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March 30 in NASCAR History: Denny Hamlin earns first Martinsville win

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Back in the late 2000s, Martinsville Speedway might as well have been called Johnsonville Speedway.

Entering the March 30, 2008 race there, Jimmie Johnson had won the previous three races on NASCAR’s oldest track and he had four total since 2004.

By spring 2009 he’d bring that total to six, but not before a Virginia native provided a respite from Johnson’s domination.

Denny Hamlin, in his third full-time season Cup, started second on a dreary, misty day in Virginia that saw the race slowed by 18 cautions. Hamlin led 87 laps around the half-mile track, including the final 74.

Johnson wasn’t a factor in the finish, but Hamlin saw another driver with deep Martinsville history in his rear-view mirror. Hamlin had to hold off Jeff Gordon, then a seven-time Martinsville winner, over the final few laps.

“Finally, the curse is over I think, I hope,” Hamlin told Fox. “We had such bad luck over these last few weeks. It finally feels good to come here and get a win in front of the home town fans. Can’t wait. This is a sign of things to come I believe.”

It would turn out to be his only win of 2008, just like 2007. But within two years, Hamlin would have three more Martinsville grandfather clocks.

The race at Martinsville was also the first career Cup start for Michael McDowell, who drove the No. 00 Toyota for Michael Waltrip Racing.

Also on this date:

1952: Herb Thomas led all 200 laps from the pole to win a Cup race at North Wilkesboro.

1980: A year after winning his first career Cup Series race at Bristol, Dale Earnhardt went back to victory lane at the half-mile track, winning a second straight race following a victory at Atlanta. Richard Petty was scored as finishing eighth in the race, but he was relieved in the event by Richard Childress, according to “Forty Years of Stock Car Racing: The Modern Era.”

2014: Kurt Busch claims a victory at Martinsville Speedway for his first win with Stewart-Haas Racing and his first win since 2011.

What drivers said after iRacing race at virtual Texas

Photo: NASCAR
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Timmy Hill — Winner: I definitely rank (the win) up there (among career achievements). The reason being is just because the platform is being televised on FOX, having essentially the entire NASCAR audience tuning in. I’ve won a lot of iRacing races. It’s neat to win on there. It’s really neat to win against your competitors that you race each and every Sunday.  … For me personally, what I’ll gain from this is recognition. For us, it’s hard to get that recognition because of the level of competition that we are in real life.  We’re doing our best. Frankly, we just don’t have the money, the dollars, to compete at a high level.  Every once in a while we’ll get a big sponsor and you’ll see us exceed normal expectations for us, like at Daytona where we had a really good Daytona 500 car, really good Xfinity car.  We finished third in the Xfinity race, made the Daytona 500. Every once in a while we’ll get that big payday and we can really reinvest in our race team. But most weekends we got to kind of do the best we can with the dollars we have. This win will hopefully gain some recognition and attract more sponsors for us maybe in the real world when we get back racing because they know Timmy Hill from iRacing.”

Ryan Preece — Finished 2nd:

 

Garrett Smithley — Finished 3rd: 

 

Alex Bowman — Finished 5th:

 

Dale Earnhardt Jr. — Finished 6th:

 

William Byron — Finished 7th:

 

John Hunter Nemechek — Finished 8th:

 

Kurt Busch — Finished 10th:

Clint Bowyer — Finished 11th: “Today was all about survival, guys. I needed a redo for my Rush Truck Centers Ford Mustang because I got together with (Greg) Biffle, ‘The Biff’, off of (Turn) two. I guess we were three-wide. I didn’t realize we were three-wide. My spotter Jeff Gordon, I had to fire him halfway through the race and moved to Larry McReynolds. Larry said nothing when we were three-wide and I wrecked and collected a bunch of them. But again, a great time was had by all. Timmy Hill, big win for him and his brand. It’s going to be a lot of fun to compete in this over the next few weeks. But, man we are all in this together! Looking forward to next week.”

Parker Kligerman — Finished 12th:

 

Bobby Labonte — Finished 13th:

 

Michael McDowell — Finished 14th:

 

Kyle Busch — Finished 17th:

Jimmie Johnson — Finished 19th:

Chase Elliott — Finished 20th:

 

Erik Jones — Finished 21st:

 

Bubba Wallace — Finished 25th:

Alex Labbe — Finished 26th:

 

Austin Dillon — Finished 29th:

 

Ty Majeski — Finished 30th:

 

Ruben Garcia Jr. — Finished 31st:

 

Greg Biffle — Finished 32nd:

 

Daniel Suarez — Finished 33rd:

 

Anthony Alfredo — Finished 35th:

NASCAR’s top 5 moments from Texas Motor Speedway

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Today would have seen the Cup Series take to the 1.5-mile Texas Motor Speedway just outside Fort Worth. The race would have been the 39th Cup Series event at the track since it opened in 1997.

