Martinsville winners and losers


A look at the winners and losers following Saturday night’s race at Martinsville Speedway


William ByronSure, passing was difficult during the 403-lap race, but don’t confuse that as an undeserving win for Byron. The 24-year-old is now in his fifth Cup season and has adapted quickly to the Next Gen car — and better than most. Byron has the third-best average running position in the series through eight races (10.425) behind only Ryan Blaney and Chase Elliott and now has two victories this year, the first time he’s won multiple races in a season. Despite his youth, Byron is quickly challenging as a leader in an already-stacked Hendrick Motorsports lineup.

Joey Logano: Logano finished second at Martinsville and is still seeking his first points-paying win of the season, but perhaps there was a benefit to his success at the Clash at the Coliseum in February. On the quarter-mile track built inside the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, Logano cruised to victory in the exhibition race. The track shape and size differs from Martinsville, but short tracks provide learning opportunities nonetheless, and the No. 22 Ford posted the third-best average running position of the night and the fifth-most fastest laps, according to NASCAR’s loop data.

Austin Dillon: Dillon has already turned in a few impressive runs this season and added another Saturday night, finishing third at Martinsville. The No. 3 Chevrolet was second and reeling in Byron the longer the race progressed, but Dillon spun his tires on the overtime restart after choosing to restart behind Byron. Saturday marks Dillon’s second top-five finish of the year and third consecutive top 10.

Ross Chastain: Chastain was out of the picture for much of the race at Martinsville, averaging a 14.5 running position all night. But the No. 1 Chevrolet was in the mix when it mattered most, taking the checkered flag in fifth place and notching his fifth top five in the last six races. Chastain and his crew took a step back at Richmond where they finished 19th, but Saturday night shows that was likely an outlier.

Chase Elliott: Elliott was flawless throughout the opening two stages, leading each of the first 185 laps and scoring each of the stage victories, but the 2020 series champion couldn’t overcome losing even just one position on pit road. With passing difficult, Elliott never recovered from losing the lead to Byron during the Stage 2 break and finished 10th. Thanks to his stage points though and notable consistency, Elliott leaves Martinsville with the points lead and fifth top 10. The No. 9 team’s lone finish outside the top 15 is 26th, which was the result of late contact for the lead at Auto Club with teammate Kyle Larson.


Denny Hamlin: It’s rare to see any Joe Gibbs Racing car struggle as badly as Hamlin’s No. 11 Toyota did all weekend. Hamlin, a five-time winner at the paperclip-shaped oval, never showed strong pace in practice before qualifying 25th. The race didn’t go any better, as he was lapped early and never recovered en route to a 28th-place finish, three laps down. Richmond looked to be positive sign. as Hamlin went to victory lane for his first top-10 finish of the year. But the struggles returned in an ugly way Saturday night.

Martin Truex Jr.Truex had won three of the prior five Martinsville events. But the No. 19 car was off all night, averaging an 18.64 running position before finishing 22nd, two laps down. Truex, along with Daniel Suarez, fell four spots in the points, relegating Truex to seventh after an impressive race at Richmond one week earlier that saw him lead 80 laps and win a stage.

Cole CusterCuster qualified third and proved early that was no fluke as the No. 41 Ford ran inside the top five for the entirety of the first two stages. But one pit road penalty derailed the Stewart-Haas Racing driver’s day. Following a pit stop at the conclusion of Stage 2, Custer was penalized for a tire violation, sending him to the rear of the field for the restart. Custer was unable to recover and finished 21st, one lap down.

Kyle Larson: Larson has never excelled at Martinsville, but Saturday proved to be another tough ride for the defending series champ. Larson averaged a 13.03 running position but ultimately finished 19th, the result certainly impacted by a speeding penalty on pit road at Lap 303 under green-flag conditions. Larson has finished 19th or worse in five of the season’s opening eight races. His other three results are all top fives, including a win at Auto Club.

Christopher BellBell showed strong speed throughout Saturday’s race and battled inside the top five much of the night. But a pass-through penalty was issued to the No. 20 team for his crew members leaping over the wall too soon on pit road. Despite averaging a 9.57 running position, Bell wound up 20th, the first car one lap down.

Helio Castroneves rules out Daytona 500

Helio Castroneves Daytona 500
Robert Scheer/Indy Star/USA TODAY NETWORK

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Helio Castroneves might be at the 2023 Daytona 500, but the four-time Indy 500 winner won’t be in a race car.

During a news conference Thursday at Daytona International Speedway, Castroneves confirmed in response to a question from NBC Sports that he essentially has ruled out attempting to make his NASCAR Cup Series debut in the Feb. 19 season opener.

As recently as last Thursday at Rolex 24 Media Day, Castroneves, 47, said he still was working on trying to piece together a deal.

The Brazilian had been negotiating with the Cup team co-owned by boxer Floyd Mayweather and would have been in an “open” entry that lacked guaranteed entry to the Great American Race. That potentially would leave him in the precarious position of needing to make the race on qualifying speed or a qualifying race finish (as action sports star Travis Pastrana likely might need in his Cup debut).

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“Unfortunately for me, lack of experience, no testing,” Castroneves said. “A lot of things. I believe it would be a little bit tough throwing myself in such a short notice, and to go in a place that you’ve got to race yourself into it. So as of right now, yes, it’s not going to happen.

