Strategy and determination ruled the track at Martinsville Speedway for the Round of Eight final elimination Xfinity 500. Unlike the bang and bump Xfinity series the day before where cars crossed the line backwards and on fire, the NASCAR Cup race of the same title series name was run closer to calculated endurance.
The final third of the race ran green as a run for the lead brought Ryan Blaney up to and around Aric Almirola with 22 laps to go. Blaney kept the #12 Discount Tire Ford out front for the win. This was the third 2023 win for Blaney, who came up originally from High Point, NC which is just a bit south of the speedway.
It was, however, a disappointing day for Joe Gibbs team mates Denny Hamlin and Martin Truex, Jr. The race started with Truex on the pole but a speeding penalty half way in put him back in traffic that he could not push through. Hamlin had a good run with a stage win and top five performance but could not clinch at the end. Mechanical issues the week before at Homestead had him at Martinsville with too many points down and in a “must win” to advance.
Ryan Blaney won the race but it may have been William Byron who won the day. Despite six wins, the late season points math had him below the cut coming into Martinsville. He fought with the #24 Chevy all day as his team kept him focused. He managed to bring it in leading the one lap back bunch which was just enough to clinch a spot for Phoenix.
Kyle Larson and Christopher Bell had Round of Eight wins for the advance and were “safe” at Martinsville. Larson and Bell finished 6th and 7th. Almirola hung on for 2nd, Hamlin was 3rd as Chase Briscoe and Joey Logano filled the top five.
The Championship is settled at Phoenix. Ryan Blaney, Kyle Larson, Christopher Bell and William Byron are in the mix for the Cup. Any of the others can grab a final win of the season. Will it be an upset…? Or will one of the Championship Four take the final checkered flag?
Photo Gallery – NASCAR Cup Xfinity 500 – October 29, 2023 – Martinsville Speedway
Saturday racing in the NASCAR Xfinity Series certainly turned the heat on at Martinsville Speedeay. There were cautions. There were stops. There was a chase for a championship on the line and the tensions were running hot from a full season of racing. Nothing set that stage more than the final restart in overtime.
Austin Hill and Sheldon Creed shared the front row on the restart as the team mates hit it forward. Creed gave Hill a bump in close quarters and had to check in the turn catching Hill’s bumper hard. The crowded turn three and four invited John Hunter Nemechek into the mix and cars started losing grip and going off . It was a crash-fest has Creed and Justin Allgaier came out of the turn. Allgaier and Creed came up the stretch wheel to quarters but it was Allgaier at the checkers.
Creed is on a different tack in 2024 leaving RCR for Joe Gibbs. Hill is making no secret he won’t miss Creed. We’ll have to wait to see if racing between the two next season has moments of heat. For this season, both are out of the championship run.
The RCR team friction also benefited Cole Custer as he was points behind Hill but even though Custer crossed the line backwards and on fire he was now in front of Hill to make the round.
Allgaier came from spots behind to get the win at Martinsville and make the cut. He came into the weekend just a notch behind Hill and below the points line.
The “must win” setting of the race at Martinsville also set up friction between Joe Gibbs Racing team mates Sammy Smith and John Hunter Nemechek. Smith started on the pole and finished third but felt slighted by Nemechek after, as Smith saw it, Nemechek blocked a run and cost him enough to not make the championship advance.
The four drivers in the championship hunt are: Sam Mayer, Justin Allgaier, John H Nemechek, Cole Custer
There were a lot of damaged cars being hauled out of Martinsville but the final race at Phoenix will see four drivers in new cars racing against each other for the NASCAR Xfinity championship. Will one of the four make “must win” moves or will one of the other drivers on the track steal the glory of the last win of the season?
Photo Gallery – NASCAR Xfinity Dead On Tools 250 – Martinsville Speedway – October 28, 2023
The NASCAR Cup race on Sunday, July 30th, at Richmond Raceway went by with calculated strategy rather than “hit and run” havoc. The temperatures were still quite hot with in-car readings reaching 130 degrees. The pressure was on for a win as the Playoff season is coming fast. (The cut off race is Daytona at the end of August).
Team mates Brad Keselowski and Chris Buescher were the race lap leaders for almost half of the Cookout 400. Keselowski is also an owner for the Roush Fenway Keselowski Racing team.
