Joey Logano on pole position at Martinsville; Martin Truex Jr. second; Jimmie Johnson spins

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MARTINSVILLE, Virginia — Joey Logano captured his fourth pole position at Martinsville Speedway, stealing the spotlight from NASCAR’s playoff drivers as the Round of 8 opens Sunday afternoon.

The Team Penske driver turned a 95.504-mph lap in his No. 22 Ford, besting Martin Truex Jr. (96.479), who will have the coveted No. 1 pit stall by virtue of qualifying first at Kansas Speedway last week.

Chase Elliott was third at 96.435 mph, followed by Ryan Blaney (96.122) and Clint Bowyer (96.112).

Other playoff drivers who made the final round: Denny Hamlin (sixth) and Brad Keselowski (seventh).

“I think the last time we were here Truex got us be a few thousandths, so it’s cool to flip-flop that again,” Logano told NBCSN. “We have a good Shell/Pennzoil Ford that the team put together for me this weekend.  I’ve got something to race with this week.  I’m really excited about the race and starting up front is always a big deal here.  We may not get the good pit stall that we would want, but starting towards the front is always a nice thing to have.  You can set your own pace and kind of take care of your car.  When you start in the back it starts beating up on your car, which at some point you may end up back there with strategy, but I feel good about the car we’ve got this week and it’s something we can race with.”

Making the final round was a plus for Blaney, who had the worst pit stall selection after failing qualifying inspection at Kansas.

How other playoff drivers fared:

Kevin Harvick qualified 13th after being bumped from advancement by Erik Jones in the final seconds of the second round.

Kyle Busch was 14th.

Jimmie Johnson qualified 24th after spinning when his No. 48 Chevrolet wheel-hopped on the entry to Turn 3 with three minutes left in the second round. The seven-time series champion managed to avoid damaging his car. Johnson will start from the rear.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. qualified 21st in his final start at Martinsville.

Hamlin barely escaped the first round of qualifying, turning the 24th-fastest speed at 95.830 mph. Blaney turned a solid lap late to ensure advancement to the final 24.

Earnhardt also catapulted from outside the top 25 with a fast lap in the closing minutes of the first round.

Among the notables eliminated in the first round were Austin Dillon (25th), AJ Allmendinger (27th), Landon Cassill (31st), David Ragan (33rd) and Travor Bayne (34th).

Click here for qualifying results.

Truck Series practice report from Gateway Motorsports Park

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First practice

Rain canceled the practice session at Gateway that was scheduled to run from 3:35 – 4:25 p.m. Eastern time.

When they finally got on track, Christian Eckes posted the fastest single lap in the first practice session with a speed of 134.360 mph.

Eckes’ speed was .009 seconds faster than Noah Gragon (134.324 mph), who landed second on the speed chart.

Ben Rhodes (134.120), Brett Moffitt (133.817) and Matt Crafton (133.706) rounded out the top five.

With the first practice canceled at Gateway, NASCAR added a final practice session scheduled for Noon – 1 p.m.

 

 

Denny Hamlin offers advice on how to deal with critics on social media

Photo by Tim Bradbury/Getty Images
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Denny Hamlin, who has been fined by NASCAR for comments on Twitter, and was vocal toward critics after this year’s Daytona 500, says he’s found peace on how to deal with those on social media who don’t agree with him.

“I’ve been very good this year about not replying to mean people, and you all should do the same,’’ Hamlin said Friday at Sonoma Raceway.

“I’m making a (request) right now to every driver, every team owner, every NASCAR executive and every media member, stop replying to people who make nonsense comments. They have 16 followers. Don’t give them your 100,000. Do not give them your 100,000 as their stage. No one will ever see their comment, just brush it by, talk about the positives and I’m not a positive person.”

Asked how does one ignore such divisive comments, Hamlin said: “You just scroll by it. Forget it. That person doesn’t exit. They’re an admirer that has lost their way.’’

Hamlin has been better at doing so since the Daytona 500. He faced negative reaction on social media to the contact he and Bubba Wallace had at the end of the Daytona 500.

They engaged in a brief shouting match in the garage area after Hamlin learned that Wallace had taken a dig at him on national TV about a recent comment about drivers using Adderall.

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Clint Bowyer leads opening Cup practice at Sonoma

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Clint Bowyer was the fastest in the first of two Cup practices Friday at Sonoma Raceway.

Bowyer, the winner of the most recent Cup race two weeks ago at Michigan, posted a lap of 93.590 mph. He was followed by Ryan Blaney (93.546 mph), Joey Logano (93.172), Jamie McMurray (93.049) and Daniel Suarez (92.746).

Sixth was Jimmie Johnson (92.661). He was followed by Michael McDowell (92.650), Martin Truex Jr. (92.614), AJ Allmendinger (92.596) and Ryan Newman (92.595).

Click here for full practice report

Final Cup practice will be from 5:40 – 6:55 p.m. ET. Qualifying will take place Saturday.

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Kyle Larson: ‘I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t love NASCAR racing’

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Kyle Larson‘s comment on Twitter earlier this week that he would like to run full-time in the World of Outlaws sprint car series “before I’m 40” might have riled some fans, but Larson says it was not meant as anything bad toward NASCAR.

“I don’t know, I think maybe some people aren’t quite as open-minded, maybe,” the 26-year-old Larson said Friday at Sonoma Raceway. “It’s like they read it as if I said in two years from now I wanted to do it. I mean 15 years from now that would put me 20 years in Cup. So, that is a long time. 

“I think Jeff Gordon spent about that much time in the sport (Gordon raced in Cup 23 full-time seasons), but I don’t know, maybe I don’t do the best job in the world of talking about how much I love NASCAR as much as I do sprint cars, but I do. I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t love NASCAR racing.

“I enjoy sprint cars, and I feel like I talk about sprint cars a lot just to open people’s eyes to that style of racing because it’s a great form or racing and so is NASCAR. So, I don’t know, I just want fans to be fans of motorsports not just NASCAR and not just sprint cars. I would like to see everybody just enjoy all of racing and I think that is what I do. Maybe I don’t do a good job at it sometimes, but you know, I enjoy racing all types of vehicles. Most fans get it, but some fans aren’t quite open-minded enough.”

It was on the official World of Outlaws podcast in December where Larson expressed his desire to eventually transition to the World of Outlaws.

“NASCAR is where I wanted to make it, but I would have been perfectly fine if I didn’t make it either,” Larson said on that podcast in the offseason. “I’d probably be on the Outlaw (sprint car) tour probably right now, racing and loving life … I would say racing on the World of Outlaws tour full-time is my main goal.”

Larson just finished running five nights of Ohio Sprint Speedweek. He won two of those nights. Rain postponed a sixth event before the feature that Larson was to have run. Larson said he has the dirt track race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on his schedule. Indianapolis is building a quarter-mile dirt track inside Turn 3 to run during the NASCAR weekend there in September.

Larson is in his fifth full Cup season. He has five career series wins. Although winless this season, Larson has finished runner-up three times (Auto Club Speedway, Bristol and Pocono).

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