Like last weekend with Homestead-Miami Speedway, we’re taking a trip down memory lane to look at five of the most memorable NASCAR moments seen at the track.

Here’s our list:

 

 1) Jeff Gordon gets in a fight, Part II (2014)

“He’s just a dipshit!”

Jeff Gordon gave the NASCAR world whiplash after the Texas playoff race six years ago.

First, he got in a Kevin Harvick-induced scuffle with Brad Keselowski and their respective crew members on pit road. Then he cursed on live television to show he was really mad with Keselowski for making contact with him on a late-race restart and cutting down a tire while battling at the front.

As you’ll see later, Gordon’s temper is just bigger in Texas.

 

2) Dale Earnhardt Jr. wins a Cup race (2000)

You know what’s better than winning your first career Xfinity Series race at a track in 1998?

Winning your first career Cup race at that same track two years later.

Good things happened to Dale Earnhardt Jr. at Texas Motor Speedway early in his career. On April 2, 2000, Earnhardt took his No. 8 Budweiser to victory lane, earning his first Cup victory in his 12th career start. He led 106 of 334 laps and beat Jeff Burton, who also got his first Cup win at Texas three years before.

 

3) Kyle Busch gets parked (2011)

What happens when you intentionally wreck a competitor under caution?

You get “parked” by NASCAR for the rest of the weekend.

That’s the position Kyle Busch found himself in after he did just that to Ron Hornaday Jr. in a Truck Series race.

After Hornaday and Busch made contact in the middle of a three-wide pass, both of them got into the outside wall, causing the caution. As they entered Turn 3, Busch began roughing up the back of Hornaday’s truck, causing Hornaday to be turned nose first into the outside wall.

When the green flag dropped on that weekend’s Cup race, Michael McDowell was driving Busch’s No. 18 car and Busch’s bank account had $50,000 less in it.

 

4) Elliott Sadler crosses the finish line first … barely (2004)

When Elliott Sadler won his first Cup race in 2001, he did it for the historic Wood Brothers Racing at Bristol Motor Speedway.

Sadler would have to wait three years for another visit to victory lane, but he made it count.

Now with Robert Yates Racing, Sadler dueled with Kasey Kahne for the win in Texas’ spring race, and edged Kahne by .028 seconds in a side-by-side finish.

Sadler would only have to wait 18 races for his third – and final – Cup win, at Auto Club Speedway.

 

5) Jeff Gordon gets in a fight, Part I (2010)

It’s been a decade, but yes, Jeff Gordon got into two scuffles at Texas Motor Speedway during his career.

While under caution for a Martin Truex Jr. incident on Lap 191, Gordon was involved in a wreck with another Jeff by the name of Burton.

Burton’s car turned left into Gordon’s rear bumper. The contact sent both cars into the wall at the exit of Turn 2.

Gordon was not pleased, going after Burton and having to be separated by safety workers before it got out of hand.

Burton later took full responsibility for the accident.

Meanwhile, Denny Hamlin won that day, completing a sweep of that year’s Texas races. During the race, Hamlin’s main competition for the championship, Jimmie Johnson, got a new pit crew after multiple slow pit stops. His team swapped crews with Gordon’s. The move came with two races left in the season.

Mike Ford, Hamlin’s crew chief, called the switch a “desperation move.

“They just took their team out of it,” Ford said. “This is more about trying to win a championship for (Hendrick Motorsports) and not (Johnson’s) team.”

Two weeks later, Johnson won his fifth consecutive title.

Today’s iRacing Cup race at virtual Texas: Start time and more

Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images
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Round two of the eNASCAR Pro Invitational iRacing Series takes place today with competitors racing at a virtual Texas Motor Speedway.

Denny Hamlin won last weekend’s race at a virtual Homestead-Miami Speedway, passing Dale Earnhardt Jr. on the last lap. The viewership of the race on FS1 set a record for an eSports event on TV.

More than 30 current and former Cup drivers are scheduled to take part in today’s race.

Here is the information on today’s virtual race:

(All times are Eastern)

DIGNITARIES: Troy Aikman will serve as the grand marshal. Bob Weir, founding member of the Grateful Dead, will perform the National Anthem.

