NASCAR Sprint Cup Series STP 500
Martinsville Speedway Distance: 263 miles (500 laps)
Sunday, April 3 1 p.m. ET TV: FS1, 11:30 a.m. ET
Radio: MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
NASCAR XFINITY Series O’Reilly Auto Parts 300
Texas Motor Speedway Distance: 300 miles (200 laps)
Friday, April 8 Time: 8:30 p.m. ET TV: FS1, 8 p.m. ET
Radio: PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Alpha Energy Solutions 250
Martinsville Speedway Distance: 131.5 miles (250 laps)
Saturday, April 2 Time: 2:30 p.m. ET TV: FS1, 2 p.m. ET
Radio: MRN, SiriusXM Ch. 90
NASCAR SPRINT CUP SERIES
Thrilling Competition Continues At ACS With Track-Record 51 Passes For The Lead
The high quality of racing produced in the first four races of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season continued at Auto Club Speedway on Sunday, where drivers tallied a total of 51 green flag passes for the lead, a high at ACS since the inception of loop data in 2005.
It marked the second time in the first five races this season a track record for green flag passes for the lead was set (Atlanta, 44 green flag passes for the lead).
“It’s great,” Dale Earnhardt Jr. said about the lower-downforce aero package implemented in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. “Every week has been fun, fun, fun. The cars are fun to drive, slipping and sliding. It’s a good challenge and I’m enjoying it.”
Additionally, the seventh-closest margin of victory since the Sprint Cup began tracking the stat in 1993 (.010 seconds) has been recorded twice in the first five races – at Daytona (not with the lower-downforce package) and at Phoenix (with the lower-downforce package).
Through the first five races, the average margin of victory is 0.367 seconds – the closest since the inception of electronic timing and scoring in 1993.
“The new rules package today I thought was tremendous,” Brad Keselowski said after the Las Vegas race. “I think you saw, because of the rules package, where the cars fell off a lot at the end of the run and you really had to drive them sideways. Took a lot of balance as a driver, a lot of precise footwork and accuracy with where you put your car, how you place it, which is exactly what we want.”
The Sprint Cup has also showcased parity through the first five races. Four different drivers, four separate organizations and all three manufacturers have won a race.
Car 48 Jimmie Johnson Lowe’s/Superman Chevrolet
Man Of Steel: Johnson Surpasses Earnhardt With Super Performance at Auto Club
Moving faster than a speeding bullet off the restart beginning NASCAR overtime, Jimmie Johnson cleared Denny Hamlin and Kevin Harvick from the third position and rocketed his Superman-emblazoned Chevrolet to the finish line to win Sunday’s Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California.
With the victory – number 77 of his career – Johnson surpassed Dale Earnhardt for sole possession of seventh on the all-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series wins list.
The six-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver now trails sixth-place Cale Yarbrough (83 wins) by six wins, and fourth-place Bobby Allison (84) and Darrell Waltrip (84) by seven wins.
Car 4 Kevin Harvick Jimmy John’s Chevrolet Posts Another Top-Two Finish
Bakersfield, California native Kevin Harvick led a race-high 142 laps in the Auto Club 400, but could not pull of his best Steph Curry imitation in NASCAR overtime.
The No. 4 Chevrolet driver failed to hold off Jimmie Johnson on the penultimate lap of the race and finished second.
Harvick did have one thing in common with Curry after the race though. He finished it leading his league in points. Harvick, who qualified for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup with his win at Phoenix, currently holds an 11-point lead over Johnson in the standings. Johnson is followed by Carl Edwards (-24), fellow Chase-lock Denny Hamlin (-25) and Kyle Busch (-25).
Harvick is the only driver who has recorded a top-10 finish in each of the first five races. He has carried his loop data dominance from the last two seasons into the 2016 campaign, pacing the Sprint Cup Series in average running position (5.8), fastest laps (193), laps led (413) and driver rating (124.4). Harvick’s laps led total more than doubles the next-highest mark (Jimmie Johnson, 171).
Elliott Leapfrogs Blaney For Sunoco Rookie Lead
The seesaw atop the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Sunoco Rookie of the Year standings continues to teeter.
Following his career-high sixth-place performance at Auto Club, Chase Elliott took back the lead from Ryan Blaney for the second time this year. Elliott leads Blaney by five points in the rookie standings. Not far behind are Brian Scott (-14) and Chris Buescher (-16).
On the season, Elliott boasts three top 10s, while Blaney owns two top 10s. They both have high finishes of sixth.
Both Elliott and Blaney are alumni of the NASCAR Next initiative. Blaney claims eight combined NASCAR XFINITY and Camping World Truck Series wins, while Elliott has six.
Penske Car 22 Joey Logano AAA Southern California Ford & Car 2 Brad Keselowski Wurth Ford
Team Penske shopmates Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski finished fourth and ninth, respectively, in last Sunday’s Auto Club 400 – the second time the duo has placed in the top 10 together this season. Keselowski and Logano finished 1-2 at Las Vegas.
