Did Austin Dillon find a playoff gear at Michigan?


BROOKLYN, Mich. – A break away from pouncing on his second victory of the season, it was Austin Dillon whose No. 3 Chevrolet suffered the break in Sunday’s race at Michigan International Speedway.

Running second to Kevin Harvick with two laps remaining, the Richard Childress Racing driver picked up a vibration that cost him two spots but didn’t prevent him from scoring his second top five – and his first since winning the season-opening Daytona 500.

“We’re kind of one of the smaller teams out here, truthfully,” Dillon said. “I feel like I have one of the biggest hearts out here in this garage as a driver and can get it done when we put great cars on the track. So we put a great car on the track today, and I showed what we can do. Huge momentum; we want to carry it forward.”

Aside from two mediocre practice sessions, it was a strong weekend overall for Dillon, who qualified fifth. Though he drifted outside the top 10 in the first stage, Dillon finished fifth in the second stage and steadily climbed forward during the final 70 laps.

He led five laps after making his final stop behind Harvick’s under green, and he then hung onto second with a two-tire stop. He was a few seconds behind Harvick’s No. 4 Ford when trouble struck (which he speculated was a loose wheel or a tire unraveling), prompting an animated but joyful conversation with his grandfather and car owner Richard Childress in the pits.

“It was great; I wished he could have got that second,” Childress said. “All of a sudden, he just shot up the racetrack, and he pulled over and just let him go. Which was a smart thing. Better to do that than to hit the wall.”

The Daytona win locked Dillon into the playoffs 22 races ago, but the team’s recent struggles partly are because it’s been leveraging the guarantee of contending for the title against experimenting with unconventional setups.

“That’s what we’re working on right now,” Childress said. “Everything we’re doing. We just missed it a few times because of trying stuff for the playoffs.”

On Sunday, the team finally seemed to hit on it. Dillon proclaimed his car as a legitimate second fastest behind Harvick’s, and that he outran the Toyotas of Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr. in the second half was evidence of that.

“It was incredible to see those guys run good,” said Rodney Childers, crew chief for Harvick. “Those guys have worked really hard, and I think (Dillon) and (RCR teammate Ryan Newman) both had good speed.  They had good motors.  It’s cool to see the hard work pay off that those guys have done and hopefully they keep getting better.”

Said runner-up Brad Keselowski: “I was really impressed with how well Austin and Ryan Newman ran this weekend.  Yeah, you’d be foolish to keep something great in your pocket.  It’s time to bring it out and make sure it’s ready to go.

Crew chief Justin Alexander said Dillon’s team brought a new car for Michigan, which is often a proving ground for the 10-race stretch that determines the championship.

“It seems like when we’ve had fast cars, we’ve maybe not executed right,” he said. “We’ve executed good but had not as good of cars. Today we just put it all together.

“Speed like this, we’ll take that. We were able to run up front with them guys again, so it’s a breath of fresh air.”

Dillon notched only his fourth top 10 this season. He said he needs top-10 consistency to make a deep run for the championship, and Michigan might show he is hitting his stride at the right time.

“I think it just all came together,” he said. “This is one of my best tracks.  We have been working hard.  We had spurts of speed in qualifying at the last couple of big mile-and-a-half tracks.

“You should be able to keep that speed into practice and (the) race. We haven’t been able to do it, and today we did.”

Goodyear tire info for Martinsville Speedway

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NASCAR Cup and Truck teams continue their respective playoffs this weekend at Martinsville Speedway.

The Cup Series begins its Round of 8, while the Gander Outdoors Truck Series will contest its middle race of the Round of 6.

Cup and Truck teams will run the same tire setup at Martinsville, the same tires both series have run at the .526-mile bullring since 2017.

It’s getting later in the fall and we are likely to have cloudy conditions and temperatures in the 60-degree range at Martinsville this week, so track temps will be low, making it more difficult for the track to take rubber,” said Greg Stucker, Goodyear’s director of racing. “Because of the time of year we run at Martinsville, we’ve worked hard over the past several years to come up with a tread compound that will lay rubber in the concrete corners, even in cool temperatures.

Generally, Martinsville has produced some of the best racing on the circuit and that only seems to have been enhanced by the track consistently taking rubber and having multiple racing lines. We continue to work on keeping up with Martinsville and making adjustments where needed, holding a test there this past summer and looking ahead to 2020 when we will have a full fledged night race at the track.”

According to wunderground.com, the forecast calls for a temperature of 58 degrees with a 40 percent chance of rain at the scheduled 1:30 p.m. ET start time for Saturday’s Truck race, and a temperature of 66 degrees with a 19 percent chance of green flag at the 3 p.m. ET scheduled start time for Sunday’s Cup race.

