the round of 12 (finished 28 points back).
- Finished 20th at Martinsville in April, best finish in two starts.
- Only two top-10 finishes in the last eight races.
- Six poles this season, most of 2016 and his most in a season.
- Finished sixth at Martinsville in April, his second-best finish at the track and only top 10 in the last nine races there.
- Only one top-five finish at Martinsville in 24 starts, tied with Indianapolis for his fewest at a track.
- Only three top 10s in six races since winning at Richmond.
- Five wins, 16 top 10s in 21 Martinsville starts, but finished a career-worst 39th there in April.
- Won last short track race at Richmond.
- Finished 38th in the last two races after having a streak of seven straight top-10 finishes (failed to
finish in consecutive races for the first time in his career).
- Only two finishes better than 31st in the last five races at Martinsville.
- Finished fifth in the spring Martinsville race.
Other notes of interest entering the Goody’s Relief 500
- Martinsville was not yet built the last time the Chicago Cubs were in the World Series (1945).
- Jeff Gordon, making likely his final Sprint Cup start this weekend, has been running at the end of all 46 of his Martinsville starts.
- From fall 2006-2010, Jimmie Johnson and Denny Hamlin were the only drivers to win at Martinsville (nine races).
- The 18 cautions in this race last year were the third most at the track and tied for the most in the last 17
Jimmie Johnson is in his 17th year of full-time Cup racing and is in the midst the longest winless streak of his career at 42 races.
But the seven-time champion’s competitive drive is as strong as ever.
Johnson sat down with NBC Sports’ Dale Jarrett to discuss his career at this point in the latest edition of Driver-to-Driver.
“I can honestly say I spend more time now than I did my rookie year focusing on my job,” Johnson said. “I think that the support I have from my wife (Chandra), my kids are 7 and 4, to have them watch me be passionate about something has another meaning I didn’t anticipate coming. I’m lovin’ what I’m doing. I wish the results were a little better than what we have right now, but the process of what I’m going through is really fun.”
Hendrick Motorsports as a whole is in a slump. The team is in the middle of the second longest winless streak in its history at 35 races.
Johnson admits it’s hard to know when the right time will be for him to retire.
“The thing I can pull out of it is, don’t pick a number, make sure that fire’s gone out and that fire hasn’t gone out,” Johnson said. “The other thing that’s weighing on me, I don’t want to go out not at my fullest potential and not on my terms. The last thought that’s going to run through my mind is to walk away or, ‘Oh, it’s not going right, time to stop.’ Uh uh. I know I still got it. I’m going to go down swinging. I’ve got a lot to prove still.”
Watch the above video for more.
The Foxwoods Resort & Casino 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway is underway after a three hour and 15 minute rain delay.
The race had been scheduled to begin at 1 p.m. ET.
Kurt Busch started from the pole and Martin Truex Jr. started second.
Here’s a look at who the NBC Sports staff is picking to win today’s Cup race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
Denny Hamlin. The Joe Gibbs Racing driver rediscovers his magic here and locks into the playoffs.
Martin Truex Jr. wins back-to-back races for the first time in his career.
Kevin Harvick earns a career-best sixth win of the season.
Martin Truex Jr. is getting into the same groove he had last year. This week he catches Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch. Next week, he starts to pull away,
The Cup Series holds its only race of the year at New Hampshire Motor Speedway today with the Foxwoods Resort & Casino 301.
Kurt Busch starts on the pole and Martin Truex Jr. starts second.
Here’s all the info you need for today’s race.
(All times are Eastern)
START: The command to start engines will be given by Jean Swift, treasurer of Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Counsel, at 12:51 p.m. The green flag is scheduled to wave at 1 p.m.
DISTANCE: The race is scheduled for 301 laps (318.46 miles) around the 1.058-mile track.
STAGES: Stage 1 ends on Lap 75. Stage 2 ends on Lap 150.
COMPETITION CAUTION: Lap 35
PRERACE SCHEDULE: Garage opens at 7:30 a.m. Driver/crew chief meeting is at 11 a.m. Driver introductions are at 12:05 p.m.
NATIONAL ANTHEM: Vanessa Salvucci will perform the anthem at 12:45 p.m. The Canadian National Anthem will be performed by Kirk Young at 12:42 p.m.
TV/RADIO: NBCSN will broadcast the race beginning at 1 p.m. Coverage begins at noon with Countdown to Green on NBCSN. Performance Racing Network’s radio broadcast begins at noon p.m. and also can be heard at goprn.com. SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will have PRN’s broadcast.
FORECAST: wunderground.com calls for a high of 70 degrees and a 78 percent chance of rain and storms at the start of the race.
LAST TIME: Denny Hamlin won this race last year over Kyle Larson. Kyle Busch won the playoff race over Larson.
TO THE REAR: Landon Cassill (backup) and Michael McDowell (backup).
STARTING LINEUP: Click here for the complete starting lineup.