There were only 3 cautions and 2 were the stage finishes. The third came as the race was coming to a close setting up a 3 lap run for the checkers that had Buescher leading Denny Hamlin by half a second. The #17 Fastenal RFK Ford was well in front of the #11 of Hamlin before the caution.
Pit stops proved to be the “make it or break it” events for the race. Bubba Wallace had a good early run but a tire change mishap set him back. Pole sitter Tyler Reddick was flagged for a pit commitment violation and had to race back to a 16th place finish. Brad Keselowski also had a pit sequence which had him in the stall a bit too long with an odd angle going in forcing extra time on exit.
Tyler Reddick was the stage 1 winner. Brad Keselowski took stage 2.
Buescher’s win sets him into the playoffs. Denny Hamlin ran 2nd. Kyle Busch, Joey Logano and Ryan Preece filled the top 5.
PHOTO GALLERY – NASCAR CUP – Richmond Raceway – Cookout 400 – July 30, 2023
NASCAR mid-summer weekend at Richmond Raceway was a hot one. Temperatures pushed well into the nineties and the racing brought a challenge to teams and drivers. The late July schedule brought the Craftsman Series Trucks and NASCAR Cup to the Virginia capitol city on Saturday, July 29th.
The trucks faced a deadline as the Worldwide Express 250 at Richmond was the last race to make the series Playoffs. A win to secure or a points ride sufficient to cling to a spot was essential. Ty Majeski was going for it with a pole start and both stage wins. However, a pit road speeding mistake put him back in the field. This proved to be the point that upset the evening for the #98 ThorSport Racing Ford.
Majeski was able to race back to the front but it cost him a late race pit stop so he was out on track racing against fresh rubber on competitors’ trucks as the laps wound down. Those newer tires allowed #42 Niece Motorsports Chevy driver, Carson Hocevar, driving with the title sponsor Worldwide Express on the panels, to take the lead with three laps to go. The Richmond win for Hocevar made his third of the season as he drove from a 17th place start to win the night.
Majeski still had season points to make the Playoffs. The win would have been a boost but Majeski, Nicholas Sanchez, Matt Dibenedetto and series veteran Matt Crafton just made it in on points.
Corey Heim, Zane Smith, Carson Hocevar, Christian Eckes, Grant Enfinger, Ty Majeski, Ben Rhodes and Nicholas Sanchez, Matt Dibenedetto and Matt Crafton are racing into the Round of Ten with their next race coming at Indianapolis.
PHOTO GALLERY – Worldwide Express 250 – Craftsman Series Trucks at Richmond Raceway
There are racetracks across Virginia that have faded into dying memories and a few lingering photos. These places are plowed over for other development or just taken back by nature. It was very recently that a “lost tracK” was brought back from neglect and deterioration in North Carolina. The NASCAR Cup All Star race just ran at North Wilkesboro which has been refurbished and brought back after sitting, mostly unused, since 1996. For all real expectation, North Wilkesboro was done.
With tracks fading and many completely gone, stories of comebacks are very rare. It is also a bit of luck that tracks that have managed to escape the grip of time and scattered attentions remain open and running. The tracks that still race have been kept alive by any number of reasons but dedicated support, re-investment and management, plus a bit of luck, have played a big part.
We just visited Natural Bridge Speedway a bit ago. It’s a dirt oval in the midst of a “comeback” season. We now can put Franklin County Speedway on the 2023 list. This track, nudged back in the hills of Callaway, a few miles out of Boones Mill and Roanoke, has had its own share of setbacks. It has been on the brink of being a “lost track” more than once. Sheer determination and careful investment and some long hours have kept Franklin County in the mix of hot lap racing. Some big, touring series are on the schedule including the SMART Modified Tour which just ran the Friday of Memorial Day weekend.
How big of a deal is it…? Well, fans of modified racing will recognize names such as Burt Myers, Brian Loftin and Tim Brown (among others on the track). NASCAR names such Champion Bobby Labonte and Ryan Newman (both in the NASCAR top 75 drivers list) were suited up and racing at Franklin County. Those are NASCAR Cup stars, racing at a track that just a few years ago was struggling to keep water flowing for working toilets.
The cars and drivers were lined up on the track early to meet and greet with race fans. The front stretch was full and active as folks met drivers, got some autographs and a few selfie photos.
