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Friesen tops Kyle Busch to take pole for Martinsville truck race

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Stewart Friesen outdueled Kyle Busch to gain the pole for this afternoon’s TruNorth Global 250 Gander Outdoors Truck Series race at Martinsville Speedway.

Friesen covered the 0.526-mile, paper clip-shaped oval with a speed at 96.465 mph. It’s the third career pole in the Truck Series for the Canadian driver.

“Our Chevy was fast, we made a couple small air pressure adjustments and a little bit of track bar there for the last round, and it held up,” Friesen told FS1. “They pay the money at the end of the race, though. That’s what we’re concerned about now.”

Friesen will be seeking his first career Truck Series win in today’s race.

Busch was second fastest at 96.366 mph.

“Overnight, we made a ton of changes,” Busch told FS1. “Hopefully, we can get this Tundra to where we want it to be and where it’ll be good on the long runs. Long runs are going to be important.

“It’s going to be all about track position and staying out front and seeing what we can get. It was a top-five truck yesterday. Hopefully, it’ll be a top-three truck now.”

Busch, who earned his 200th career NASCAR victory last Sunday at Fontana, California, will be making his 10th career start in a truck at Martinsville. He has one win (March 2016), five top fives and six top-10 finishes at the track.

Todd Gilliland (96.249 mph) was third fastest, followed by Sheldon Creed (96.200), Brett Moffitt (96.180) and Matt Crafton (96.132).

The rest of the top 12 qualifiers were: Raphael Lessard (96.083), Johnny Sauter (96.015), Austin Hill (95.550), Ross Chastain (95.468), Derek Kraus (95.266) and Austin Dillon (95.165).

Click here for the full qualifying results.

Today’s 250-lap/131-mile race will take the green flag shortly after 2 p.m. ET (FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).

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Updated entry lists for Cup, Truck at Martinsville

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Here are the entry lists for this weekend’s races.

Cup – STP 500 (2 p.m. ET Sunday on Fox Sports 1)

Thirty-six cars are entered for the sixth Cup race of the year. D.J. Kennington is listed in the No. 77 Spire Motorsports entry.

Jeb Burton is entered in Rick Ware Racing’s No. 52 Ford.

Click here for the entry list.

Gander Outdoors Truck – Martinsville 250 (2 p.m. ET Saturday on Fox Sports 1)

Thirty-nine trucks are entered. Those also entered in the Cup race are Kyle Busch, Austin Dillon and Ross Chastain. Bubba Wallace is entered in AM Racing’s No. 22 truck.

Click here for the entry list.

Daytona 500 winners and losers

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WINNERS

Joe Gibbs Racing — Team goes 1-2-3 in the Daytona 500 with Denny Hamlin winning a day after the organization placed two cars in the top six in the Xfinity race.

Small teams — Michael McDowell (Front Row Motorsports) finished fifth, Ty Dillon (Germain Racing) finished sixth and was Chevrolet’s top finisher, rookie Ryan Preece (JTG Daugherty Racing) placed eighth and Ross Chastain (Premium Motorsports) finished 10th.

Fans — They didn’t see the single-file racing that was so evident in the Clash, qualifying races and Xfinity race.

Parker Kligerman — He finished 15th, highest among non-chartered teams.

LOSERS

Decision-making by drivers — The last 25 laps saw a 21-car crash, a seven-car crash and a nine-car crash. Said Kyle Busch of what caused the damage: “Brains come unglued.”

Race length — With talk of shortening races, the Daytona 500 took 3 hours, 45 minutes. That doesn’t include nearly 40 minutes of red flag time. The time of the race was the longest for the Daytona 500 since the 2011 event, which lasted 3 hours, 59 minutes. This race will always be 500 miles but lasting more than four hours (when including the red flags) is not what the sport is seeking.

Hendrick Motorsports pole-sitters — William Byron gave Hendrick Motorsports its fifth consecutive Daytona 500 pole. None of those cars, though, have finished the race better than 14th. Byron placed 21st. The average finishing position for the last five Daytona pole winners is 24.4.

Bubba Wallace — A year after finishing second in the Daytona 500, Wallace placed 38th after he was collected in a crash.

Luckiest break in Ross Chastain’s career-best finish? Starting the race

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – The secret to running four consecutive races (two of which were crashfests) at Daytona International Speedway without wrecking?

Ross Chastain flashed his toothy smile.

“I know, man,” he said Sunday night after taking 10th in the Daytona 500, his career-best finish in NASCAR’s premier series. “It’s luck for sure. Definitely luck!”