Logano, who led the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series with six wins last year, is still looking for his first visit to Victory Lane. He has three top-six showings this season.
Keselowski has posted three top-10 finishes this season and clinched a Chase berth with his victory at Las Vegas. He led the series with six wins in 2014.
Through the first five races, four NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers have all but captured Chase berths with wins: Denny Hamlin (Daytona), Jimmie Johnson (Atlanta and Auto Club), Brad Keselowski (Las Vegas) and Kevin Harvick (Phoenix).
Each win in the regular season gives a driver three bonus points for the Round of 16 in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. Johnson has earned the most bonus points so far (6).
Kyle Busch leads the series with four top fives, while Harvick ranks first in top 10s (5).
The drivers on the Chase Grid, in order, include: Johnson, Harvick, Hamlin, Keselowski, Carl Edwards, Kyle Busch, Joey Logano, Kurt Busch, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Austin Dillon, Martin Truex Jr., Jamie McMurray, Aric Almirola, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Matt Kenseth and Chase Elliott.
The next break on the schedule comes 11 races from now (including the Sprint All-Star Race), between the races at Michigan International Speedway (June 12) and Sonoma Raceway (June 26).
Danica Patrick, driver of the #10 TaxACT Chevrolet, sits in her car during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway on March 19, 2016 in Fontana, California.
Car 10 Danica Patrick TaxAct Chevrolet
NASCAR Penalized Danica Patrick for approaching the track to show her displeasure with Car 5 Kasey Kahne Farmers Insurance Chevrolet after her crash. Penalty: Driver has been fined $20,000 and placed on NASCAR probation through the completion of the next four NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship Points Races.
NASCAR XFINITY SERIES
Daniel Suárez Extends Lead In The Standings For Third-Straight Week
Daniel Suárez has taken the lead in the NASCAR XFINITY Series championship standings and isn’t looking back. Over the past three races he has extended his points lead from three points to eight to 10 over second-place Elliott Sadler.
Driving the No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, Suárez has posted one pole, three top fives, five top 10s and a 4.8 average finish in the first five races of the season.
Suárez has found consistency working with crew chief Scott Graves. The duo has posted 11 straight top-10 finishes dating back to Dover last October.
“Honestly, It has been great (working with Scott Graves),” Suárez said. “Scott has a lot of talent. I feel like we are moving in the right direction. I really like working with him. I think we have a bright future ahead of us.”
NASCAR season-to-date loop data also substantiates Suárez as a title contender this season. Among championship contenders he leads the series in average running position (5.0), driver rating (112.8) and laps completed in the top 15 (98.2%, 818 laps).
JR Motorsports’ Sadler and Allgaier Are After The Standings Lead
Veterans Elliott Sadler and Justin Allgaier have JR Motorsports right back in the title hunt, a place the organization became accustomed to the last few seasons with drivers Chase Elliott and Regan Smith. Sadler (-10) is currently second in the points and Allgaier (-19) ranks third. Both trail standings leader Daniel Suárez.
Sadler is a master at consistent finishes. This season, he has posted two top fives and five top 10s in his first five starts. His average finish is 6.8.
Allgaier’s return to the XFINITY Series following a three-year stint in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series has been seamless. In five starts this season, he has posted one top five, four top 10s and an average finish of 8.6.
Sunoco Rookie Update Following Fifth Race Of The Season
Erik Jones continues to hold court in the Sunoco Rookie of the Year standings.
The NASCAR Next alum sits 13 points ahead of second-place Brandon Jones and 27 points ahead of third-place Brennan Poole. The youth has represented well this season as the top three in the rookie standings are all in the top 10 of the NASCAR XFINITY Series driver championship standings.
Erik Jones, 19, from Byron, Michigan, drives the Joe Gibbs Racing No. 20 Toyota. In addition to leading the rookie standings, he is ranked seventh in the XFINITY Series championship standings – 30 points behind Daniel Suárez for the lead. Jones has posted one pole, three top fives and an average finish of 10.8 in the first five races of the 2016 season.
Brandon Jones, 19, from Atlanta, Georgia, drives the Richard Childress Racing No. 33 Chevrolet. He is currently second in the rookie standings, but sits fourth in the XFINITY Series championship standings – 21 points behind the leader. Jones has posted three top 10s and an average finish of 10.6 in five starts this season.
Brennan Poole, 24, from The Woodlands, Texas, drives the Chip Ganassi Racing No. 48 Chevrolet. Poole is third in the rookie standings and 10th in the championships standings – 52 points back from the leader. In the first five races of the season, Poole has posted one top 10 and an average finish of 15.0.
Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 NOS Energy Drink Toyota, and Kyle Larson, driver of the #42 ENEOS Chevrolet, lead a pack of cars during the NASCAR Xfinity Series TreatMyClot.com 300 at Auto Club Speedway on March 19, 2016 in Fontana, California.
