Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series STP 500
Martinsville Speedway Distance: 263 miles (500 laps)
Sunday, March 25 2 p.m. ET TV: FS1, 2 p.m. ET Radio: MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
Stage 1 (Ends on Lap 130), Stage 2 (Ends on Lap 260), Final Stage (Ends on Lap 500)
NASCAR Xfinity Series My Bariatric Solutions 300
Texas Motor Speedway Distance: 300 miles (200 laps)
Saturday, April 7 3 p.m. ET TV: FOX, 2:30 p.m. ET Radio: PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
Stage 1 (Ends on Lap 45), Stage 2 (Ends on Lap 90), Final Stage (Ends on Lap 200)
NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Alpha Energy Solutions 250
Martinsville Speedway Distance: 131.5 miles (250 laps)
Saturday, March 24 2 p.m. ET TV: FS1, 1:30 p.m. ET Radio: MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
Stage 1 (Ends on Lap 70), Stage 2 (Ends on Lap 140), Final Stage (Ends on Lap 250)
Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series
Jimmie Johnson was ranked fourth this week by ESPN The Magazine on their list of sports’ “Dominant 20” athletes of the last two decades, which also included names like golf’s Tiger Woods, basketball’s Lebron James and the football’s Peyton Manning. And when it comes to this week’s Martinsville (Va.) Speedway NASCAR venue Johnson has shown himself to be as absolutely dominant as it comes. With nine previous wins – including five in a six-race stretch – NASCAR’s “paperclip” track, Johnson has led an amazing 20.6 percent of all laps run at the historic property. His 7.7 average finish and 115.8 driver rating are easily tops among his competition this weekend and he leads in six of the seven traditional statistical categories at the track. Rebounding from an uncharacteristically slow start to the season, Johnson had his first top-10 showing of the year last weekend at Auto Club Speedway – ninth place in the No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet – and no doubt has Martinsville circled on his calendar. A win this weekend would make Johnson only the third driver in Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series history to have 10 or more wins at multiple tracks (he has 11 at Dover) – joining NASCAR Hall of Famers Richard Petty and Darrell Waltrip. If Johnson can lead 138 laps of Sunday’s scheduled 500-lapper, he would top the 3,000 laps led mark at Martinsville – one of only five drivers to have led 3,000 laps or more at multiple tracks. He also has 3,000 laps out front at Dover International Speedway.
Reigning Monster Energy NASCAR Cup champion and current points leader Martin Truex Jr. dominated the competition to collect his first trophy of the season Sunday in California, snapping an 18-race winless streak at the track. But he faces a similar winless barrier this weekend at tiny Martinsville Speedway (Sunday, March 25 at 2 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). Truex is still looking for his first victory in his No. 78 Furniture Row Racing Toyota after 24 races at Martinsville, where he has only three top-five and eight top-10 finishes. He started on the outside pole and finished runner-up in his last race there in November and has four total top-seven finishes in his last six starts there.
Among the top 10 in the standings, only Kyle Larson (73.4) and Aric Almirola (66.1) have lower driver ratings than Truex (76.6) at Martinsville.
Kyle Busch Looking for First Win of 2018
Joe Gibbs Racing driver Kyle Busch has been oh-so-close to a win in 2018 – finishing runner-up in consecutive races at Las Vegas and ISM Raceway and finishing third last week at California’s Auto Club Speedway. This week’s season-opening short track race may well be just what the doctor ordered. The driver of the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota has two wins and five consecutive top-five
showings in the last five races at Martinsville Speedway, including a victory the last time the Monster Energy Series raced there in November, 2017. He has top-10 finishes in seven of the last 10 races.
Denny Hopes to Deliver at Home
Denny Hamlin, who grew up in Chesterfield, Virginia, has certainly turned his good home state vibes into a success story in Martinsville. His driver rating of 105.8 is second only to the track’s winningest active driver, Jimmie Johnson. Five of Hamlin’s 31 career Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series wins have come there, including four in a seven-race span between 2008-2010. His mark of 18 top-10 finishes in second only to Johnson’s 24 top 10s. Hamlin, who drives the No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, has had mixed success on the track since his last win in 2015, however. He has alternated between a top 10 and 30th-place or worse in the last fives races here – finishing 30th in the spring race in 2017 and seventh in the fall race. Hamlin arrives in his home state boasting one of the best overall 2018 season efforts – with four top-six finishes in five races.
On the Verge
Penske Racing hasn’t hoisted a trophy yet in 2018, but its three Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series drivers have certainly made strong cases that a win is imminent. They are ranked third (Joey Logano), fourth (Brad Keselowski) and fifth (Ryan Blaney) in the points standings coming to Martinsville, a venue that offers a lot of promise for the team.