The part-time watermelon farmer from Alva, Florida, deserves the credit for keeping his race vehicles clean and racking up solid finishes on successive days in the Daytona 500 qualifier, trucks, Xfinity and Cup.

But Chastain also acknowledged there was some serious good fortune that kept him in Premium Motorsports’ No. 15 Chevrolet for Speedweeks and likely the rest of the season.

“I’d like to think that’s why I was in the car, right? That’s why Jay Robinson kept me in it,” Chastain said. “He had offers for other people to put in it, but he said he really thought if he kept me in it, he’d make his money back.

“You can ask him, he’s right behind you.”

OK, Jay Robinson, how many offers did you have from other drivers who would have been accompanied by more funding than Chastain?

“There were two with a lot of money,” Robinson said. “We came here with no sponsorship. I turned down a lot of offers and situations that would have required other drivers, and I’m committed to Ross.

“He’s committed to us. We don’t have contracts. We have a handshake agreement, but he’s good for it. I love working with Ross. I hope we can run a long time together. More than just this season.”

Chastain showed why he might be the driver who punches above his weight harder than any other in NASCAR’s national series. He finished third of nine cars that finished the truck race Friday and then led 23 laps in a 13th in the Xfinity race Saturday.

But Sunday might have been his most impressive performance. After falling two laps down, he rallied to give Robinson’s team only its second top 10 in 231 starts in the Cup Series.

“Man, I said it this morning, we’re going to use up all our luck this weekend, and I might come back here for five years and crash, right?” Chastain laughed. “You just don’t know, so you just take it when you can get it, and luckily had a plan in the truck race knowing they were going to crash. In the Xfinity race, we got lucky because we went in the race and nobody did crash — good thing we did race — and tonight went in from the beginning to just ride.

“We got two laps down at one point, but the car was fast enough to keep up. It was just a matter of timing our gaps and trying to stay in that second pack.”

After an uncertain offseason in which he lost a championship-caliber Xfinity ride with Chip Ganassi Racing because of a sponsor controversy, Chastain is soldiering on in NASCAR. He will split a full schedule in Xfinity with JD Motorsports and Kaulig Racing and is planning to run the full year in Cup with Premium (last year, he raced in every Cup race but Daytona and Sonoma for Robinson).

“(Robinson) committed to me last year that he’d run me,” Chastain said. “He stuck by it on this one. We’ll go out to Sonoma I guess and try to figure out my way around a road course. I’m not great at them, but he wants me in the car, so I want to be there for him.

“We’ll see how the season goes. If we get way behind on our budget and tear up a bunch of stuff and blow our bottom line and need to make it up, he’s got to do what he’s got to do. It’s a business. I understand that. I’ll use this to my advantage as much as I can.”

Garrett Smithley, Stephen Leicht to compete for JD Motorsports in Xfinity

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JD Motorsports continues to fill out its driver lineup for the 2019 Xfinity season with announcements that Garrett Smithley and Stephen Leicht will compete for the team.

Smithley, 26, returns to drive for the team for the fourth consecutive year. He will pilot the No. 0 Chevrolet.

The Feb. 16 season-opener at Daytona International Speedway will be his 100th series start.

“I’ve been working hard this offseason to make my fourth year with JDM the best ever, I think it will be,” Smithley said in a press release. “I’m so blessed to be given the opportunity to race here by Johnny and all my sponsors. Daytona will be my 100th Xfinity start and all but two of those races have been at JDM. It’s an amazing race team and family, and I can’t wait to get this season going.”

Leicht, 32, is set to drive the No. 01 Chevrolet in his first full-time season since 2007 with Robert Yates Racing. That season he won his only NASCAR race at Kentucky Speedway.

Daytona will also be his 100th series start.

“I’m super stoked about my opportunity to drive for Johnny Davis,” Leicht said in a press release. “He has competitive cars with smart people in his stable and I’m looking forward to seeing what the season brings.”

Jani-King will be an associate sponsor of Leicht this season.

“Stephen is a great talent to have in our arsenal this season at JD Motorsports,” owner Johnny Davis said in a press release. “With his experience spanning nearly ten years in the series, we are confident that he will be able to take care of his equipment, which as we all know is very important for family teams. I am genuinely looking forward to seeing how he can improve our operations this season with all the knowledge he brings to the team.”

The announcements for Smithley and Leicht follow the news that Ross Chastain will return to drive the No. 4 Chevrolet in 30 races, in addition to competing in three races for Kaulig Racing.