Clint Bowyer snaps 190-race winless streak at Martinsville; first victory since October 2012

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Given that a grandfather clock went to the winner, it was about time for Clint Bowyer to win Monday’s rescheduled STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway.

Postponed one day due to snow at the track on Sunday, Bowyer finally broke a 190-race winless streak, earning his first trip to victory lane since the fall race at Charlotte in October 2012.

It was also Bowyer’s ninth win in his 13-year Cup career in 439 starts.

Bowyer led a race-high 215 laps in the 500-lap event around the .526-mile bullring.

The 38-year-old Bowyer took the lead from Ryan Blaney on Lap 285 and after briefly losing the lead, led the final 114 laps. It was the 43rd career win for Stewart-Haas Racing.

Kyle Busch finished second, followed by Ryan Blaney, Martin Truex Jr. and Kevin Harvick. Sixth through 10th were Joey Logano, Alex Bowman, A.J. Allmendinger, Chase Elliott and Brad Keselowski.

“To have it come here, a place where I’ve gotten so close and wanted to win that grandfather clock … it was just time,” Bowyer told FS1. “I told my son this morning, ‘Damn it, we’ve got to get a picture in victory lane.”

MORE: Results of Martinsville Cup race

MORE: Kyle Busch leads Cup point standings after Martinsville

Stage 1 winner: Denny Hamlin

Stage 2 winner: Ryan Blaney

How Bowyer won: In his first career win at Martinsville, Bowyer took the lead for good on Lap 285, but it was getting a good jump on the final restart of the day (Lap 392), that iced it for Bowyer, holding off Kyle Busch and others who would stay close but could never pass Bowyer.

Who else had a good day: Kyle Busch earned his third runner-up and fourth overall top-three finish in the first six races. … A.J. Allmendinger once again had a good day at Martinsville. In his last five starts at the southern Virginia bullring, he’s finished 2nd (spring 2016), 10th (fall 2016), 6th (spring 2017), 40th (fall 2017) and 8th (today).

Who had a bad day: Darrell Wallace Jr. suffered mechanical problems early in the race and finished 34th, 14 laps down. … Jamie McMurray spun into the wall after being tapped by Austin Dillon on Lap 385, but was able to continue. Still, the damage was done, as McMurray finished 26th, followed by Dillon (30th), Trevor Bayne (33rd) and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (37th).

Notable: Bowyer led more laps today (215) than in his last 159 starts combined. … Bowyer becomes the only driver in Cup history to win in all three active manufacturer rides (Ford, Chevrolet and Toyota). … Stewart-Haas Racing has now won four of the first six races of 2018 (the other three wins came from Kevin Harvick at Atlanta, Las Vegas and Phoenix). … The race had only 38 cars in the field, two short of the usual 40-car field.

Quote of the day: “You start to question if you can get it done or not. To have it come at this place meant a lot.” – Clint Bowyer

What’s Next: The Cup, Xfinity and Truck series all have the Easter weekend off. The next Cup race is the O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 at Texas Motor Speedway on Sunday, April 8.

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Ryan Blaney thankful for support after Daytona 500 incident

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Ryan Blaney said he didn’t want to talk to many people the night of the Daytona 500 after contact with Ryan Newman triggered Newman’s horrific last-lap crash.

But when Blaney got home, his parents were there.

“That was nice of them to be there,” Blaney said Friday at Auto Club Speedway, the first time he’s talked to the media about the Daytona 500 since that night.  

Blaney was ashen when he spoke briefly to the media after the season-opening Daytona 500. As he spoke, an ambulance drove by on the frontstretch, taking Newman to the hospital.

Blaney was intent on pushing Newman, a fellow Ford driver, to the victory when it became clear to Blaney he could not win the race. But as he pushed Newman coming to the finish, the contact unsettled Newman’s car and it turned right into the outside wall. Newman’s car went airborne and was slammed in the driver side area while upside down by Corey LaJoie.

Newman walked out of a Daytona Beach hospital two days later. Newman said last weekend in a statement that he suffered a head injury but did not disclose any details. He has since been to Roush Fenway Racing to see team members and also did a video for one of the team’s sponsors that day. Newman will not race this weekend, missing his second consecutive race but said in his statement he looks forward to racing again.

MORE: Ryan Blaney talks to Ryan Newman, looks forward to seeing him at track

Blaney said several people helped him in the aftermath of Newman’s accident. All that was known the night of the race was that Newman was in serious condition with a non-life-threatening injury.

