First Data 500

What drivers said after Martinsville playoff race

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Martin Truex Jr., winner: “I don’t think anyone expected that (performance).  This racetrack 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.”

William Byron, finished second: “(Truex) was really strong. I could work my brake bias a little bit in the car and gain a little bit, and then I’d get to him and I’d heat him up a lot and then kind of fall back.  I don’t really know.  He was super strong.  Our car bounced a little bit on the short run, which was tough to kind of get around.  But overall it was a really good day.

“This isn’t a place that I’ve loved coming to, and it just clicked this weekend, the things we did with the car going into qualifying and then obviously our race.  Super excited, but second is not super fun, either.  We’ll try to get one spot better next time.”

Brad Keselowski, finished third: “I think that’s about all we had or maybe a little more than what we had.  We just kind of kept our head on our shoulders all day and made the most of what we had.  I was really proud of our team for that effort … Long green flag runs, a lot of aggressiveness, a lot of contact.  It was really tough to pass.  When you get behind somebody you’re way faster than that big spoiler would just kill you, but, all in all, a good day for us.”

Denny Hamlin, finished fourth: (What happened between you and Joey Logano?) “We were having a discussion, everything was civil, and then like Joey does, he does a little push and then runs away.  So that’s Joey.  Scared ‑‑ he said, ‘Do you want to go?’  I said, ‘Yes, I’m here.’  But then he runs away.

(What was the altercation on track that led to it?) “I got close off of Turn 4. It looks like we got together, and it looks like collateral damage. He blew a tire.  I mean, he would probably say, ‘Oh, short-track racing.'”

Ryan Blaney, finished fifth: “We were in the top five all day and I thought we had a good shot at second.  We weren’t good on short runs.  We were terrible for probably 30-40 laps and then we’d come alive and be great, but just didn’t have the speed.”

Kurt Busch, finished sixth: “We finished (sixth) which was the highest we ran all day. Wow, what perseverance and an ability to make adjustments during the race. … We were lucky with the right lane on the restarts. Thanks to Global Poker, Chevrolet, Monster Energy. We got a sixth. Really good day at Martinsville for us. Our teammate Kyle Larson got a top 10 as well.”

Kevin Harvick, finished seventh: “We got our car a lot better in the second half.  We made some major adjustments when we got to the end of the second stage and made our car a lot better.  We just didn’t quite get back up there.”

Joey Logano, finished eighth: (On his altercation with Denny Hamlin) “I just wanted to talk to him about it and was pretty frustrated.  He just kind of came off the corner like there wasn’t another car on the outside of him and ruined our day.  A 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, but we just were able to survive there.

“I don’t really know what happened because once he started hitting me he didn’t lift, he just kept finishing me off.  We ran each other fine all day, so I don’t know.  I don’t really know what happened.  He just kind of sends me up there and keeps on going with it.  Cut down my tires and fender rubs everywhere.

Kyle Larson, finished ninth: “This is my second best finish at Martinsville, so I’m really happy with that. We were able to steal some stage points as well, so we probably over achieved for how we usually run at Martinsville. I haven’t seen the points spread yet, but I would say we maintained from where we came in, so I’m happy about that.”

Ryan Newman, finished 10th: “We just out-tired there at the end.  Those other guys had tires and we didn’t and it didn’t work out the best for us.  It was a challenge.  They did a good job.  Our pit stops were awesome today.  That made a big difference and just came up short.”

Daniel Hemric, finished 17th: “It was a solid day for us here at Martinsville Speedway. We were just too loose and didn’t have the rear lateral grip we needed early in the race. We kept adjusting and kept trying to put ourselves in position to get the free pass or take the wave around, and finally late in the race we had something go our way that got us back on the lead lap. (Erik Jones) and (Michael McDowell) got together behind us once we were back on the lead lap and turned this Chevrolet Accessories Camaro ZL1 around. I hate that because I thought we were going to drive up into the top 15 pretty easily. It just wasn’t meant to be. We got a little too much damage to move forward at the end. All in all, just proud of these guys, proud of the effort and proud of the fight. We’ll roll on to Texas.”

