Martin Truex Jr. gets redemption with Martinsville win

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Martin Truex Jr. won Sunday’s Cup Series playoff race at Martinsville Speedway, holding off William Byron over the last 24 laps to score his seventh of win of the year.

The win comes a year after the dramatic finish in this race that saw Truex lose after last-lap contact with Joey Logano.

Truex schooled the field, sweeping every stage and leading 464 of 500 laps. He secured a spot in the championship four with the win. He has been in the championship race in four of the last five seasons.

“I can’t believe we just won Martinsville, man,” Truex told NBCSN. “Miami is awesome, but we’ve wanted to win here for a long time, but the guys have worked so hard, I’ve worked so hard.  I used to just be terrible here, and just an awesome bunch of guys.”

It is Truex’s third short track win of the season.

“I don’t think anyone expected that (performance),” Truex said. “This race track in general, you don’t see that.  Hats off to my guys.  Pit crew was stellar today, and we didn’t make many adjustments.  We adjusted on it early and it came to life, and that was a lot of fun.  I don’t know, maybe now I’ve got this place figured out, who knows.  But just really proud of everybody, and after last year, we talked earlier, everybody wants to keep talking about last year, and I’m like, we’ve got work to do.  I’m just proud of everybody for giving me a race car like that and being able to put it all together today when it counted.”

The top five was completed by Brad Keselowski, pole-sitter Denny Hamlin and Ryan Blaney.

After the race, Hamlin and Joey Logano were involved in a scuffle on pit road. Logano and Hamlin were discussing their contact with 43 laps to go that resulted in Logano cutting a tire and spinning. 

The scuffle began when Logano gave Hamlin a hard slap on his shoulder and began walking away. Hamlin went after Logano and crew members had to separate them, resulting in Hamlin being pulled to the ground by a Team Penske crew member.

“We were having a discussion and everything was civil, and then like Joey does, he did a little push and then runs away, so that’s Joey, he’s scared,” Hamlin told NBCSN. “He said ‘Do you wanna go?’ and I said ‘Yes, I’m here,’ and then he runs away.”

Hamlin described their on-track incident and ended with an impression of Logano: “We got close off Turn 4, we got together and collateral damage and he blew a tire. He’ll probably say ‘Ah, short-track racing.'”

More: Denny Hamlin: Joey Logano is “not that tough.”

More: Joey Logano: Denny Hamlin is “a little bit arrogant sometimes.”

Logano gave his side of the story to NBCSN.

“I just wanted to talk to him about it and was pretty frustrated. He kind of came off the corner like there wasn’t a car on the outside of him and ruined our day, shot at the win for sure. We probably weren’t going to beat (Truex), but we had a top five for sure coming our way.

“I don’t really know what happened because once he started hitting me, he didn’t lift. He just kept finishing me up. We ran each other fine all day, but I don’t know what happened. … At the end of the day, we still got a decent finish (eighth) out of it and some points in the stages at least. But a little frustrated with the situation and wanted to talk with him. Maybe I shouldn’t have shoved him in the end, that may have escalated it a little bit more. It’s frustrating, there’s a lot of passion out there.

Added Logano: “I just wanted to see what he was going to say and he wasn’t apologetic at all, so that’s more frustrating when someone’s like that, isn’t it? That’s not what I was going for. I just wanted to see what his thoughts were. It wasn’t quite the answer I was looking for.

“It’s just the playoffs. It just happens. It’s part of it. Emotions run high.”

STAGE 1 WINNER: Martin Truex Jr.

STAGE 2 WINNER: In a three-lap shootout, Martin Truex Jr. passed Kyle Larson in the final turn to win the stage. Larson had stayed out under the preceding caution.

MORE: Race results, playoff standings

WHO HAD A GOOD RACE: William Byron matched his career-best finish and finished in the top five in consecutive races for the first time in his Cup career … Ryan Blaney earned his third top-five finish at Martinsville, matching Las Vegas for his most at a track … David Ragan finished a season-best 11th.