PRERACE: Practice begins at noon. Qualifying begins at 12:50 p.m. Warmup begins at 12:54 p.m.

GREEN FLAG: Scheduled to wave at 1:13 p.m.

DISTANCE: The O’Reilly Auto Parts 125 is 125 laps (187.5 miles) around the virtual 1.5-mile oval.

TV/RADIO: FOX and FS1 will televise the virtual race. Coverage begins at 1 p.m. The race also can be seen on the Fox Sports App.

RULES: Since it is an exhibition race, drivers will get one full repair in case they are involved in any incidents. It is fixed setups on all the cars.

CUP DRIVERS SCHEDULED TO COMPETE: Kurt Busch, Austin Dillon, Ross Chastain, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Chase  Elliott, Denny Hamlin, Ryan Blaney, Ty Dillon, Clint Bowyer, Chris Buescher, Kyle Busch, Erik Jones, Matt DiBenedetto, William Byron, Tyler Reddick, Michael McDowell, Ryan Preece, John Hunter Nemechek, Kyle Larson, Bubba Wallace, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Jimmie Johnson, Garrett Smithley, Timmy Hill, Alex Bowman, Christopher Bell and Daniel Suarez.

ALSO RACING: Greg Biffle, Bobby Labonte, Parker Kligerman and Landon Cassill.

ADVANCING FROM QUALIFYING RACE: Alex Labbe, Anthony Alfredo, Ty Majeski and Ruben Garcia Jr.

STARTING LINEUP:  Qualifying is at 12:50 p.m.

WHAT DRIVERS ARE SAYING: 

CLINT BOWYER: “For me, iRacing gives me a chance to drive something I’ve always wanted to drive, but never had the chance. That’s why I love iRacing, and I love the fact that this Pro Invitational Series has made more people aware of iRacing. Now, that means more eyeballs on us this Sunday, so I need to step up my game and put my Rush Truck Centers Ford Mustang up front.”

KYLE BUSCH: “It was quite interesting last week. Ty Gibbs offered me up his rig because I did not have one and I was over at his place last weekend running on his rig. I made some phone calls this week to see who had one since I’m hoping after maybe six weeks we can get back to the racetrack and do what we do each week and I won’t really need to have one. So I’m going on the borrowed train right now for my rig.”

AUSTIN DILLON: “I learned a lot at the virtual Homestead-Miami Speedway last weekend. We were able to get up to the top 10 for a little while but it was a messy race for us. I’ve been practicing a lot for Sunday’s race at Texas Motor Speedway and the setup seems better this week. I’m also looking forward to a bit of drafting this week. I hope these eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series races tide us over until we get to the real racetrack, because this is fun but I’m looking forward to get back to real racing!”

ERIK JONES: “I honestly did not know how I’d do in last week’s race at Homestead. It had been forever since I last went iRacing, so it was like I was a rookie all over again. But things came to me fairly quickly, although I’m still nowhere near where I want to be. Performance aside, I think we all came away from that race impressed with how the entire industry rallied around it, and fans seemed to like it too. Now we’re on big FOX this Sunday, so even more people will be watching. Obviously, that’s good, but it does kind of ramp up the pressure. You want to do well. Even though it’s a simulation, we’re all competitors and we want to win. And it’s appropriate that I’ve got CRAFTSMAN on my Toyota Camry this Sunday at Texas. I moved into a new house this week and between putting furniture together, hanging stuff up and even fixing a few things that broke, if I wasn’t carrying a box I was carrying a screwdriver or a wrench. iRacing practice time took a backseat to the move, so I hope my limited practice time doesn’t show up in the race.”

MICHAEL McDOWELL: “Now that drivers have had some time to get comfortable with making the switch from racing in person to racing in a virtual realm, I can imagine that we will see a lot of hard racing this weekend that is hopefully entertaining for the fans tuning in. My Love’s Travel Stops Ford Mustang is ready to go and I’m excited to be back racing for the second consecutive Sunday. I would also like to thank all of the guys at the shop for working so hard this week to build me a custom simulator to race on. With the overwhelming responses from drivers that are eager to be part of the eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series, most of the simulators in and around the Charlotte, North Carolina area have been either rented out or purchased, leaving me with limited options to be able to compete in the series. Thankfully, my guys were able to put one together for me, so hopefully I can make them proud this weekend.”

JOHN HUNTER NEMECHEK: “Honestly, it doesn’t matter that we’re not physically racing in person; as a driver, you just want to get out there and turn laps. We’re still a very competitive group by nature and we all want to put on a great show for everyone watching.”