“But we did have an opportunity. We just got to elaborate a little bit more to give me a little more experience on that. So there is more things to come ahead of us, but as of right now, I want to focus on the IndyCar program as well and (the Rolex 24 at Daytona).”

Castroneves, who has a residence in Key Biscayne, said he still might attend the Daytona 500

“I might just come and see and watch it and continue to take a look and see what’s going to be in the future,” he said.

Castroneves enters Saturday’s Rolex 24 at Daytona having won the event the past two years. He made his signature fence-climb after winning last year with Meyer Shank Racing, which he will be driving for full time in the NTT IndyCar Series this year. He became the fourth four-time Indy 500 winner in history in his 2021 debut with Meyer Shank Racing.

The 2020 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar champion also has indicated an interest in Trackhouse Racing’s Project 91 car that aims to place international drivers in a Cup ride (such as Kimi Raikkonen at Watkins Glen International last year). Team co-owner Justin Marks recently tweeted Trackhouse wouldn’t field the Project 91 car at the Daytona 500.

After winning the 2022 Superstar Racing Experience opener, SRX CEO Don Hawk had promised he would help secure a Daytona 500 ride for Castroneves.

Castroneves has been angling for a NASCAR ride for years, dating to when he drove for Team Penske from 2000-20. After winning the Rolex 24 last year, he said he had been lobbying Ray Evernham and Tony Stewart for help with getting in a Cup car.

Fire at Reaume Brothers Racing shop injures three


A Thursday fire at the Reaume Brothers Racing shop in Mooresville, North Carolina, injured three individuals, according to Mooresville (North Carolina) Fire-Rescue.

Firefighters were dispatched to the shop, which is scheduled to field entries for driver Mason Massey in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series this season, at about 11:30 a.m. Thursday.

The fire department extinguished the blaze quickly. The department stated on its Facebook page that one individual was transported to Lake Norman Regional hospital for smoke inhalation, and another was transported to Baptist Hospital in Winston-Salem, N.C. with burn injuries. A third was treated and released.

The Mooresville Fire Marshall’s office is investigating the cause of the fire. The fire department said the shop sustained “significant fire damage.”

In a tweet, the team said it is determining the extent of damage to the building. “More importantly,” it said, “a few of our team members did sustain injuries during the fire and are being transported for medical treatment.”

Trackhouse, RFK Racing, Front Row Motorsports sign sponsorship deals


Trackhouse Racing, RFK Racing and Front Row Motorsports announced sponsorship deals Thursday morning.

Trackhouse said WWEX, a Dallas-based global logistics group, will increase its sponsorship presence with the team this year, serving as the primary sponsor in 21 races for drivers Ross Chastain and Daniel Suarez.

WWEX will appear on Chastain’s Chevrolets in 19 races and will sponsor Suarez twice. The organization was a Trackhouse sponsor in 11 events in 2022, which was a breakout season for both Chastain and Suarez.

RFK announced that Solomon Plumbing, which joined the team last season, will expand its presence this season and in future years. The Michigan-based company will serve as the primary sponsor for several races on driver Brad Keselowski‘s No. 6 Ford.

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Solomon specializes in plumbing and fire services for new development and construction. It initially sponsored Keselowski last season in the dirt race at Bristol Motor Speedway.

Front Row Motorsports has signed Quincy Compressor, a Bay Minette, Ala.-based compressor manufacturer, as a sponsor for four races.

Quincy will sponsor Todd Gilliland‘s No. 38 team in three events and Michael McDowell‘s No. 34 team in one race.



Stewart-Haas Racing signs Chase Briscoe to contract extension


Chase Briscoe has signed a multiyear contract extension to remain at Stewart-Haas Racing, the team announced Thursday.

The length of the deal was not announced.

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Briscoe is entering his third Cup season with the team. He won his first series race last year, taking the checkered flag at Phoenix last March. That victory put him in the playoffs. He finished the season ninth in the standings. 

“It’s huge to have stability, with my team and my partner,” Briscoe said in a statement from the team. “It just gives you more confidence. Stewart-Haas Racing is where I want to be for a long time. It’s the place I’ve known longer than anywhere else in my NASCAR career.

“I remember getting signed by Ford in 2017 and I told people, ‘You know, if I could pick one place to be, it would be Stewart- Haas Racing. And if I could drive one car, it would be the 14 car. That would be the ultimate dream.’ And now, here I am.

“SHR has such a great group of people, from the Xfinity Series to the Cup Series, and they’ve all just guided me in the right direction. From drivers to crew chiefs to crew members, they’ve always had my back, and that’s been a huge help – just having people believe in you.”

The 28-year-old Briscoe has been with SHR since 2018. He split a limited Xfinity schedule that season between what is now RFK Racing and SHR. He ran full time with SHR in the Xfinity Series in 2019 and ’20 before moving to Cup in 2021.

“Chase has made the most of every opportunity and the proof is in the results. Keeping him at SHR was a priority and we’re proud to have him in our racecars for many more years to come,” said Tony Stewart, who co-owns SHR with Haas Automation founder Gene Haas, in a statement from the team. 

Briscoe’s signing comes two weeks after teammate Kevin Harvick announced that this will be his final season in Cup. 

The Cup season begins Feb. 5 with the Busch Clash at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum before going to Daytona for the Feb. 19 Daytona 500.