Keselowski is the defending winner of the STP 500 and boasts four consecutive top-five finishes at Martinsville – five in the last six races. He’s fourth in the points standings, despite crashing out of the Daytona 500, by virtue of three top-six runs through the season’s opening five races.
Logano, who led the Monster Energy Series driver standings for two weeks following Atlanta and Las Vegas, is looking for his first Martinsville victory. His No. 22 Team Penske Ford has certainly shown speed at the track. He was on the pole for the Fall Martinsville race and has won the Busch Pole Award for four of the last six races at the half-miler.
The team’s newest addition, popular 24-year old Blaney, is hoping to turn his strong season start into some Martinsville success. His 2018 season includes three top-10 finishes and he won the pole position at Las Vegas. His only top 10 (eighth-place) in four Martinsville races came in his last start there.
Strength in Numbers for Stewart-Haas Racing
Stewart-Haas Racing celebrated its first ever placement of all four drivers in the top 10 two weeks ago in Phoenix and the organization also has a historic mark in the points standings heading to Martinsville Speedway this weekend (Sunday, March 25 at 2 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).
All four of its drivers are firmly ranked consecutively in the top-12 portion of the championship standings – a first for SHR at this point in the season. Three-time race winner and 2014 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion Kevin Harvick leads his teammates in eighth place.
Second-year SHR driver Clint Bowyer is ninth, followed by the team’s newest addition, Aric Almirola, and 2004 Monster Energy Series champ Kurt Busch.
It’s Go Time for Kyle Larson
Kyle Larson’s runner-up finish at Auto Club Speedway last week was a firm reminder that the 25-year old Chip Ganassi Racing driver is championship-caliber. He has three top-10 finishes since a rough Daytona 500 season opener, including a third-place at Las Vegas along with his second-place in California. And he sits seventh in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series points standings, 42
behind the leader Martin Truex Jr. Larson is hoping to turn the early season success story into a Martinsville break-through. The popular Californian won the pole position for the STP 500 last year but has only one top-10 (third-place in 2016) in eight races here.
Daniel Hemric to Make Monster Energy Series Debut at Richmond
Daniel Hemric has earned the NASCAR start of his lifetime.
Richard Childress Racing announced Tuesday that the 27-year-old will make his Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series debut, driving the No. 8 Smokey Mountain Herbal Snuff Chevrolet in the April 21 race at Richmond Raceway. He will then race on the Charlotte Motor Speedway road course on Sept. 30.
Hemric, who drives for RCR fulltime in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, has put in time helping the organization’s Monster Energy Series teams from testing the cars to filling in during practice sessions.
“You only get one chance to make your Cup Series debut, and it is pretty incredible to know that I am able to do it with Richard Childress Racing and with a partner such as Smokey Mountain Herbal Snuff,” Hemric said. “RCR and Smokey Mountain Herbal Snuff have been so influential in so many drivers’ careers – a lot of my heroes growing up. To know they will play a large role in the next step
of my career and my initial Cup Series debut is very special.”
“The 8 is coming back. Good luck with it @DanielHemric.’’ Dale Earnhardt Jr. tweeted, ending his message with a thumbs-up emoji. Earnhardt drove the No. 8 in the Monster Energy Series ranks from 2002-2007.
Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Etc.
Martinsville Speedway Quick Stats: Kurt Busch has the best rating for Fastest Laps at Martinsville (179) – the only statistic that Johnson isn’t tops. …Ryan Newman has won here, has eight top-five finishes and three pole positions at Martinsville, making him a driver to watch Sunday. …Johnson is the last driver to win consecutive races (Fall, 2012- Spring, 2013) and both times it was from
the pole position. …The last manufacturer to score back-to-back wins at Martinsville was Chevrolet. Kurt Busch and Dale Earnhardt Jr. swept the 2014 races. … Kurt Busch’s two wins at the track came from starting positions closer to the rear of the starting grid. He won in 2002 from the 36th position (a track record) and his win in 2014 was 22nd. Earnhardt won in 2014 from the 23rd starting
spot on the grid. … Six drivers have won three races-in-a-row here: Richard Petty (1968-69), Cale Yarborough (1976-77), Darrell Waltrip (1988-89), Rusty Wallace (1994-95) and Jimmie Johnson (2006-07). Fred Lorenzen won four straight Martinsville races between 1963-65.