TYLER REDDICK: “The virtual track races identical to what Texas Motor Speedway was before the traction compound was introduced, and creates those crazy runs into Turn 1 with the current Cup package. Figuring out how to manage the front tires and keep someone from getting inside going into Turn 1 will be key for this virtual race.”

DANIEL SUAREZ: “I don’t even know what to expect, to be honest. Obviously, I think we’re going to have some fun, but at the same time I’m very competitive and I want to do well. I’ve never done iRacing before, I’ve never had an account before and I really didn’t know much about iRacing. I had an old GT25 simulator that I bought used about 10 years ago to race on the PlayStation. As for iRacing, I have no experience before, but for me, that’s not an excuse. I’ve done a lot on other simulators, like the TRD (Toyota Racing Development) simulator, that might help some. But this is way different, it’s its own animal. iRacing is still very realistic and does an amazing job, but it’s still a game. The simulator we use at TRD, that’s not a game, but a lot of things about what iRacing does is very impressive. I borrowed a rig from Toyota and hopefully I can use it for as many races as I need to.”

 

What drivers said after iRacing race at virtual Homestead

Photo: NASCAR/iRacing
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Denny Hamlin — Winner: “First thing I did, I got out of the rig and I came up and watched the last six laps to kind of see what was going on. I can’t see everything when I’m sitting in the car, but certainly I was intrigued to see the last six laps and see what it looked like on TV. I thought it looked great. My first reaction 10 seconds in to watching it was like, I asked the people around me, I was like, ‘Do you believe this is not real.’ Like it looks so real. That part was really cool. … I wanted the bottom, and he was really, really smart to ‑‑ I mean, he didn’t win, but he was smart to kind of block the bottom there because the bottom lane at Homestead on iRacing just has tremendous more grip than what the lane I was running in, but I knew that the difference in the two lanes was about a tenth and a half to two tenths, and I thought my tires were about three tenths better.  So I thought as long as I got beside him, I was going to be able to complete it, even though he was in the preferred groove.”

Dale Earnhardt Jr. — Finished 2nd: “A lot of fun. Finished second. Got beat by Denny Hamlin, not the first time that he’s beat me on sim racing. The guy is pretty good. … A lot of guys put in a lot of work to get better in just a really short period of time. Denny doesn’t really race a lot but worked really hard this week to be able to be real competitive and it showed. A lot of the other guys did the same thing. … We took tires with 30 laps to and Denny took tires with about 20 laps to go and I think that was certainly a big advantage for him. We were racing really hard up front, too, burning our stuff up. I didn’t expect Denny to get up there and he did. Went to the bottom because if I go to the top he can pass me a whole lot easier. Plus, he wanted to, he could take the whole lane and knock me out of the way and I don’t even finish in the top five.”

Timmy Hill Finished 3rd“It was a really fun race. The top five did an excellent job all day long. I want to say thank you to NASCAR and iRacing for putting on this show. Today was a lot of fun. I did the best I could saving my tires at the end. We finally had our longest run of the day, 20 laps to the end. Didn’t take tires there and got beat. … I hope we get to do something like this again. These guys did a fantastic job with putting this race on. A lot of drivers put in a lot of time practicing.”

Chase Briscoe Finished 4th: “It was fun to get to do some type of racing, especially with the Cup guys and some others that I don’t get to race against a lot. Hopefully, it was a way for the fans to escape from everything that is going on and enjoy some good racing.”

Garrett Smithley Finished 5th: “Wow, that was fun, that was a lot of fun. I hope you guys enjoyed that. Cool deal. Started pole, finished fifth, led some laps. It was a good day. … It was a good day for the sim racing community. Cool to have some fun on these uncertain times but making the best of it. Hopefully we can get to the real racetrack soon.”

Alex Bowman Finished 6th:Heard the top 5 failed tech and I’ve been declared the official winner. I’d like to thank my sponsors, and most importantly my dog for taking over for a few laps.

Ryan Preece Finished 8th: My takeaways from today: iRacing is difficult. Easy to forget you’re on Live Video.”

Ty Majeski Finished 9th: “That was fun! P9 in the iRacing Pro Invitational. Got wrecked a couple of times and lost track position, had fun coming back up through the field!”

Erik Jones — Finished 10th: “Enjoyed myself more than I thought I would … Hope we get to do it again.”

Matt DiBenedetto — Finished 11th: My crew chief, aka myself, made a bad call at the end. I stayed out and then I was kind of a rolling roadblock on the older tires and fell to 11th.”

