Hendrick Motorsports 200th Win Celebration Put On Hold
For 497 laps on a gorgeous Sunday afternoon, a 200th NASCAR Sprint Cup victory for Hendrick Motorsports seemed a foregone conclusion. The only real question was whether Jeff Gordon or Jimmie Johnson would deliver the win in the Goody's Fast Relief 500 at Martinsville Speedway. Between them, Gordon and Johnson led 440 laps. The teammates -- with 13 Martinsville victories and nine championships between them -- were fighting for the lead late in the race when a yellow flag turned the proceedings inside-out. Moments after Gordon wrested the top spot from Johnson out of Turn 4 on Lap 497, NASCAR threw a caution because David Reutimann's No. 10 Chevrolet lost power and stopped at the end of the frontstretch.
That set up a restart on Lap 504 and the wild wreck that followed. Gordon and Johnson, the only two drivers who had stayed out on old tires, left the field to the green. Race winner Ryan Newman gave Clint Bowyer's Toyota a shove on the frontstretch, and Bowyer took Gordon and Johnson three-wide into the first turn. Simply put, Bowyer ran out of room, slid into Gordon and spun himself and the Chevys of Gordon and Johnson. "You've got tires, they don't, and they spin the tires (on the restart)," Bowyer said. "The 39 (Newman) hits you in the rear. I mean, if I didn't go down there, the 39 (would have), and we all just run out of real estate, and that's the nature of the beast at this place."
Johnson said he has learned that three-wide doesn't work when you get to the corners at Martinsville. "It's really inviting to try to make it three-wide on the inside going into the turn, and you do have the room on the straightaway, but when you get to the corner -- the way the curb shoots out -- there is no inside lane there," Johnson said. "Clint put us all in a bad situation and made the dive-bomb in there, and I'm sure once he got inside, he saw what he had in front of him and was trying to wedge a hole, and it just turned us all around. Unfortunate deal, and I just wish he had been a little more patient there and didn't create that wreck." Dale Earnhardt Jr., who finished third, didn't fault Bowyer for trying to win the race. "The No. 15 (Bowyer) dove to the bottom, and it's his right," Earnhardt said. "He was doing what he wanted to do to try and win the race -- so I think Clint did what he had to do." (NASCAR Wire Service)
Ryan Newman Steals One At Martinsville
In the wake of a controversial late-race caution, Ryan Newman spoiled an afternoon of Hendrick hegemony with an opportunistic victory in the Goody's Fast Relief 500 Sunday at Martinsville Speedway. After Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson dominated the action for 497 laps, an untimely caution flag flew on Lap 497 and sent the race to overtime, after David Reutimann stalled on the frontstretch. Gordon and Johnson stayed out on old tires as the lead-lap cars behind them came to the pits for tires and fuel. On the restart on lap 504, Clint Bowyer took Johnson and Gordon three-wide into the first corner, and all three cars spun, ruining a potential 200th victory party for Hendrick Motorsports. After the dust settled, Newman cleared runner-up AJ Allmendinger on the second lap of a green-white-checkered-flag restart and held on to win by .342 seconds. Dale Earnhardt Jr. ran third, followed by Matt Kenseth and Martin Truex Jr.
The victory was Newman's first of the season, his first at Martinsville and the 16th of his career. It was the third win of the year in six events for Stewart-Haas Racing. "I felt like I wasn't racing AJ on that restart -- I felt like I was racing Junior behind me," said Newman, who overcame a pit road speeding penalty and earned a free pass to the lead lap under the third caution before rallying to win. "It was really important to me to not spin my tires and get a good start and race AJ and try to eliminate the 88 (Earnhardt) from the race for the win." -- That's exactly what Newman did. Over the final two laps, Newman and Allmendinger raced each other hard and cleanly, with Newman taking the green flag from the inside lane and Allmendinger lined up to the outside. "He ran me really clean," Allmendinger said. "He didn't shove me up the racetrack like he could have. He gave me the opportunity to beat him on the outside there. We were just not turning good enough in the center (of the corners) there on the restart. But we had a shot at it. That's all you can ask for."