NASCAR XFINITY Series
Xfinity Series’ First Five: A Statistical Look At 2018 Season Thus Far
With the NASCAR Xfinity Series taking this weekend off to regroup for the upcoming stretch of the schedule, let’s look back at some of the key stats from the first five races of the 2018 season.
2018 marks the 15th season in the NASCAR Xfinity Series that the first five races on the schedule have seen five different winners. The 2018 series race winners are Tyler Reddick (Daytona), Kevin Harvick (Atlanta), Kyle Larson (Las Vegas), Brad Keselowski (ISM Raceway) and Joey Logano (Auto Club Speedway).
Pole Winners: Three
This is the eighth season in the NASCAR Xfinity Series that the first five races on the schedule have seen three different pole winners. The 2018 pole winners are Daniel Hemric (Daytona), Christopher Bell (Atlanta, Las Vegas, Auto Club) and Justin Allgaier (ISM Raceway).
Average Leaders: 6.20
The 2018 season is the 19th different season in the 37-year history of the NASCAR Xfinity Series that the average number of leaders is greater than five. The series’ highest average number of leaders through the first five races of a season is 9.20 – it has occurred twice in 2007 and 2010.
Average Lead Changes: 10.80
The 2018 season is the 26th different season in the NASCAR Xfinity Series that the average number of lead changes is 10.0 or greater. The series’ highest average number of lead changes in the first five races of the season is 18.5 – it occurred in the inaugural season, 1982. The second-highest average number of lead changes in the first five races is 16.20 in 2013.
Green Flag Passes For The Lead: 130 (Average of 26.0 Per Race)
This season the NASCAR Xfinity Series has produced 130 Green Flag Passes for the Lead in the first five races of the season; which is third most over the last five seasons – 2015 (197), 2017 (157) and 2016 (130), 2014 (95) and 2016 (77).
2018 Driver Statistical Leaders (First Five Races):
Points Leader: Elliott Sadler (199 points)
Stage Wins: Kyle Larson, Kevin Harvick, Joey Logano (three each)
Stage Points: Justin Allgaier, Christopher Bell (53 points each)
Playoff Points: Tyler Reddick (five)
Wins: Five different drivers (one each)
Poles: Christopher Bell (three)
Top Fives: Elliott Sadler (four)
Top 10s: Elliott Sadler (five)
Average Finish: Elliott Sadler (4.8)
Laps Led: Kyle Larson (203 laps, 23.7% of his laps completed)
Laps Completed: Matt Tifft, Elliott Sadler (855 laps each, 99.88% of their laps attempted)
Driver Rating: Justin Allgaier (112.9)
Average Running Position: Justin Allgaier (5.993)
Fastest Laps Run: Christopher Bell (89 laps, 12.7%)
Laps Run In The Top 15: Justin Allgaier (811 laps, 97.4%)
In recent years, the NASCAR Xfinity Series has been a big stage for up-and-coming young stars in NASCAR to show off their talents, and this season is no different.
Through the first five races, the top 10 in driver points is besieged with youngsters looking to make a name for themselves, so much so, the average age of the series’ top 10 following Auto Club Speedway is a youthful 26.0.
Eight of the top 10 in the NASCAR Xfinity Series championship driver standings are in their 20s; with the youngest being Cole Custer at the age of 20. The two elders of the group are Elliott Sadler at the age of 42 and Justin Allgaier at 31.
To put in perspective how young some of these drivers are, current standings leader Elliott Sadler is twice the age of three of his top-10 competitors – Cole Custer (20), Brandon Jones (21) and Matt Tifft (21).
The NASCAR Xfinity Series returns to action next week on April 7 at Texas Motor Speedway for the My Bariatric Solutions 300. Erik Jones swept the NASCAR Xfinity Series races at Texas Motor Speedway last season.
JR Motorsport’s Quest For A Third Driver Title Is Off To A Good Start
JR Motorsports has won two of the last four NASCAR Xfinity Series driver titles (Chase Elliott, 2014 and William Byron, 2017), and with three of the team’s four drivers in the top three in points this season, the organization has set its sights on adding a third championship trophy to the mantle.
Current standings leader Elliott Sadler is just four points ahead of his teammate Tyler Reddick in second and five points ahead Justin Allgaier in third. All three JR Motorsports drivers now have built a points cushion over the competition in the standings. Allgaier is now 22 points ahead of the next closest competitor – Joe Gibbs Racing’s Christopher Bell in fourth.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Kelley Earnhardt Miller became the 11th different owners with multiple NASCAR Xfinity Series driver championships last season when William Byron grabbed the title in Homestead-Miami.