Landon Cassill — Finished 12th: “We had a good solid race. I got tore up at the beginning and had to use a reset. From that point it was just trying to get some green laps going. I let a lot of aggressive drivers by on restarts that ultimately ended up wrecking themselves.  That last restart with about 15 to go, there was a crash in front of me and I got through it, but I had to slow down enough that it gave like a two-second gap to the cars in front of me. Once I got going again, I just worked on my line, worked on kind of burning the right rear tire a little bit so I could wear the tires evenly and started picking them off very carefully and caught the field on the last lap.”

Parker Kligerman — Finished 13th: “Just stayed out on two tires there. Probably should have pitted with Denny, probably could have raced for the win but we didn’t have any more resets after getting involved in two wrecks there, one at the front and one trying to come up through the pack.”

Joey Logano — Finished 15th: “I don’t play on the reg and I struggled a bit throughout the race, but overall that was fun!”

Clint Bowyer — Finished 16th: “Guys, I let you down. Heck, I let myself down. I let my fans down. I had sponsors in the stands, praying for a good showing, and I end up wrecking our Mobil 1 Ford Mustang and using both redos, as a matter of fact. I think the real takeaway is, obviously, I need a lot more practice. With everything going on in the country right now, I hope the fans were satisfied and I hope they got their minds off of things for a little bit. We will be back. I will be better and, I promise you, if you get on iRacing and get online, you’re gonna see these boys, probably tonight, battling it out again.”

Ryan Truex — Finished 17th: “Not the day I wanted for the boys back at the shop. We will go back home and get to work on the cars and (come) back stronger.”

BOBBY LABONTE — Finished 18th:I didn’t use up all my credits for damage, so that was good. I hope it was awesome to watch. It was a lot of fun to do. We will get better at this, being this the first one. … That was a great way to spend a Sunday afternoon.”

Justin Allgaier — Finished 20th: “Had damage at the end that kept us from finishing higher up, but what a heck of a race and a killer finish!”

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. — Finished 21st: “That was interesting. heck of a race for the win that was cool to see. I definitely needed more than a night of practice for this #ProInvitationalSeries race. Had a lot of fun learning the sim world with @iRacing . We finished 21st with our @kroger chevy by missing all the wrecks.”

Austin Cindric — Finished 22nd: “Last 10 laps was watching the TV more than track! Looked like a great show by the end. Fun to do something new.”

Michael McDowell — Finished 23rd: “That was fun.”

Brad Keselowski — Finished 25th: I had a lot of fun, wrecked a lot. Congrats to Denny Hamlin. Great race for him. Drove to the front and won it, which is pretty cool with new tires. I tried to pit for new tires and be on the same strategy and got wrecked but that’s part of it. Hope you guys enjoyed.”

Austin Dillon — Finished 27th: “I didn’t do very well. We got up to the top 10. … We got some work to do. I’m going to practice this week for the next one. Hopefully this ties us over until we get to the real race track because I’m ready to go really racing. Thank you guys for all following it.”

Kyle Busch — Finished 29th: “We obviously didn’t qualify very good so we were kind of mired in the back. Guys were crashing and wrecking out and we were kind of moving our way up to the front. Restarted, I think 16th one time and was making up some positions and getting closer to the front and felt like we had a pretty good long-run speed that was going there, we were picking a couple of guys off and then a crash happened on the frontstretch … nowhere to go.”

Jimmie Johnson — Finished 31st: “Not a great showing. I’m going to take all the responsibility. I’ve not spent a lot of time in iRacing or really racing at all on sims. So I’m learning my way through that. Lots of things to learn within the race. I didn’t even have a spotter, which seemed to be a problem a couple of times with wrecks, race format, just a lot of race details.”

Anthony Alfredo — Finished 32nd: “I wish we didn’t have so many cautions, and I felt like I got caught up in just about every single one.  We used up both of our fast repairs, you were allowed two, by like 10 laps in. I was super cautious after that and made it all the way to the end and then I pitted with Denny Hamlin there from the top five, so we were on the same strategy and we were coming through the field and we got wrecked going into Turn 1 and I was out of fast repairs so couldn’t do anything.”

Kyle Larson — Finished 33rd: “Well that didn’t really work out. Hope everyone enjoyed watching though!”

William Byron — Finished 34th: “Really hope we continue doing this. I thought it was a lot of fun!

Kurt Busch — Finished 35th: What an experience. … Huge shoutout to David Gravel for letting me borrow his sim. I owe ya bro!”