The suspense and hard racing of the final two laps was overshadowed by the intensity of criticism in some quarters -- notably the Hendrick domain -- for Reutimann's failure to bring his car to pit road. Reutimann broke a suspension part in the late going but remained on the track. Then his engine failed, and his car came to a stop at the end of the frontstretch. "I would like an explanation on why that happened, from him, his crew chief, somebody," said Earnhardt, who was running third when the caution flew and likely would have finished there under any circumstances. But there's no...it doesn't seem like there could be a logical reason for him to end up stopped on the track. "He was running around slow; you got a problem, you really....get down and get on pit road. I don't believe he had any trouble getting down. When we went by him the first time, he was low. I would like to hear a good excuse, to be honest with you, because I'm sure it would be laughable."
Reutimann shares his ride with Danica Patrick, in an arrangement between Tommy Baldwin Racing, which fields cars for Reutimann, and Stewart-Haas, which is supporting a 10-race Cup schedule for Patrick. A motivating factor in Reutimann's staying on the track was his desire to keep the car in the top 35 in owners points -- and thence exempt from qualifying on speed -- until Patrick's next scheduled Cup start May 12 at Darlington. "I just hate that I was involved in anything that changed the complexion of the race, so I've got to apologize to the guys that it affected," Reutimann said after the race. "It broke a tie rod or something like that. I was just trying to limp around there. We needed to finish the next couple of laps to try to stay in the top 35. The thing quit going down the back straightaway, and it shut off. I just didn't stop there intentionally. I know it sucks. I hate it for everybody that it affected, but I mean I can't get out and push the thing -- I was just trying to finish the day out and trying to stay in top 35, which is why we were trying to limp around out there. They gave me the black flag. We were coming to pit road, and it shut off. And that's far as I could go."
Gordon had led 322 laps before Johnson passed him for the top spot on Lap 356. That brought Johnson all the way back from a pit road speeding penalty incurred on Lap 100 under the first caution of the race. Johnson was flagged for speeding on exit and restarted at the tail end of the field. But with 80 percent of the race ahead of him, the five-time champion had plenty of time to work his way back to the front of the field. Denny Hamlin beat both Johnson and Gordon off pit road on Lap 363, during pit stops under caution for Travis Kvapil's spin in Turn 2, but Johnson regained the lead on Lap 393, passing Hamlin to the inside through Turns 1 and 2 after dogging the No. 11 Toyota for more than 10 circuits. Gordon regained the lead on Lap 497 moments before the caution for Reutimann's disabled car slowed the race. The eighth caution for the Bowyer/Gordon/Johnson wreck extended the race to 515 laps, 15 past the scheduled distance.
All told, Gordon led 328 laps and Johnson 112, but the two best cars weren't near the front of the field when Newman took the checkered flag. Johnson came home 12th, the last driver on the lead lap. Gordon finished 14th, a lap down, after running out of fuel during the overtime. Greg Biffle leads the NASCAR point standings by six points over Dale Earnhardt Jr. The race featured the fewest cautions (7) at Martinsville since Sept. 22, 1996. (NASCAR Wire Service)
Junior Johnson Hospitalized
NASCAR Hall of Fame driver and car owner Junior Johnson has been hospitalized in North Carolina. Johnson, 80, is dealing with health issues associated with his 2009 back surgery, said Junior Johnson Racing general manager Keith Barnwell. He is in stable condition but still being treated at the hospital, Barnwell said. “We want to thank everybody for their prayers and concerns,” Barnwell said. Johnson was one of the five members of the inaugural class of the NASCAR Hall of Fame inducted when the facility opened in 2009. (sportingnews.com)
Kevin Harvick Leads 248 of 250 Laps In Martinsville Truck Victory
Kevin Harvick may have relinquished ownership in his NASCAR Camping World Truck Series team, but he hasn't lost any speed in the process. Harvick crushed the rest of the field in Saturday's Kroger 250, winning in seemingly effortless fashion by .953 seconds over Richard Childress Racing teammate Ty Dillon. A caution for David Reutimann's right-front tire on Lap 227 of 250 erased Harvick's 1.4-second lead at that point, but after a restart on Lap 245, Harvick's claim to the trademark grandfather clock trophy was a mere formality. "Not a bad way to make our first truck start for RCR," Harvick radioed after he crossed the finish line. Harvick led 248 laps, a series record.