If a JR Motorsports driver were to win the organization’s third title this season, Dale and Kelley would tie William Baumgardner (Johnny Benson-1995, Randy LaJoie-1996 and 1997) for third on the all-time NASCAR Xfinity Series driver championships list, behind series leader Jack Roush with five (Greg Biffle-2002, Carl Edwards-2007, Ricky Stenhouse Jr.-2011 and 2012, Chris Buescher-2015) and Richard Childress with four (Kevin Harvick-2001 and 2006, Clint Bowyer-2008, Austin Dillon-2013).
Baumgardner is the only owner in series history to win three consecutive driver championships.
With another driver title this season, Dale and Kelley would become the seventh series owners to win consecutive driver titles joining Howard Thomas (1983-84), David Pearson (1986-87), William Baumgardner (1995-96-97), Dale Earnhardt (1998-99), Teresa Earnhardt (2004-05) and Jack Roush (2011-12).
NASCAR Camping World Truck Series
The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series returns to action this weekend after a two-week hiatus to take on Martinsville Speedway on Saturday, March 24 in the Alpha Energy Solutions 250 (2 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).
Noah Gragson (Fall) and Chase Elliott (Spring) won the two races at “The Paperclip” in 2017. For Gragson, it was his first career victory and followed up a fourth-place finish in the spring race.
It was Elliott’s second career victory in the Camping World Truck Series. His first came in 2013 at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park.
Gragson has a chance to go back-to-back at Martinsville as he is entered this weekend in the familiar No. 18 Toyota Tundra for Kyle Busch Motorsports. Elliott is not entered in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race.
Like Father, Like Son – A New Beginning
When you see two trucks on track sporting the name “Gilliland” on the back window, you won’t be imagining things. For the first time, veteran driver David Gilliland and his Sunoco Rookie of the Year-contending son Todd will face off against each other in a NASCAR national series race.
Todd will finally be able to start his 2018 campaign behind the wheel of the No. 4 Toyota for Kyle Busch Motorsports when the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series heads to Martinsville this Saturday (2 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).
He isn’t eligible to compete on intermediate tracks or superspeedways until he reaches his 18th birthday in May. So, until now, in 2018 Todd’s had to sit on the sidelines and watch a cast of substitute drivers pilot his truck.
His dad drove it in the season-opener at Daytona before his truck owner, Kyle Busch, took over for Atlanta and Spencer Davis drove it in Las Vegas.
It hasn’t been easy for Todd to sit back and watch other drivers pilot his truck. “It’s been very hard. I’m a racer and all I want to do is race. Seeing other people jump in the truck you are going to be in the rest of the year is really tough, but you have to take every opportunity you have to learn and catch up to the guys who already have three more races worth of experience than I do.”
Todd competed in six Camping World Truck Series races in 2017, posting a pair of top fives and three top 10s. He had a best finish of third at New Hampshire and crossed the line fifth at Martinsville in the fall.
David is racing the No. 54 Toyota for DGR-CROSLEY Racing – a team that was formed when David Gilliland Racing and CROSLEY Sports Group joined forces for the 2018 season. The organization, which fields late model, NASCAR K&N Pro Series, ARCA and Camping World Truck Series entries, is co-owned by David and Bo LeMastus.
David has 11 series starts under his belt and won the pole this season at Daytona while driving his son’s No. 4 KBM entry. He’s taken the green flag 333 times in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, including in the 2018 Daytona 500. He has a trio of poles (all on superspeedways), four top-five and eight top-10 finishes in NASCAR’s premier series.
Like Father, Like Son – Familiar Grounds
When you see two trucks on the track sporting the name “Nemechek” on the back window, it will be a familiar reunion. Joe Nemechek and his son John Hunter have raced against each other in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series 18 times.
NEMCO Motorsports is truly a family affair, with Joe Nemechek owning the team and fielding the two trucks that the father-son duo drive.
Their best combined finish on track together came in the 2017 Daytona race, when they crossed the line in fourth (John Hunter) and fifth (Joe).
John Hunter took two of his five career NASCAR Camping Truck Series checkered flags at races in which his dad was also running – Gateway and Iowa last season.
Joe has tallied just 42 starts in the truck series but has made 667 starts in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series and taken the green flag 430 in the NASCAR Xfinity Series. He finished third at Daytona in the No. 87 NEMCO Motorsports Chevrolet to start the 2018 season before placing 12th at Atlanta in the same truck John Hunter will drive this weekend at Martinsville.
Joe has just one start at Martinsville in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, last year’s spring race in which he finished 18th.
