Saturday, Sep 25

MARTINSVILLE, VA -- When it was announced that Jeff Gordon would be coming out of retirement to fill in for Dale Earnhardt Jr., who is recovering from concussion-like symptoms.  it was questioned about whether it would effect Gordon’s NASCAR Hall of Fame eligibility.

 

NASCAR confirmed to Speedway Digest on Friday that Gordon’s eligibility for the Hall of Fame has not been effected through his fill-in role in 2016. 

 

Gordon will be eligible to be nominated in 2018. If he is a first ballot nominee, he will be inducted in 2019.

 

Gordon has filled in eight races. Gordon’s best finish was 10th at Dover International Speedway. His best start was 11th at Bristol and Richmond.

 

NASCAR Hall of Fame eligibility is drivers who have competed in NASCAR for at least 10 years and been retired three years are eligible for nomination, drivers who have competed for a minimum of 10 years and have reached their 55th birthday before December 31 of the year prior to the nominating year are immediately eligible, or if a computer has competed 30 or more years in NASCAR competition by December 31 of the year prior to the nominating year is eligible.

 

Over his career, Gordon has 93 wins, 805 starts, 325 top-five’s, 476 top-10’s, and 81 poles over his 25 year career. Gordon is currently a member of the NASCAR on FOX team. 

The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drafts their way out of the 2.66-mile Talladega Superspeedway to the 0.526-mile Martinsville Speedway nestled in the mountains of Virginia for the 68th annual Goody’s Fast Relief 500. This will kick off the “Round of Eight” for the Chase for the Sprint Cup. A win by a Chase driver will guarantee a lock at a chance for the championship at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

 

40 drivers are vying to compete for 40 spots in Sunday’s main event. Notable drivers in the field include Jeff Gordon, who will race for the final time in 2016 filling in for Dale Earnhardt Jr. Dylan Lupton will be making his third start of 2016 this weekend in Martinsville.

 

Martinsvile Speedway was built in 1947 by H. Clay Earles, and is the only track to host NASCAR sanctioned races since 1949. Martinsville is known on the NASCAR circuit as “The Paperclip”, due to its shape and its tight corners. The track width is only 55 feet. The turns are 588 feet in length and the straights are 800 feet. Pit road begins at the entrance of turn three and goes to the exit of turn two and is only 46 feet wide.

 

There have been 59 different pole winners at Martinsville. 49 different drivers have won at the prestigious speedway. 21 races have been won from the pole with Jimmie Johnson being the last driver to do so in 2013. In 1996, Gordon set the race record at 82.223 mph. In 2014, Jamie McMurray set the qualifying record at 99.905 mph.

 

Besides the Chase for the Sprint Cup, there are numerous storylines coming into the weekend. Ford has not won a race at Martinsville since 2002 with Kurt Busch. The other storyline is can Joey Logano win his fourth consecutive pole to become the first driver to do so.

 

Drivers talk about Martinsville and going into the “Round of Eight”.

 

“We’ve run well the last couple times at Martinsville and definitely pumped about getting back there. I’m hoping we can have a really good car there again this time around like we did last time. We led a lot of laps and we were really fast. Hoping that some of those things that we were able to push through there at Martinsville, we’ll be able to do this time around,” says Kyle Busch, driver of the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota.

 

“These next three races line up really well for us. We’ve been fortunate to have won at Martinsville before and we ran really well there the first race. The 1.5-mile tracks have been our bread and butter and Phoenix has been really good pretty much every single time we’ve been there. First it was just trying to get to Martinsville and we’ve accomplished that. Now we have to focus on getting the best finish that we can out of each racetrack. I guess if I’d have to pick one that we’ve been most successful at it would be Phoenix hands down. But, our 1.5-mile stuff has been our bread and butter this year as we’ve gone through the season, so that should be good; and Martinsville has been good to us in the past,” says Kevin Harvick, driver of the No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevy.