Here is the tire information for this weekend’s races at Martinsville:

Tire: Goodyear Eagle Short Track Radials

Set limits: Cup: 3 sets for practice, 1 set for qualifying/start of race and 9 sets for race (8 race sets plus 1 set transferred from qualifying or practice); Truck: 5 sets for the event.

Tire Codes: Left-side — D-4588; Right-side – D-4722

Tire Circumference: Left-side — 2,221 mm (87.44 in.); Right-side — 2,251 mm (88.62 in.)

Minimum Recommended Inflation: Left Front — 10 psi; Left Rear — 10 psi; Right Front — 23 psi; Right Rear — 22 psi

As on most NASCAR ovals 1 mile or less in length, teams will not run inner liners in their tires at Martinsville.

NASCAR penalty report after Kansas

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NASCAR issued one penalty from this past weekend’s racing action at Kansas Speedway.

Chris Gayle, crew chief for the No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing NASCAR Cup Toyota driven by Erik Jones, has been fined $10,000 for lug nut(s) not properly installed following Sunday’s race.

There were no penalties assessed to the teams of Cole Custer and Tyler Reddick stemming from the altercation following Saturday’s Xfinity Series race.

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Ron Hornaday Jr., Bobby Labonte to take part in Martinsville Truck race activities

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Martinsville Speedway will honor one NASCAR Hall of Famer and one inductee before Saturday’s NASCAR Hall of Fame 200 Truck Series race.

Hall of Famer Ron Hornaday Jr. will serve as grand marshal for the race, while Bobby Labonte, who will be inducted into the Hall in January, will serve as the honorary starter.

Bobby Labonte. Photo: Getty Images.

We are honored to have 2018 NASCAR Hall of Fame inductee Ron Hornaday Jr. as Grand Marshal and 2020 inductee Bobby Labonte as Honorary Starter at the first NASCAR Hall of Fame 200,” NASCAR Hall of Fame executive director Winston Kelly said in a statement. “Ron is the series’ only four-time champion. As the 2000 premier series champion and 1992 Xfinity champion, Bobby is one of only 31 drivers who has won races in all three NASCAR national series with his lone truck series win coming at Martinsville.”

Said Clay Campbell, president of Martinsville Speedway: “We appreciate the NASCAR Hall of Fame making it possible to have two great NASCAR champions available to meet our fans Saturday morning before the NASCAR Hall of Fame 200. Having Ron and Bobby be a part of our race weekend is special for everyone at Martinsville Speedway.”

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NASCAR entry lists for Martinsville

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Eight drivers remain in the playoffs for Sunday’s race at Martinsville Speedway.

In addition to the Cup Series, the Gander Outdoors Truck Series is also in action this weekend at Martinsville, on Saturday. The Xfinity Series is off this weekend.

Here are the preliminary entry lists for both series:

Cup – First Data 500 (3 p.m. ET Sunday on NBCSN)

There are 38 cars entered.

Two cars do not have drivers listed yet on the entry list:

* The No. 51 Petty Ware Racing Chevrolet.

* The No. 52 Rick Ware Racing Chevrolet.

JJ Yeley is in the No. 53 Rick Ware Racing Chevrolet.

Joey Logano won this race last fall. Denny Hamlin finished second and Martin Truex Jr. was third.

In this year’s spring race, Brad Keselowski won, followed by Chase Elliott and Kyle Busch.

Click here for the entry list.

Trucks – NASCAR Hall of Fame 200 (1:30 p.m. ET Saturday on FS1)

There are 32 Trucks entered in the middle race of the Round of 6 of the Truck playoffs.

One Truck does not have a driver listed yet: The No. 0 Jennifer Jo Cobb Racing Chevrolet.

Tanner Gray, who won the 2018 NHRA Pro Stock championship, makes his Truck Series debut in the No. 15 DGR-Crosley Toyota.

Sam Mayer makes his second start of the season in the No. 21 GMS Racing Chevrolet.

Danny Bohn makes his first career Truck Series start in the No. 30 On Point Motorsports Toyota.

Carson Ware makes his first career Truck Series start in the No. 33 Reaume Brothers Racing Chevrolet.

Dawson Cram makes his first Truck Series start of the season and fourth of his career in the No. 34 Reaume Brothers Racing Toyota.

Jeb Burton makes his second Truck Series start of the season in the No. 44 Niece Motorsports Chevrolet.

Also, one week after clinching the ARCA championship, Christian Eckes will make his seventh Truck start of the season, once again piloting the No. 51 Kyle Busch Motorsports Toyota.

Johnny Sauter won this race last fall. Brett Moffitt was second and Myatt Snider was third.

Kyle Busch won this year’s spring race, followed by Ben Rhodes and Brett Moffitt.

Click here for the entry list.

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