Race Weekend Central

Who’s Hot And Who’s Not In Sprint Cup: Martinsville-Texas Edition

The tight confines of Martinsville Speedway were the setting for NASCAR’s return to action after Easter break. Minus Denny Hamlin, some familiar faces put on an all-too-familiar show at Sprint Cup’s smallest track.

HOT

Martinsville Speedway has always been kind to Jimmie Johnson, and the running of the STP Gas Booster 500 proved no different. The five-time champion appeared better than ever at the 0.526-mile oval, winning Sunday for the eighth time.

Going By the Numbers: How Much To Make Of A NASCAR Debut

One was already known well before he debuted, the benefactor of a last name beloved by many in NASCAR circles. The other, though not part of the conversation in NASCAR just yet, has rattled off impressive statistics in multiple racing series, including four top-five finishes in the 2012 ARCA Racing Series as a 15- and 16-year-old.

When it comes to NASCAR, both can lay claim to the same thing: a top-10 in their first Camping World Truck Series race.

Chase Elliott and Erik Jones, two up-and-coming youngsters who have made waves in stock cars even before their 18th birthdays, made their NASCAR debuts last Saturday in the Kroger 250 at Martinsville, joining fellow rookies Devin Jones, Robert Bruce and Grant Galloway.

The Wood Bros Racing Museum: Where Family Did Win

Shining stands climb to the sky, ready to be occupied by 70,000 screaming fans. On your way into the track, nice shiny haulers decked out in familiar logos hawk t-shirts and stuffed toys manufactured by name brand monstrosities. The TV coverage begins with music you know by heart and commentators appear dressed in safe, ordinary …

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Thinkin’ Out Loud: Martinsville Race Recap

*Key Moment* – Joe Gibbs and Rick Hendrick spent their money to enter stock car racing? Seriously, on a day where Jimmie Johnson set a career high for laps led, where Hendrick Motorsports and Joe Gibbs Racing led all but two laps, it’s hard to find a “defining moment.” Maybe Friday afternoon when Jimmie Johnson won the pole? When a driver “owns” a track, like Johnson has owned Martinsville during his career, earning the quickest route off pit lane just makes it that much easier for him to whip the field. He used that first pit stall to regain control, late in the race and it was all over but the burnouts after that.

The Big Six: Questions Answered After the STP Gas Booster 500

_Looking for the Who, What, When, Where, Why and How behind Sunday’s race? Amy Henderson has you covered with each week with the answers to six race day questions, covering all five W’s and even the H…the Big Six_

*Who…gets my shoutout of the race?*

Sometimes kudos are like potato chips; I can’t pick just one this week after a pair of drivers who started in the back of the pack simply manhandled their cars to the front after 500 long laps. Well, maybe “manhandled” is the wrong word, because *Danica Patrick* brought it to the front, gaining 20 spots on her official starting spot of 32nd to end up 12th at the checkers.

IndyCar Recap: Barber Motorsports Park

*In A Nutshell:* Ryan Hunter-Reay put together a demonstrative qualifying effort and used his pole position to keep his car out front and take the victory. After a lap 1 crash, nary a yellow flag emerged, with the race holding green the rest of the way and drivers adopting varying strategies on stops, tires, and fuel conservation. Scott Dixon must have conflicting feelings leaving Barber after taking the second spot for a fourth consecutive time – must be great to have confidence knowing he races well there, but coupled with frustration. Helio Castroneves rounded out the podium with a solid effort, which marks a strong open to the season for the Brazilian.

Pace Laps: Milestones Marked While Youth Rises

_Did you miss an event during this busy week in racing? How about a late-night press release, an important sponsorship rumor, or a juicy piece of news? If you did, you’ve come to the right place! Each week, The Frontstretch will break down the racing, series by series, to bring you the biggest stories that you need to watch going forward for the week ahead. Let our experts help you get up to speed, no matter what series you might have missed, all in this edition of Pace Laps!_

*Sprint Cup: Johnson Reaches Martinsville Milestone* Jimmie Johnson’s dominance at Martinsville continued Sunday, and this win was a particularly memorable one for the 37-year-old Californian as he broke a tie with Jeff Gordon to become the winningest active driver at the Cup Series’ shortest track. Johnson’s win was his eighth, which also puts him third all-time at the track, behind Darrell Waltrip and Richard Petty. Gordon and Rusty Wallace are next on that list with seven apiece.

Is NASCAR Suffering From A Diva Complex?

Sometimes NASCAR drivers are just impossible to understand. One minute they’re burning rubber on track, making three wide passes and proving why they’re in NASCAR in the first place. The next, they’re bitching on pit road about another driver racing them too hard with 10 laps to go. They go from zero to hero, shining to whining, in a matter of moments, and it’s disheartening.

Take the post-race … er … “scuffle” on pit road between Kevin Harvick and Brian Vickers last Sunday at Martinsville (though it’s hardly a scuffle when they use their cars). I’ve watched the replay of the last few laps and, frankly, I just don’t get it. With just a few laps left, Vickers, Harvick, and Danica Patrick (!) were battling for right around the 12th position. Vickers blamed Patrick for blocking (which she was), and Harvick got upset with the way Vickers was blocking him (which he was). Nobody did anything _wrong_, but they were racing. It was Martinsville. It happens. width=”132″ height=”129″/>

Tearing Apart the Trucks: Young Guns Excel at Martinsville

After taking six weeks off between the season opener and Saturday afternoon’s Kroger 250 at Martinsville Speedway, the Camping World Truck Series didn’t disappoint and showed up in spectacular fashion. From beating and banging to tempers flaring, there are so many things to take away from this race, but perhaps the most important is the influx of young talent the sport continues to see.

It all began Friday afternoon when Jeb Burton snagged his first career pole, posting a lap of 96.666 mph (19.589), barely edging the track record set by Timothy Peters last fall, and fellow rookie Darrell “Bubba” Wallace, Jr. managed a lap quick enough to start on the outside front row. Think about it–that means the pair of rookies beat out guys like Johnny Sauter and Kevin Harvick who have dominated the last few years at the track.

Sidebar Stories

Danica Patrick Finishes Strong in Martinsville When preseason experts and fans predicted where Danica Patrick would have the most successful, Martinsville Speedway certainly wasn’t at the top of the list. However, Patrick silenced her critics by finishing in the 12th position, her best finish at any non-restrictor plate track. With this being her first time …

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Quotes to Remember: STP Gas Booster 500

“Disappointed for sure. We had a fast car all weekend long and really thought we were maybe going to be walking out of here with a Grandfather Clock. I tore the car up pretty bad over here off of (Turn) 4. I checked up and I got hit from behind, pushed into the 1 (Jamie …

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