 

“We had a really good test at Martinsville a few weeks ago and I’m looking forward to the race this weekend.  It seemed like we found some speed and we’ve been pretty good at Martinsville the last two races.  I’m feeling pretty optimistic about running in the top 10 this weekend and maybe even better than that,” says Greg Biffle, driver of the No. 16 Roush Fenway Racing Ford.

 

Track activity begins at 11:00 a.m. EST with first practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series to prepare for qualifying which will be at 4:40 p.m. EST. On Saturday, teams will have two practice sessions at 9:00 a.m. EST and 12:00 p.m. The Goody’s Fast Relief 500 will begin at 1:00 p.m. EST. All activities from Martinsville Speedway will be broadcasted by NBCSN and Motor Racing Network. 

Brad Keseloski and Martin Truex Jr. saw their championship hopes dashed during Sunday’s Hellmann’s 500 at Talladega Superspeedway.

Truex Jr. was running in the top-10 for the first 40 laps. However, his engine expired shortly after green-flag pit-stops cycled through. The expiration of the engine was a surprise for Truex Jr.

“Just developed a vibration and started to lose a little bit of power. Originally I thought it could have been a tire because it was shaking worse and worse and worse until it was time to pit. I slowed down to hit pit road and felt the vibration still there and knew it was the engine,” said Truex.

After dominating the first round of the Chase, the second round started off on the wrong foot at Charlotte. Those struggles continued to struggle throughout the “Round of 12”. Truex described this round of the chase as a “rollercoaster”. He wishes he would have had better runs at Charlotte and Kansas in an effort to have a “free pass” this weekend at Talladega.

Despite his struggles in the second round, Truex is still confident and proud in his team. “They’ve worked so hard this year to put us in the position to battle for a championship and we felt like we could do it. This year and this sport is tough and we didn’t perform at Kansas and Charlotte the way we were capable and we had some issues there and that put us in the hole and if we could have went there and done better and maybe got a win then we wouldn’t be talking about this right now. We didn’t get the job done, but we’ve got a great team and we’ve got four more races to go out there and try to get a win and I know we can win all four of them and that’s what we’re going to try to do.”

For Keselowski, his engine expired as he was running, but the problem could have been avoided. While leading the race, Keselowski had gained a piece of debris on his grille.

While leading the race, Paul Wolfe, crew chief, and Joey Mier, spotter, were arguing about what Keselowski should do to get the debris off. They finally reached a point of consensus to let Ryan Blaney get in front of Keselowski to get the debris off the grille. However, shortly after the move was made, the engine expired off the backstretch bringing out the caution.

“Something let go.  I’m not sure exactly what, but it’s unfortunate.  We had a really fast Miller Lite Ford and that kind of ended our day.  It was a lot of fun to be leading at Talladega.  I really like this track.  It’s been good to us and there are a lot of great fans here today.  We were doing the best we could to make a show of it and have some fun and lead some laps and just happy and proud to have a fast car,” said Keselowski.

Due to the engine issues, Keselowski and Truex Jr. were eliminated from the Chase for the Sprint Cup. The plan for both drivers is to win the remaining four races of the season.

With the Hellmann’s 500 going into NASCAR Overtime, fuel becoming an issue in the closing laps, and receiving an early penalty for removing equipment, Joey Logano was victorious at Talladega Superspeedway to advance in the Chase for the Sprint Cup. Logano is the lone driver from Team Penske to advance for a championship. This is Logano’s second victory of 2016.

 

“It’s never a layup here at Talladega.  It’s always close.  You never get a big lead.  A good Shell/Pennzoil Ford.  Todd made some good adjustments during the race and found some speed in the car, so that was pretty neat to see some of that.  We got that track position and just hung onto it.  I was able to stay on the bottom and try to run the bottom and keep everyone in line, and that worked out really well.  Kevin did a good job with that, which ultimately got us all a great finish.  It was fun racing there at the end.  I was really confused.  I didn’t know what lane to pick coming to the last restart, but I knew Kevin had a lot of experience in these situations and is great at speedway racing, so he did a good job of pushing me out and then had to defend the top lane with Brian Scott, so a couple of Fords out front here at Talladega is pretty cool,” said Logano in a post race interview.