Austin Dillon, finished 22nd: “I’m really proud of everyone on this No. 3 American Ethanol Chevrolet team for working hard all weekend and giving us a really solid car at Martinsville Speedway. We put up a fight all race long, which really helped us to stay on the lead lap and battle competitively in the top 12 throughout Stages 1 and 2. Early in Stage 3, we were racing hard with another car when we cut a tire and made contact with the outside wall. Our Chevy was just too loose after that, making it really hard to earn back the lap we lost while making repairs. We had a good fight, but this is not the finish we wanted today.”

Daniel Suarez, finished 31st: “We had a good car in the first stage, and we ran solidly in the top-10. The car got tight in the second stage. Not the day we were hoping for, but we still have three races to go.”

Clint Bowyer, finished 35th: “That was so disappointing. Our BlueDEF Mustang was fast, and we were just cruising a lot today. We made contact with a lapped car, and I think that’s how we got the flat but I don’t know. The track bar broke at the end and ended our race. We had a great car all weekend, and we deserved better today.”

Aric Almirola, finished 37th: “We just got together.  I got inside of him (Kyle Busch) getting down in turn three and he chopped me, and I got in his left-rear and moved him up a little bit and got inside of him, and then we hooked and got tangled up off of turn four.  It’s disappointing.  I had a really good Smithfield Ford Mustang and felt like we were maybe one adjustment away from being maybe a second or third-place car, so I’m proud of my guys, proud of the effort and we’ve got three more weeks.”

Jimmie Johnson, finished 38th: “I’m not sure what started those two cars spinning (No. 10 Aric Almirola and No. 18 Kyle Busch). While they were spinning, I made an early decision to go where I thought the road would be open but by the time I got there it was closed up. Wrong place, wrong time.

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

 

Corey LaJoie to carry ‘Scooby Doo’ paint scheme at Martinsville

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Rut-roh.

Popular cartoon character Scooby Doo will be featured as the theme on Corey LaJoie’s No. 32 Go Fas Racing Ford Mustang for the First Data 500 on Oct. 27 at Martinsville Speedway.

Long-time team sponsor Keen Parts/CorvetteParts.net will transform the team’s usual paint scheme to what it’s calling “the Mystery Machine” for the Martinsville race, which will be four days before Halloween.

“Scooby Doo was my favorite cartoon growing up, so when Tom and TJ (team co-sponsors Tom and TJ Keen) asked what I wanted to do for Martinsville, there was no doubt that I wanted to be driving the Mystery Machine,” LaJoie said in a media release. “They always have really cool themes behind their Halloween-weekend schemes and I’m excited to be part of this one and thankful for all that they do for our team.”

For last year’s fall race at Martinsville the team and sponsor combined for a purple and black Peanuts scheme that featured Snoopy and quickly became a much-talked about fan favorite.

“We are super excited to present this paint scheme to Corey to run at Martinsville,” said lTJ Keen. “This cartoon was his favorite as a kid and I bet it still is today. We cannot thank the team enough for letting us do these schemes and we hope you fans will enjoy it.”

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Dale Jr. Download: Did Roger Penske change opinion on last-lap contact?

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It was the shot heard around the racing world Sunday at Martinsville Speedway, where Joey Logano moved Martin Truex Jr. on the final lap for the win.

And it reminded Dale Earnhardt Jr. of another last-lap shot three years earlier at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

Regan Smith, driving for JR Motorsports, bumped Alex Tagliani of Team Penske out of the lead for the Xfinity Series win in the Aug. 15, 2015 race.

“Really what (Smith) did, he just pushed (Tagliani) off the road; there was no question what happened,” team owner Roger Penske told Claire B. Lang on SiriusXM after the race. “I guess if that’s the way these guys want to play, we’ll remember that. There will be another time.

“That, in my mind, didn’t give me the reason I’d hire a guy like Regan Smith, because he pushed a guy off on the last lap,” Penske added. “He should have raced him clean.”

During his weekly Dale Jr. Download podcast (video above starting around the 5:00 mark), Earnhardt was struck by how Penske’s opinion seemed markedly different when Team Penske’s Logano moved Truex in a fashion that wasn’t entirely dissimilar, causing Truex to brand it a “cheap shot.”

“(Truex is) a racer and should know better than to say that,” Logano’s car owner Roger Penske retorted after Logano’s victory advanced him to championship race in Miami. “That was as clean a shot as you can have in a race like this.”

