Who is hot and cold entering the Goody’s Fast Relief 500 at Martinsville

Leave a comment

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

Kevin Harvick

  • 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.

Kyle Busch

  • 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.

Matt Kenseth

  • 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.

Joey Logano

  • 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

Chase Elliott

  • 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.

Carl Edwards

  • 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.

Denny Hamlin

  • 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.

Brad Keselowski

  • 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
    Martinsville races.

 

Truck results, point standings after Miami

Photo by Robert Laberge/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Brett Moffitt beat Grant Enfinger to the checkers by two seconds to take his sixth race of the season.

Playoff contender Noah Gragson finished third.

Stewart Friesen was fourth with Sheldon Creed rounding out the top five.

Click here for complete results.

Moffitt’s victory earned him the championship. This is the first time since 1999 that the champion won the final race of the season.

With his third-place finish, Gragson finished second in the standings.

Justin Haley finished eighth in the race and third in the standings.

Johnny Sauter finished 12th in the race and fourth in the standings.

Grant Enfinger rounded out the top five.

Click here for the complete points report.

Brett Moffitt wins Truck race at Miami, takes championship

Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Brett Moffitt beat Grant Enfinger by two seconds Friday night to win the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race and the championship.

It was his sixth victory of the season.

Moffitt’s first win of the season came at Atlanta in the season’s second race but even then he was unsure if the team would have the financing to go to every race and be eligible for the playoffs.

“It’s unreal,” Moffitt said on FoxSports 1 from victory lane. “I didn’t know if I was going to get the opportunity to compete for a championship even after I got my first win.

“Everyone pulled together hard here. Back at Chicago (in June) we didn’t know if we were going to make it to the racetrack.”

Chicago was another race won by Moffitt.

Friday night, Enfinger finished second to Moffitt.

Fellow playoff contender Noah Gragson finished third. Stewart Friesen finished fourth with Sheldon Creed rounding out the top five.

MORE: Brett Moffitt seeks to join pantheon of NASCAR ‘stache champions

Moffitt achieved the title in just 36 starts – the fewest since Mike Skinner won the inaugural championship in 1995 in 20 races.

Moffitt’s championship comes with an uncertain future. He announced Thursday that he does not have a contract for next year.

Playoff contender Justin Haley finished eighth.

“We just struggled.” he said. “I don’t know why.”

Former champion Johnny Sauter battled handling problems for most of the race and was not a factor.

“It was awful,” he said. “Just no grip. We laid an egg tonight. I don’t know why.

“When you suck that bad, it’s whatever, you just go home and go what the hell happened? I’ll ask myself that for three months.”

STAGE 1 WINNER: Grant Enfinger

STAGE 2 WINNER: Brett Moffitt

MORE: Click here for complete results.
MORE: Click here for the complete points report.

WHO HAD A GOOD RACE: Jesse Little tied his career best finish of sixth (which he first scored at Iowa this June). … Tyler Dippel finished 15th to score his fourth top 15 in five Truck starts.

WHO HAD A BAD RACE: Robby Lyons slapped the wall on Lap 78; he finished 29th. … Chris Windom started 10th but hit the wall with a handful of laps remaining to finish 24th. 

QUOTE OF THE RACE: “We were just too tight there (at the end). Needed to make better adjustments on pit road and that’s where it comes down to me,” Noah Gragson told FS1 after the race. “This one is going to hurt for a while.”

ROOKIE OF THE YEAR: Myatt Snider scored three top fives and eight top 10s on his way to rookie honors. Snider’s best finish this season was runner-up at Talladega. His best unrestricted finish was a third at Martinsville.

NOTABLE: This is the first time since 1999 that the champion won the season finale.

WHAT’S NEXT: Nextera Energy Resources 250 on Feb. 15, 2019 at Daytona International Speedway.

Should Denny Hamlin’s team take No. 1 pit stall or leave it for Kyle Busch?

Getty Images
2 Comments

HOMESTEAD, Fla. – Denny Hamlin’s pole-winning effort Friday night made for an emotional moment in his final Cup race with close friend Mike Wheeler as his crew chief.

Hamlin’s pole also created a quandary.

With the pole, Hamlin’s Joe Gibbs Racing team has the first pick of pit stalls. Any other race, it’s an easy call: The team takes the No. 1 pit stall at the exit of pit road.

MORE: Denny Hamlin will have a new crew chief in 2019

But things are complicated because Hamlin is not in the title race and teammate Kyle Busch, who qualified second and whose team has second pick of pit stalls, is racing for a championship Sunday at Homestead-Miami Speedway (3 p.m. ET on NBC).

If Hamlin’s team takes a different pit stall, it would allow Busch to have the No. 1 stall, which is viewed as the best on pit road. That could be the difference in having the lead off pit road and could impact who wins the championship.

So, what will Wheeler do when crew chiefs make their pit stall selection Saturday morning?

“We’re paid to win races for JGR and (sponsor) FedEx,” Wheeler told NBC Sports. “It’s definitely on my mind and my heart to be aware of that for Denny and our team. Obviously, we want to win a championship for JGR, too. That’s one of the biggest goals, a bigger goal this weekend. There’s some chatter going on about that.”

In one sense, it could be an easy call — let Busch have the No. 1 pit stall. The focus in any organization at this point is on the team racing for a championship. So why not give that team that advantage?

On the other hand, Hamlin is winless this year and could have one of his best chances to score a victory and extend his streak of consecutive seasons with a win to 13. He won this race in 2013 to keep that streak alive. 

“I think everything is earned,” Hamlin said. “Nothing is given. With us having the No. 1 pit stall, nobody else — none of the other competitors will have it. I don’t know. It’s a discussion. I mean, certainly I would think that (Wheeler), with the pressure always to win, you’ve got to do everything you can to win. We’ll have that discussion.”

The pit stalls at Homestead-Miami Speedway are 30-feet, 8-inches long. The camera at the end of pit road is about 40 feet from the No. 1 pit stall. That’s closer than some other tracks. That means a driver in that stall can fire out of the pit stall and surge ahead of those coming down pit road.

Last year, Hamlin’s team faced a similar issue but it was an easier call. Hamlin, who was not in the title race, won the pole. Martin Truex Jr., a title contender, qualified second last year. Truex’s team — which has a technical alliance with Joe Gibbs Racing — asked if Hamlin’s team could take another pit stall so Truex could have the No. 1 stall. Hamlin’s team declined.

Cup starting lineup at Miami

Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images
2 Comments

Denny Hamlin posted a lap of 173.863 mph to win his second consecutive pole at Miami and his third in the past four years.

He edged teammate Kyle Busch (173.622 mph) by .043 seconds.

Martin Truex Jr. (173.539), Brad Keselowski (173.433) and Joey Logano (173.366) rounded out the top five.

Kevin Harvick posted a lap of 171.942 mph to line up 12th on Sunday. This is the furthest back he has been at Miami since 2015 when he qualified 13th and finished second.

Click here for the complete starting lineup.