 

The first half saw the level of attrition at an all time high. Second-place qualifier, Brad Keselowski, took an early lead fending off three-wide racing behind him. However, Martin Truex Jr. was able to find a hole to challenge Keselowski to the lead, but was unable to gain to the lead. Chase Elliott tried to make his move on Keselowski for numerous laps to capture the lead with help from Greg Biffle and was successful. After leading a couple laps, Keselowski was able to side-draft off Elliott to regain the lead. As the first round of green flag pit stops began, the main draft split in half to go down pit road. Logano was penalized for removing his jack from pit road as Denny Hamlin was penalized for speeding. Truex Jr. had a catastrophic engine failure to bring out the first caution of the day shortly after green-flag stops. When the race went back green, Keselowski regained the lead to block the momentum from the drivers behind him. Keselowski attempted to block Elliott, but Elliott was able to gain the lead. Elliott’s lead lasted shortly as Greg Biffle challanged and gained the lead. Keselowski lost drafting help and dropped back. The field began to settle down and went single file on the high-line. As the field went single-file, Biffle reported a piece of debris on his grill. However, the conga line on the high lane broke as Keselowski dropped out of the line to make a valiant charge to the front. Elliott made a move on the inside of Biffle to regain the lead, and to knock the debris off the grille of Biffle. As green flag pit stops cycled through, Keselowski regained the lead. At the halfway point, Keselowski was the race leader, Ryan Blaney was in second, Kurt Busch was third, Hamlin was fourth, and Kyle Larson rounded out the top-five.

 

As the race entered the halfway point, Elliott tried to reform the bottom line from the Talladega Conga Line, but failed to have more drivers join him. The main draft began to spread out some instead of being bumper-to-bumper. As Keselowski was dealing with overheating, Hamlin and Blaney split Keselowski giving Hamlin the lead. However, the caution flew for a wreck involving Biffle, Casey Mears, and Jeffrey Earnhardt entering into the tri-oval. On the restart, Hamlin was able to get lead and block his lead. However, Keselowski was able to regain the lead. The race returned to the conga line at the top of the racetrack. After a few laps in a single file line, Elliott began to lead a group to form a bottom lane, but the lane never came into fruition. However, Keselowski had another piece of debris on his grille, but used Ryan Blaney to clean that debris off; however, it was too late as Keselowski slowed onto the apron as his engine expired. Logano gained the lead on the restart, but the caution shortly fell for debris on the backstretch. As the race restarted, Kyle Busch and Matt Kenseth, who were waiting in the back, began to lose the draft. Landon Cassill saved the field from wrecking in the tri-oval as he got loose. However, Logano was reporting debris on his grille, but that caused no harm. The caution flag flew for an accident in turn three for a spin by Kasey Kahne involving Trevor Bayne and Jamie McMurray. On the restart, Logano and Harvick were head-to-head, but the caution flew for a spin by Alex Bowman. Under the caution flag, many drivers were concerned about fuel, but fuel was no issue, resulting in a victory for Logano.  Brian Scott finished second, Hamlin finished third, Ku. Busch finished fourth, and Stenhouse Jr. rounded out the top-five.

 

The Chase for the Sprint Cup Series saw four drivers having to wait another year. Keselowski was knocked out after his engine blew on lap for waiting too long to get debris off his grille. Truex Jr. also saw his chances for a championship diminish after his engine went sour on lap 43 shortly after the completion of green-flag pit stops. Austin Dillon’s championship hopes were dashed as the checkered flag flew. Dillon lost in a tiebreaker with Denny Hamlin. Hamlin was able to beat Kurt Busch by .006 seconds after Harvick let off the gas to avoid wrecking Hamlin. Despite having a 12th place finish, Elliott needed a win to advance, but could not get the drafting help to make a charge to the front.