Blaney said close friend Bubba Wallace spent time with him the day after the Daytona 500.

“We talked about some stuff,” Blaney said Friday of what he and Wallace did. “I stayed off social media and all that stuff. You have people that aren’t even involved and have never even watched the sport that have their own opinion on bad things.

“The outreach I got from the calls from former drivers and current drivers that week was pretty remarkable. Their support was good. Even though it is unintentional and it is racing, it still takes a toll on you when it is off of your nose. You never want to see anyone get hurt in this sport. We are all competitors, but we are also a big family.

“Ryan and I have gotten along really well and that was just a bad circumstance and it is great that it worked out for the best. It was nice to have the friends and family and drivers and teams (offer their) support. That really helped me out.”

Blaney cited a couple of former drivers whose calls were impactful.

Jeff Burton and Bobby Labonte called me, people that I looked up to a lot as a kid,” Blaney said. “It was neat that they called me and gave me their peace of mind. That was good.”

Friday also marked the first time for Blaney to speak publicly since last weekend’s race at Las Vegas. Blaney led but a late caution changed the race. He and Alex Bowman, running second, were among drivers who pitted. Joey Logano, running third, did not pit, inherited the lead and went on to win. Blaney finished 11th.

Blaney said Friday it took him 10 minutes to get over how that race ended.

“Yeah, it was over,” Blaney said. “Moving on. I went and stayed in a teepee and forgot about it.”

About his experience staying in a teepee, Blaney said:

“I already had that planned no matter what happened. I like camping. I was out on a ranch in the middle of the desert for a couple days and just hanging out and all that stuff. It was fun.”

As for what he did, Blaney said: “Go hiking a little bit. Cook by the fire. Clear your head. It is just relaxing. I have always kind of been that way. It was nice to get out there. I was out there. I had to be out there for Tuesday night anyway and figured I would stay somewhere other than the (Las Vegas) Strip. I can’t do the strip for very long. I wanted to stay somewhere opposite to the Strip.”

Alex Bowman fastest in final Cup practice at Auto Club Speedway

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Alex Bowman completed a sweep of Friday’s Cup Series practice sessions at Auto Club Speedway by posting the top speed in final practice. He was also fastest in first practice.

Bowman’s top speed was 176.626 mph. He recorded 32 laps in the session.

The top five was completed by Ryan Blaney (176.186 mph), Bubba Wallace (176.177), Kurt Busch (175.816) and Christopher Bell (175.695).

Bowman also had the best 10-lap average at 175.317 mph.

Kurt Busch recorded the most laps with 47.

The only incident in the session was defending race winner Kyle Busch brushing the wall in Turn 3 after his car got away from him on the bumps in the corner. Repairs were made to the car and Busch returned to the track with 17 minutes left in the session.

Click here for the speed chart.

 

Alex Bowman tops field in opening Cup practice at Auto Club

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Alex Bowman posted the fastest lap in opening Cup practice Friday at Auto Club Speedway. Bowman ran a top lap of 179.439 mph.

Bowman was followed by Kyle Larson (177.703 mph), Tyler Reddick (177.607), Kurt Busch (177.375) and Matt DiBenedetto (176.609).

Click here for full practice report

There were no incidents in the session.

Final Cup practice is scheduled from 5:35-6:25 p.m. ET today. Qualifying will be Saturday.

Xfinity practice report at Auto Club Speedway

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Harrison Burton was fastest in the final Xfinity Series practice session Friday at Auto Club Speedway.

The Joe Gibbs Racing driver recorded 22 laps and posted a top speed of 174.474 mph in the 25-minute session.

The top five was completed by Noah Gragson (173.779 mph), Austin Cindric (173.775), Chase Briscoe (173.578) and Brandon Jones (173.578).

Burton also had the best 10-lap average at 170.422 mph.

Gragson recorded the most laps in the session with 25.

There were no incidents in the session.

Click here for the practice report.

First practice

Noah Gragson led the way for the Xfinity Series in the opening practice session that saw more than half the 50-minute period under caution at Auto Club Speedway

Gragson ran a top lap of 177.139 mph. He was followed by Austin Cindric (176.022), Daniel Hemric (175.400), Brandon Jones (175.366) and Harrison Burton (175.187).

Click here for full practice report

Alex Labbe brought out the caution when an oil line came loose and he put oil down on the track. The cleanup took about 20 minutes.

Tommy Joe Martins brought out the caution late in the session with smoke coming from the car and then a small fire in the right front of the car.