WHO HAD A BAD RACE: Ty Dillon finished 24th after he spun from contact with Daniel Hemric on Lap 177 … Playoff driver Chase Elliott finished 36th after a mechanical problem on his No. 9 Chevrolet during his pit stop following the Dillon caution … Clint Bowyer placed 35th after he suffered two cut tires and a broken track bar throughout the race … A multi-car wreck occurred with 138 laps to go involving Kyle Busch, Aric Almirola, Jimmie Johnson, Ryan Preece and Matt DiBenedetto. Almirola and Johnson were eliminated

NOTABLE: Martin Truex Jr.’s 464 laps led are the most led in a race since Kyle Petty led 484 in his October 1992 Rockingham win … Matt Crafton finished 25th in his role as a substitute driver for Matt Tifft, who missed her race due to medical issues.

QUOTE OF THE RACE: “I don’t give a damn.” – Martin Truex Jr. when asked by NBCSN about the Joey Logano-Denny Hamlin scuffle.

WHAT’S NEXT:  AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway at 3 p.m. ET on Nov. 2 on NBCSN

 

Martin Truex Jr. on Cole Pearn’s departure, what he seeks in next crew chief

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Martin Truex Jr. got a phone call from Cole Pearn on Sunday. Quickly, Truex had a very bad feeling about it.

“When he started talking it was in the back of my mind that, ‘This is not good. I feel like something big is about to come,'” Truex recalled. “Sure enough, it was surprising.”

Pearn had called to tell Truex what everyone else would learn the next day: after five years together, he was resigning as his crew chief and leaving NASCAR.

Truex discussed the end of Pearn’s tenure and what he wants from his next crew chief during a break from giving out Christmas toys to patients at Levine Children’s Hospital.

“Thought I could get a couple more years out of him, to be honest,” Truex said before admitting he completely understood Pearn’s reasons for getting out of NASCAR seemingly at the top of his game: a long season that keeps him from seeing his family.

“I understand the grind, I understand just how hard he has to work to produce a level of competition that he does,” Truex said. “I’ve seen it first hand, his hours and what’s he’s willing to do. I don’t know that there’s anyone in the garage willing to put as much work into racing as he did.”

He continued: “It’s time for him to move into doing something else. His kids are growing up too fast and he doesn’t get to see them that much. It was big decision for him and I know … he feels somewhat like he let all us down. I told him, ‘Hey, you’ve got to do what’s best for your family, we all understand and all our guys will understand, we’ll go on and try to the best with someone else filling his role.'”

When it comes to figuring who will take over as crew chief on the No. 19 Toyota, Truex said, “We’ve got a few guys in mind. I feel like we’re narrowing it down. We should know something in the next couple of days for sure.”

Whoever takes over will follow in the wake of a crew chief who worked with Truex to produce 24 wins in five seasons, four appearances in the Championship 4 and the 2017 Cup title.

How did half a decade of success with Pearn change what Truex wants from a crew chief?

“Honestly, that’s a good question,” Truex said. “Obviously, I need to find somebody that has his demeanor, a guy that approaches racing the way he does, because it’s kind of what works for me. I feel like we approach racing the same way, Cole and I did. Our attitudes and just the way we thought about things was so similar. We could almost finish each other’s sentences.

“It’s so weird, we’re so different people outside of racing. In racing, that’s just the way we grew up. Our dads racing and racing go-karts and moving up through the ranks ourselves. We just did things a lot the same and we had similar beliefs in the way we did things. Just kind of the same thought process.”

Truex believes he and Pearn “approached a lot of things together more so than me being a rookie and him being a veteran like it was when I first started.

“No question, he was really good at getting the most out of me and I’ll need somebody to do that,” Truex said. “I’m not the most outspoken guy and so I need sometimes somebody to pull that information out of me, especially when it comes to the cars and building the cars. When they’re not good enough, how do you make them better? He was really good at that. I feel good about the guys we’re talking to and we’ve got a few options there and hopefully it’ll work out.”