James Buescher finished third, followed by Justin Lofton and Timothy Peters. Nelson Piquet Jr., Ross Chastain, Jason Leffler, John King and Jason White completed the top 10. From 2008 through 2011, Harvick started 25 Truck Series races, all in his own equipment, and won 11 times. At the end of the 2011 season, however, the desire to start a family took precedence over NASCAR ownership, and Harvick and wife DeLana sold their Truck and Nationwide Series assets. Some of Harvick's truck equipment went to Eddie Sharp, some to Richard Childress. Behind the wheel, it didn't matter one bit that Harvick was driving a No. 2 Chevrolet fielded by his Sprint Cup Series owner.
First, Harvick won the pole for his season debut. Then he won the race, notching the 14th NCWTS victory of his career and his third at Martinsville. Harvick was so dominant that, shortly after a restart on lap 165, he asked his spotter to relay a message to Dillon's team. Harvick wanted Dillon to know that he was running at about 80 percent of his truck's potential. "Tell him not to burn his stuff up (trying to catch us)," Harvick said. "It's been a long time since we've dominated like that and actually won," Harvick said after the race. "We made a lot of changes over the offseason, moving teams to RCR, and this is what we'd hope forâ€”to make what was a good truck team a better truck team."
Harvick chose the outside lane on restarts to help ensure that Dillon, a rookie competing for the series championship, finished second. "I knew we had a little bit better truck than what they had," Harvick said, "but I didn't want him to get hung on the outside. They're racing for a championship, and it's our job as the No. 2 team to go out there and help them and try to make sure they win the championship and we win races." King, who lost a lap early and regained it with a free pass, retained the series lead by one point over Peters and Lofton. Jeb Burton, son of former Daytona 500 winner Ward Burton, was involved in a multicar wreck on Lap 235 but recovered to finish 13th in his series debut. (NASCAR Wire Service)
Kasey Kahne On Pole For Sunday's Sprint Cup Race
Jeff Gordon had the fastest speed in Friday practice but it was teammate Kasey Kahne who best got his Chevrolet hooked up to the 5.33-mile Martinsville Speedway in qualifying for Sunday's Goody's Fast Relief 500 Sprint Cup race. Kahne's lap was timed at 19.496 seconds for a speed of 97.128 mph. This is Kahne's 24th pole in 294 Sprint Cup races. It's his second pole and fifth top-10 start in 2012.This is Kahne's first pole in 17 races at Martinsville Speedway -- his previous best start was second in 2005. Kevin Harvick will line up on the outside pole with Denny Hamlin in third, Clint Bowyer in fourth and Ryan Newman in fifth. Rounding out the top ten are Brian Vickers, Brad Keselowski, Kyle Busch, Jeff Gordon and Joey Logano. Three drivers did not qualify, Scott Speed, Tony Raines and Mike Bliss.
Harvick On Martinsville Truck Series Pole
Kevin Harvick won the Keystone Light Pole Award for the 14th annual Kroger 250 with a lap of 19.794 seconds for a speed of 95.665 mph. This is Harvick's third pole in 118 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series races, his first pole and first top-ten start in 2012. This also is Harvick's first pole in 14 races at Martinsville Speedway. Ty Dillon was second and was the fastest qualifying rookie. Timothy Peters will start third for Saturday's race, Cale Gale will roll off the grid in fourth while Ron Hornaday Jr. sits in fifth spot. Rounding out the top-10 are Justin Lofton, Jeb Busch, Johnny Sauter, James Buescher and Jeff Agnew. The race is scheduled to start at 1:30 p.m. eastern time.
NASCAR Hotpass Lineup At Martinsville Speedway
NASCAR Hotpass on DirecTV is free to all DirecTV customers. Four dedicated driver channels offering viewers multiple camera angles, real-time statistics and audio of the network broadcast augmented by live communication between the drivers and their pit crews are available for all 36 point-paying races during the 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season. The NASCAR Hotpass lineup for Martinsville Speedway Martinsville, Virginia is as follows:
DIRECTV Channel 795: Matt Kenseth and the No. 17 Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers / Gary Sinise Foundation Ford team of Roush Fenway Racing
DIRECTV Channel 796: Kevin Harvick and the No. 29 Budweiser is Back Chevrolet team of Richard Childress Racing
DIRECTV Channel 797: Jimmie Johnson and the No. 48 MyLowe’s Chevrolet team of Hendrick Motorsports
DIRECTV Channel 798: Dale Earnhardt Jr., and the No. 88 AMP Energy / National Guard Chevrolet team of Hendrick Motorsports