Martinsville, VA (Sports Network) - NASCAR is back on the short track this
weekend, as the Sprint Cup and Camping World Truck Series compete at
Martinsville Speedway. The IndyCar Series runs its second event of the season
at Barber Motorsports Park.
Sprint Cup Series
STP Gas Booster 500 - Martinsville Speedway - Martinsville, Va.
After a week off and for some folks a time to cool off, the Sprint Cup Series
returns to action at Martinsville Speedway.
Martinsville, a 0.526-mile, paperclip-shaped racetrack, will feature a lot of
beating and banging among competitors during 500 laps of racing. It's also
likely that tempers will flare either before or after the checkered flag waves
Joey Logano and Tony Stewart will be the center of attention this weekend at
Martinsville following their physical altercation last week at Auto Club
Speedway in Fontana, Calif. Stewart got into a post-race scuffle with Logano
on pit road. He was furious with Logano for blocking him multiple times during
a restart late in the event.
It was the second straight race Logano had been involved in an altercation.
Last month at Bristol, Denny Hamlin and he had words with each other followed
by a shoving match between both of their teams after that race ended. Logano
was upset after Hamlin spun him around in the late going.
"You have to always look forward in this sport," Logano said. "If you linger
on things, you will only go so far. So I've been focusing on Martinsville from
the time we left California. It was good that we had an off-weekend, so
everyone got a little rest before the upcoming stretch of races. But with the
way we have been running, I want to keep the momentum going. So I'm ready to
get back at it and move on."
During their confrontation at Fontana, Stewart pushed Logano around, while
Logano threw a water bottle at Stewart before crew members from both teams
intervened. Stewart later said that Logano is "going to learn a lesson."
Will that lesson take place at Martinsville?
Whether or not he has another run-in with Logano, Stewart does expect a drama-
filled day on Sunday at Martinsville.
"One thing about Martinsville is there is no lack of excitement," Stewart
said. "I don't care how flawlessly your day goes, you're going to bump into
somebody at some point, even on a perfect day. You put 43 cars on this half-
mile track, and it's always going to be exciting. You will never have a race
there where you don't have some sort of drama during the day. I think every
driver will say they will have some drama at some point in the day. When you
have 43 drivers with 43 dramatic moments, that's a lot of action going on."
After his accident at Fontana, Hamlin is expected to miss the next five races
due to a compression fracture in his lower back. He crashed hard into the
inside retaining wall after making contact with Logano while the two were
battling for the lead and the win during the final lap.
Mark Martin will substitute for Hamlin in the No. 11 Toyota at Martinsville.
Hamlin, though, is planning to be at the track throughout the weekend.
With top-10 finishes in each of the first five races this season, Dale
Earnhardt Jr. heads to Martinsville with a 12-point lead over defending series
champion Brad Keselowski. Jimmie Johnson is 16 points behind his Hendrick
Motorsports teammate, Earnhardt.
Martinsville has been one of Earnhardt's better tracks lately. He has finished
either second or third in the last two spring races here. Earnhardt has yet to
win in 26 starts at this track.
"I love racetracks like that," Earnhardt said of Martinsville. "Every track
has something about it that you like or something characteristic about it that
you enjoy. But Martinsville is just a fun place, really fun track to race on.
I think the fans get a great event. They get a great show when we're there. I
think it's a good ticket between it and Bristol and Richmond. It's some of the
best short-track racing in the country that you can see. I feel like it's
always a lot of fun."
Two years ago, Earnhardt was just a handful of laps away from winning at
Martinsville for the first time. He took the lead for the first time in that
race when he nudged Kyle Busch out of the way with 21 laps remaining. But
Kevin Harvick denied Earnhardt the victory after Harvick passed him with just
four laps to go.
"At Martinsville, you do a lot of protecting your line, protecting your
position," Earnhardt said. "You'll see guys doing a little bit of blocking.
But there's a fine line, and I kind of go back to everybody's opinion on where
that line is going to be different, and you're going to get different
reactions out of different guys, depending on how you race them. You can race
everybody the same, and some guys might not like it and some guys might not
have a problem with it. But you've got to know each other's personalities well
and know what to expect."
Ryan Newman won at Martinsville one year ago, and Johnson claimed the victory
here last October. Johnson and teammate Jeff Gordon lead all active drivers
with seven wins at this track.
Danica Patrick will compete at Martinsville for the first time. If Patrick
makes the field, she will become the first female to start a race here.