Car 18 Kyle Busch(i) NOS Energy Drink Toyota
NASCAR Penalized Kyle Busch for not being available to the media after NASCAR Xfinity Series at the Auto Club Speedway. Penalty: Driver has been fined $10,000 and placed on NASCAR probation for the next four NASCAR Championship Points Races through April 27.
NASCAR CAMPING WORLD TRUCK SERIES
Martinsville Media Day Recap
Daniel Hemric, John Hunter Nemechek, Timothy Peters, Tyler Reddick, Ben Rhodes and Tyler Young appeared at Martinsville Speedway on Tuesday to promote the Alpha Energy Solutions 250 on Saturday, April 2 (2:30 p.m. ET on FS1).
Below are some soundbites from the day:
Hemric Discusses NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Chase, Abundance Of Competition – “I think you’re going to have to win a race if not two races to make this deal. There are going to be a substantial amount of one-time winners, I think, and that’s what is so unique about the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. There’s so much talent, we may see 10 or 11 first-time winners. I feel like the fans have seen the first two races of the season and they’ll see here coming into Martinsville we legitimately feel like there’s a range from 12-15 trucks, that depending on the race track, could win the race.”
Nemechek Focused On Winning More Races – “It feels great to have our ticket punched for the Chase. To be able to come to the race track and not have to worry about points every single week, we can come to the race track and focus on winning. I think you’re going to see a lot more strategy and gambling from the guys who have their ticket punched to the Chase, rather than trying to salvage a good day in points if you aren’t running so well. Whatever it is, a two-tire call or a four-tire call at the end when nobody else is
doing it, I think you’re going to see a lot of that.”
Reddick Ready To Race– “I’ve just been really wanting to get back to racing. I miss racing. I love racing. We run 23 times, I’m blessed to be able to run the full-season (NASCAR Camping World) Truck Series schedule, but I’m used to racing a lot more throughout my whole life. … I’m just glad to be able to come back and race here at Martinsville again. This place, it’s breathtaking, the racing it puts on here. You’ll either be the happiest guy alive leaving the race track or you’ll be the maddest guy alive … So, it
definitely brings a lot of emotion out of the drivers. It definitely brings a lot of emotion out of the fans. It puts on great racing and I just can’t wait to come back.”
Rhodes Lauds The Advantages Of Finally Racing Full-Time – “What it does for you mentally, I can’t even put it in words. Especially when you’re able to contend for points, championship, rookie of the year, there’s just something, an unspoken nature that it does for you mentally and to just be able to have that bond with all of your guys. Not to say that I didn’t have that last year, but I wasn’t in the car full-time. That was the hardest thing for a learning driver – to not be in there. When I was watching the competition, I wasn’t really advancing because I was trying to apply what I learned from one race a month later. It was just hard to do that. Just for me, it might be easier to do for others guys, but I struggled with it. This year, being able to run 23 races, it’s going to be a good time. Before this season, before running full-time, this is a full step up for me because I only ran 14 national series events (before). That’s all I ran. And now I get 23 of them in one year, I’m a happy camper.”
Young Off To Best Start Ever – “We talked last year, if we could ever get out of Daytona ok, I think it just sets you up with big momentum for the whole year. We finally played it right this year with a good finish, and went to Atlanta and had a good run. We always have this one circled on our calendar, at Martinsville, because I feel like we can run strong here. We just have to kind of mind our own business and keep our momentum going, get out of here with a good day, just keep upbeat and get ready for Kansas a month later.”
Grandfather Clock: Elder Statesman Crafton Looks To Continue Martinsville Success
Fall Martinsville race winner Matt Crafton will attempt to capture his second consecutive victory at the Virginia short track in the Alpha Energy Solutions 250 on Saturday, April 2.
In a series record 28 starts at Martinsville, the 39-year-old Tulare, California native claims two wins, eight top fives and an all-time series-best 16 top 10s.
He has dominated in his last four starts at Martinsville, logging finishes of first, third, second and first from spring of 2014 through fall of 2015.
In the first two races of the season, the two-time series champion finished 10th at Daytona and 30th at Atlanta. He led 76 of the first 111 laps at Atlanta before a wreck ended his day.
The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series has a one more weekend off before the Alpha Energy Solutions 250 at Martinsville Speedway (Saturday, April 2 at 2:30 p.m. ET on FS1).
Through two races, Johnny Sauter and John Hunter Nemechek have all but clinched the first two spots in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Chase by winning at Daytona and Atlanta, respectively.
Parker Kligerman leads the series points. He is followed by Daniel Hemric (-1), Nemechek (-3), Timothy Peters (-6) and Tyler Young (-8). Ryan Truex (-10), Brandon Brown (-12), Ben Rhodes (-12), Grant Enfinger (-13) and Sauter (-14) round out the top 10.
Graphics & Photos Courtesy of NASCAR