 

The drivers who advanced will have their points reset to 4000. Logano will be the top seed, followed by, Jimmie Johnson, Harvick, Kenseth, Edwards, Hamlin, Ku. Busch, and Ky. Busch. The eliminated Chase drivers show Truex Jr. in the top-position. Keselowski is 23 points back from Truex, A. Dillon is 28 points behind, Elliott is 35 points behind, Kyle Larson is 36 points behind, Tony Stewart is 50 points behind, McMurray is 81 points behind, and Chris Buescher is 82 points behind.

 

The race saw an average speed of 159.905 mph. The time of race was 3 hours, 11 minutes, and 38 seconds. The margin of victory was 0.124 mph. There were 31 lead changes among 14 drivers. The caution flew six times for 25 laps. Only three drivers were listed as out of the race. Only 14 penalties were assessed on pit road. 34 cars were able to finish on the lead lap.

 

All cars passed post-race inspection. 10 of the 12 Chase drivers were inspected as the cars of Keselowski and Truex were not fit to be inspected.  Logano, Scott, Hamlin, A. Dillon, and Stenhouse Jr. are being taken back the R&D center for further inspection.

 

Despite having engine issues, Keselowski was able to lead the most laps at 90. Logano was able to lead 45 laps, Biffle led 13 laps, Hamlin led 12 laps, Elliott led nine laps, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Michael Annett were able to lead six laps, Blaney was able to lead three laps, Ky. Busch and Truex Jr. led two laps, and A. Dillon, Kenseth, Carl Edwards, and Tony Stewart all led one lap.

 

Next up for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series will be at trip to Martinsville Speedway for the Goodys Fast Relief 500. Coverage from Martinsville will begin on Friday with first practice at 11:00 a.m. EST on NBCSN.

Before NASCAR Sprint Cup Series qualifying began at Talladega Superspeedway, inspection issues occurred for Hellman’s 500 pole winner Martin Truex Jr.

During inspection, NASCAR saw fit to confiscation parts from Martin Truex Jr.’s team before inspection began. NASCAR confiscated the jack screws from the No. 78 Toyota. Cole Pearn went to Twitter after the news broke to explain the situation. “A 5.5" LF jackscrew was replaced for a 8" that was mistakenly recessed to where a 5.5" is. Common sense/CG doesn't matter at a superspeedway,” said Pearn.

The story broke after a report by Motorsport.com. Pearn also tweeted, “Perhaps some fact checking should be done before releasing stories like this. It’s called journalism.” However, the tweet was deleted shortly after.

While qualifying was taking place, NASCAR sent back the teams of Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch, and Matt Kenseth. The drivers were about to qualify when NASCAR saw something “unusual”, and sent them back to be re-inspected. All drivers were able to pass inspection and beat the five minute clock imposed by NASCAR for jumping out of the qualifying line.

NASCAR’s Senior Vice President of Competition Scott Miller addressed the media shortly after qualifying was complete.

When asked about Trull’s situation, Miller stated, “It’s not a real competitive advantage. What we will do with that one is take it back to the R&D Center and go through our normal processes like we do. Analyze everything and decide what we are going to do.”

Miller stated that it was “unlikely” to see a penalty for the No. 78 team. “It has to go through our process. We don’t technically do that on the weekend. Because it is the playoffs, everyone has a heightened sense of everything, but this is no different than things we’ve done all year. We will treat this one like we do all year long,” stated Miller.

“It’s no different than the JGR (Joe Gibbs Racing) cars that failed the templates and had to go through. It’s our job to officiate the sport and make sure everything is right,” said Miller.

Miller accredited the processes NASCAR has in place stating, “Today’s activities are no different than we do every weekend.”

On the Joe Gibbs Racing cars, Miller stated, “That has happened before when our inspectors suspect something was manipulated after inspection was over. Before we have pulled cars off the grid and sent them back to inspection and rectified the problem.

Miller stated that the problem was not “big”, but that it had to be fair for everybody.

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