"I am actually really excited about Martinsville," Patrick said. "I like the
little short tracks. They're fun. We're going to be close racing a lot of the
time. We went testing out at Little Rock (Rockingham, N.C.) and got a feel for
a track like Martinsville. I thought we actually made some really big gains
that day. It was fun. Is there time to look down at your water and oil
temperatures? No, there's not. I think it will be fun, and I had no idea that
a woman had not competed (in a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race) at Martinsville,
but I guess these are things I'll find out along the way."
Forty-four teams are on the preliminary entry list for the STP Gas Booster
Camping World Truck Series
Kroger 250 - Martinsville Speedway - Martinsville, Va.
The Camping World Truck Series has had quite a bit of time off since its
season-opener on Feb. 22 at Daytona International Speedway.
While all drivers and teams in the series are eager to get back on track this
weekend at Martinsville Speedway, probably no one is more ready than Johnny
Sauter, who won at Daytona. Sauter enters this race with a six-point lead over
Ron Hornaday Jr. and Justin Lofton.
Sauter won the spring race at Martinsville in 2011. He followed up with a
fourth-place finish here later that year. But Sauter has finished 14th and
29th at this track since then.
"Like any race, a lot of things have to go right, pit strategy and taking care
of the truck all day and staying out of trouble, so Martinsville is a tough
one to win at," Sauter said. "We've done it before, and we typically run in
the top-five every time we're there until something happens. I don't see any
reason why we can't go there and pick up where we left off in prior races."
Kevin Harvick is the only Sprint Cup Series regular competing in this race.
Harvick is driving the No. 24 Chevrolet for NTS Motorsports, which merged with
Joe Denette Motorsports prior to the start of this season.
Harvick has won three of the last four spring races at Martinsville. He led
all but two of the 250 laps in the event here one year ago.
"Martinsville is one of those racetracks I always look forward to getting
behind the wheel at each year," Harvick said. "I've had a lot of success in
the Truck Series at Martinsville, so hopefully that trend will continue this
weekend with NTS Motorsports."
Forty teams are on the preliminary entry list for the Kroger 250.
Five drivers are making their Truck Series debut at Martinsville. They are:
Chase Elliott, the 17-year-old son of 1988 Cup Series champion Bill Elliott,
Jonathan Davenport, Grant Galloway, Devin Jones and Erik Jones.
IZOD INDYCAR SERIES
Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama - Barber Motorsports Park - Birmingham, Ala.
A.J. Allmendinger will compete in an open-wheel race for the first time in
seven years this weekend when the IZOD IndyCar Series runs at Barber
Allmendinger is scheduled to drive the No. 2 car for Team Penske in at least
two IndyCar races this season -- Barber and the May 26 Indianapolis 500. He
has tested an Indy car three times in the past seven weeks, including practice
last week at Texas Motor Speedway to better prepare for racing on an oval.
After a three-year career in the Champ Car World Series, Allmendinger switched
to NASCAR in 2007. He drove for team owner Roger Penske in the Sprint Cup
Series last year but lost his ride with the team after the first 17 races of
the season when he was suspended for violating NASCAR's substance abuse
policy. He is running a limited Sprint Cup schedule for Phoenix Racing this
"I look at more than anything the fact that Roger Penske himself made the
phone call and wanted me back in one of his race cars, and whether it's an
Indy car or a stock car or sports car or whatever; to me, just that phone call
itself means more than getting in the race car," Allmendinger said. "I'm
excited, and I'm ready to go."
Allmendinger participated in a two-day IndyCar test session at Barber last
"I have to really work on learning how to get around this racetrack," he said.
"There are certain sections that I feel comfortable in, and there are some
other ones that I'm not. It's going to take some getting used to. Good thing
about having Will Power and Helio Castroneves as teammates is that they are
usually the two fastest guys here."
Allmendinger won five races and made 14 podium appearances in Champ Car from
2004-06. He also won the Barber Dodge Pro Series title in 2002 and captured
the Toyota Atlantic Series championship the following year.
"The small amount that I've worked with (Allmendinger), he's a great guy,
great personality," Power said. "I think he's an asset to the team, and so
far, he's doing two races. I hope he does more. He's good, and I enjoy working
Penske is 3-0 in both pole and race wins at Barber. Castroneves won the
inaugural race at this track in 2010, while Power has claimed victories in the
past two events here. Power led all 90 laps in the 2011 race.
Twenty-six teams are on the entry list for the Honda Indy Grand Prix of
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