Kyle Busch Motorsports announces 2020 driver, crew chief lineup

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Kyle Busch Motorsports announced its driver-crew chief roster for the 2020 Gander Outdoors Truck Series season on Wednesday. It includes the addition of veteran Danny Stockman.

Stockman will be in charge of the No. 51 Toyota, which will be driven by Kyle Busch, Chandler Smith and more drivers to be announced at a later date.

Stockman was a long-time crew chief at Richard Childress Racing, most recently working with Austin Dillon in the Cup Series this season. He was Dillon’s crew chief when he won his titles in the Truck Series (2011) and Xfinity Series (2013).

Ryan “Rudy” Fugle will be paired with Christian Eckes on the No. 18 Toyota. Fugle worked on the No. 51 this year as it won six races, including all of Busch’s five wins and Greg Biffle‘s victory. Fugle has led KBM teams to five owner titles (2013, 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2019) and two driver titles (2015 and 2017).

Mike Hillman Jr. will be the crew chief for Raphael Lessard‘s rookie season in the No. 4 Toyota. Hillman has two Truck Series titles, including Toyota’s first in 2006 with Todd Bodine.

 

DGR-Crosley switches from Toyota to Ford beginning in 2020

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Ford Performance is strengthening its driver development program by joining forces with DGR-Crosley, which announced its move from Toyota to Ford Wednesday.

The multi-year agreement will see team co-owner David Gilliland, a former Cup Series driver, lead the team’s driver development program as it field entries in late models, the ARCA Menards Series and NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series.

“We’re very excited to have DGR-Crosley come to Ford as part of our long-term efforts to develop drivers for NASCAR,” said Mark Rushbrook, global director of Ford Performance Motorsports in a press release. “We have just scratched the surface of what is possible in developing the next generation of Ford drivers with people like Chase Briscoe, and we believe a coordinated effort with a team like DGR-Crosley will help move that process forward successfully.

“David Gilliland was a trusted and valued Ford driver in NASCAR for many years, and we look forward to renewing that relationship with him in this new effort.”

Said Gilliland: “I’m super excited about the partnership with Ford and how things are lining up for 2020. I spent a lot of time racing Fords throughout my career, and it’s really special to now be able to bring them into our race shop. A lot of time and consideration was spent on this decision, and internally we know that this is the move that we needed to make in order to advance our program to the top level. We have a great group of hard-working, talented people at DGR-Crosley, and with Ford coming on board, our future is really bright. We’re excited for all the things ahead.”

DGR-Crosley will announce its driver lineup at a later date.

The team first entered the Truck Series in 2018. Tyler Ankrum won its first race this year at Kentucky Speedway, qualifying for the playoffs in the process.

It fielded a team record five entries in the playoff race at ISM Raceway.

Brennan Poole to compete full-time for Premium Motorsports in Cup Series

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Former Xfinity Series driver Brennan Poole will compete full-time in the Cup Series in 2020 with Premium Motorsports, Poole announced Wednesday on social media.

Poole, 28, will drive the No. 15 Chevrolet and would make his Cup debut in the Daytona 500.

He joins a rookie class that includes Tyler Reddick, Christopher Bell and Cole Custer.

“I’ve been working towards this moment since I was 5 and feel blessed to have the caliber of people surrounding me that I have in this next chapter of my racing career,” Poole said in a press release. “I look forward to the opportunity to showcase our sponsor partners, both new and existing, who are supporting me at the highest level of NASCAR competition.”

Poole takes over the car that was driven by Ross Chastain in a majority of his Cup starts in 2019.

A native of The Woodlands, Texas, Poole drove for Chip Ganassi Racing in the Xfinity Series from 2016-17. His best finish was second in the 2017 race at Kentucky Speedway.

He made 13 starts in the Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series in 2019, driving for On Point Motorsports. His best result was second in the May race at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

“I’m very happy to welcome Brennan and his group to the Premium Motorsports family,” team owner Jay Robinson said in the press release. “Brennan is a very talented and dedicated young man, I believe he has a very bright future in the NASCAR Cup Series.”