Earnhardt was amused by the differing views.

“Roger said, ‘Well, Martin knows better, being a race car driver. That was probably the nicest shot he could have expected to get at a race like this,’ ” Earnhardt said. “(Penske was) saying Martin should be ashamed of saying (it was a cheap shot) being the race car driver he is … that he got handled with kid gloves.

“But! Do you remember Mid-Ohio? Pushing (Tagliani) out of the way in the last corner? You know what Roger said about that? I will never hire a driver that will win a race that way. So all right, think about that. It depends on who’s doing it. If it’s your favorite driver, boy, you’re all for it. If it’s your favorite driver getting bumped out of the way, it’s (expletive). Even if you’re Roger Fricking Penske.”

Whether Logano’s move was clean or dirty seemingly depended entirely on one’s perspective.

“He just ran in the back of me and knocked me out of the way,” Truex said on NBCSN after the race. “Short track racing, but what comes around, goes around. He just took a cheap shot at the end there.”

After Martinsville’s race, Denny Hamlin may have summed it up best: “It depends on who is doing it. If it’s your favorite driver, you love it. If (it’s not), it’s dirty.”

Some of the times that haunt a driver most are when he’s too nice, according to Earnhardt.

“I’ve been a nice guy,” Earnhardt said. “There’s a lot of those moments in my career that I certainly regret. … You relive every race that you didn’t win. What you could have done differently. What you should have done. There’s moments when I know… if I’d been more aggressive. Or I could have run over the guy. So when I see Martin doing that I’m like ‘Argh, Martin come on, don’t do this again. ‘ ”

In the video above, Earnhardt also described a battle between himself and Kevin Harvick in the April 3, 2011 race at Martinisville when he unsuccessfully tried to move Harvick in the closing laps after yielding the lead.

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NASCAR America: Playoff crew chiefs look back at Martinsville, prepare for Texas

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Even though Kyle Busch left Martinsville with a 46-point advantage over the cutoff line, crew chief Adam Steven is cautious about how the playoff picture is shaping up entering Sunday’s race at Texas Motor Speedway (3 p.m. ET on NBCSN).

But that team is not the only one with questions with two races left to determine the drivers who will race for the championship in Miami.

Clint Bowyer, who is 42 points behind the cutoff line, practically needs to win to advance to Miami.

NASCAR America’s Kelli Stavast visited the shops of three playoff teams and talked to crew chiefs about what went right at Martinsville, what went wrong and their outlook for the remainder of the Round of 8.

Busch was one of the favorites to win last week’s race after securing the pole and running well in practice. He finished fourth. Stevens does not consider a trip to championship spot entirely safe.

“The cutline is flexible,” Stevens told NASCAR America. “It depends on how many (playoff) winners and non-(playoff) winners we have. We know for a fact there’s going to be one car get in on points, but it might only be one and it could be three. If someone could tell me what that number is going to be, I’d feel a lot better about it. The main thing is we try to keep that lead over the 78 and the 4.”

While Busch can be encouraged by a strong Martinsville run, Bowyer had a series of misfortunes that left him a lap off the pace in 21st. It was the third time in the playoffs that he finished outside the top 20.

The team expected to contend for the victory, given its win at Martinsville in March.

“It was way more of a struggle than we were anticipating,” Bowyer’s crew chief Mike Bugarewicz said. “Qualifying well, really competitive in practice, really close in setup. … That car pretty much sat in the corner ready to go back to (Martinsville); never raced anywhere else all year. We were a little shocked.

“I’m some senses I really felt like in the position we were in, no matter what, you were going to have to win one of these races to move on. I don’t think our position approaching the next two races really changes. Gotta just try and win one if we can.”

Chase Elliott entered Martinsville fourth in the standings, three points above the cutline. He finished in the top 10 (seventh), but left the short track 31 points behind.

When Stavast visited the Hendrick Motorsports’ shop, Elliott’s crew chief Alan Gustafson told her if a team is too stressed out or anxious, it’s just a sign they are preparing for failure.

Elliott has a strong record at both Texas (four top 10s in five starts) and Phoenix (second last fall, third this spring), so they expect to be very relaxed.

For more, watch the videos above.

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