John Hunter, who was a series Playoff contender in each of the last two seasons, is running a part-time NASCAR Camping World Truck Series schedule this year while also racing multiple races for Chip Ganassi Racing in the NASCAR Xfinity Series – his inaugural effort in that series.
The 20-year-old driver will be back behind the wheel of the No. 8 Chevrolet, hoping to have better luck on the half-mile Martinsville pavement than he had in his two starts earlier this season. John Hunter finished 25th at Daytona after being caught up in a crash and finished four laps down in 21st at Las Vegas.
To do that, he will also have to overcome the struggled that he had in his last two starts at Martinsville in 2017, when he finished 28th (spring) and 30th (fall). However, John Hunter tallied a pair of runner-ups and a third-place finish in the three races before that. In nine starts at “The Paperclip,” he has three top fives and three top 10s.
Good Things Come in Threes for Johnny Sauter
Add up the digits in Johnny Sauter’s truck number and you get “3.” And that seems to be his number as of late.
The 2016 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series champion has put his No. 21 Chevrolet for GMS Racing on the podium in each of the first three races this season.
His results? A win at Daytona, third-place at Atlanta and a runner-up finish two weeks ago in Las Vegas.
It gets better. You have to go back to Talladega of last year to find a finish outside the top-three for the veteran. He ended the season by finishing third at Martinsville, winning in Texas and Phoenix and then coming home third in Homestead-Miami.
That means the Wisconsin native has put together seven top-three results in a row.
And there’s no reason to expect that streak to end. Sauter has crossed the finish line in the top three in his last…get this…three races at the track where the series races this weekend – Martinsville (2016 – 1st, 2017 – 2nd, 2018 – 3rd).
Oh, one more thing. Sauter has three wins at The Paperclip (Spring 2011, Spring 2013, Fall 2016).
Fountain of Youth Flowing at Kyle Busch Motorsports
The average age of the three drivers behind the wheel of Kyle Busch Motorsports trucks this weekend at Martinsville Speedway will be just shy of 18.
Noah Gragson is the elder statesman of the group at 19 while Todd Gilliland and Harrison Burton are each 17-years old. All three drivers are products of the NASCAR Next developmental program and came up through the NASCAR K&N Pro Series.
Gilliland captured the K&N West crown in 2016 and 2017 while Burton was the champion in the East in 2017. Gragson tallied six wins between the two series in 2015 and 2016.
The surprising veteran out of the trio at Martinsville is Burton – who has the most starts of the KBM group on the half-mile track with three.
Martinsville was the site of his first career series start in the fall of 2016. He finished 22nd in that initial outing and went on to make six series starts in 2017 – including both Martinsville races. He tallied a best finish of fourth at the fall race at “The Paperclip” last year for his first career top-five finish.
Gragson’s two previous races at Martinsville came last season, and he proved to be a quick study on the short track. He finished fourth in his series track debut in the spring and then collected his first career series win in the fall.
Of his six career truck series race, Gilliland has made one start at Martinsville, placing fifth last fall.
Getting To Know All About You
2016 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series champion Johnny Sauter is in a very familiar place – atop the standings. His season-opening win at Daytona instantly made him a contender for his second championship by virtually ensuring he’s in the Playoffs.
But if we were to start the Playoffs this weekend in Martinsville, the rest of post-season field might require a bit of an introduction – and that’s OK with those drivers who are looking to unseat veterans like Sauter and two-time champion Matt Crafton at the head banquet table.
The remaining seven drivers currently in the top eight in the standings have combined for five wins and just 177 starts in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. By comparison, points leader Sauter has 224 starts and 18 career series wins.
Crafton, who currently sits just outside the Playoff picture in ninth, has tallied 410 starts and 14 series race wins.
Here’s a quick look at the career numbers for the top eight drivers in the standings:
1. Johnny Sauter – No. 21 Chevrolet for GMS Racing
Sauter is the 2016 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series champion and has accumulated 18 career wins in 224 starts. He’s posted 91 top-five and 143 top-10 finishes, starting on the pole six times.
2. Brett Moffitt – No. 16 Toyota for Hattori Racing Enterprises
Moffitt has a pair of wins in 16 races in the series, including a win earlier this season at Atlanta Motor Speedway. He has recorded five top-five and eight top-10 finishes.
3. Grant Enfinger – No. 98 Ford for ThorSport Racing
In 40 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series starts, Enfinger has tallied a win (Talladega in 2016), 12 top-five and 23 top-10 finishes. He has started on the pole once (Daytona in 2016).
Graphics & Photos Courtesy of NASCAR