The Kenny Minter Classic featuring the SMART Modified Tour also had Carolina Crates, East Coast Flatheads and Virginia Vintage Racers on track with local Stock-4 drivers filling the evening. Whoever was in charge of the hamsters got them running on the wheels to get the track lights on but the overhead PA system apparently had a screw loose someplace and stayed quiet. The scoreboard has been dark for a while so, without the PA announcements, keeping up is just a bit difficult. Perhaps, just as a suggestion, some kind of display could be set in the main building…?
The 110 lap Minter Classic / SMART race ran just about 2 hours. The racing was hot and fast but cautions threw the wrench a few times with some holding laps under a red flag stop. Tim Brown held the lead for a good part of the first half with some challenges from Ryan Newman and Joey Coulter and Bobby Labonte throwing in for a round or two. Burt Myers kept himself in the hunt while chasing Coulter for the later laps and managed the lead in time to take the checkers.
Burt Myers had the win, Joey Coulter and Brandon Ward came in second and third while Ryan Newman, surviving slight damage that forced a pit stop fix, hung on for fourth.
The Carolina Crates hit a red flag snag as Tanner Young in the #33 crashed at the entrance to turn 1 which tore the car up and pulled a piece of the guard rail out. Young was OK but the rail post had to be removed. The 602 Carolina Mods finished their 62 laps with a top three of Jack Baldwin, Devin Steele and Cody Norman.
Vintage racing is always a fun watch with two associated groups taking the flags at Franklin County. Modified and Sportsman classes in the East Coast Flathead Ford Racing Association put their classic rides on display and to the test. The Modified winner was Jeremy Cox and the Sportsman winner was Wayne Lawson.
For the Virginia Vintage Racers, it was Barry Dalton in the Modified #05 and Shawn Otey in the Sportsman #10 that took the top spots.
The Stock-4 field ran between the SMART and the Carolina 602 Mods. The Hexed / Hinchee #20 took the class win.
Let’s be clear. Yes, we’ve made some lighthearted hits at FCS but that in no way should imply anything but respect for the work of the promoters and staff of Franklin County Speedway. The infrastructure there is being worked as time and cash flow allow. They have done a lot of work and continue to do so. For spectators, the show and the facility is ready for you. The place is a little rough around the edges and, if you look closely, you can be taken back in time a little bit. Bring a comfy, folding chair and be ready to take in some racing that showcases classic, short track tradition. That is part of the charm that makes places like Franklin County Speedway keep the lights on and the laps fast.
Speeding. Maybe a bit of misunderstanding on where the lines are but at the end of the day… Speeding. That is essentially what pulled the plug on Ryan Preece at Martinsvlle Speedway.
There was a possibility of rain on NOCO 400 Sunday. The weather had already played a role in Friday racing with the Craftsman Series as delays eventually led to a rain shortened Long John Silver’s 200.
The Xfinity Series, Call811.com Before You Dig 250, went off with mostly clear skies on Saturday. It was also Saturday that set Ryan Preece on a race leading start. Preece had won the Busch Light Pole Award. That may have been a blessing and a curse. It gave him pit choice but that also contributed to his race day mistake.
Ryan started up front and stayed there for the stage 1 win. Stage 2 started well enough as Preece still pulled the train. A touch and spin with Eric Jones and Harrison Burton put the caution on and opened the pits. This stop put the brakes on hard for the #41. He had the last spot on pit road and his exit for position led to the speeding penalty. The exit and speed points caught him as he jumped the gun on those points.
The Haas #41 Ford was fast up front in clean air but back in the pack at Martinsville it was tough going for moving forward. He ultimately finished 15th. A good start and show for the Preece team and, perhaps, a big lesson learned.
The setting now had another Stewart-Haas driver, veteran Kevin Harvick, in position to run for the stage 2 win. Ross Chastain, Kyle Larson, Aric Almirola, Chase Briscoe and Denny Hamlin were also in the mix but it was Harvick at the 2nd green/white flag.
The final stage was led out by Stewart-Haas as Harvick and Briscoe shared the front row. Denny Hamlin charged into it with 140 or so to go and managed to get by both of them to have his turn out front.
The charge for Hamlin was short lived as competition and incident cautions shook the field to allow Kyle Larson to take control in the later laps. Joey Logano had also pushed his way forward to challenge but could not get close enough for the pass. At the final lap it was Kyle Larson taking his first Martinsville win and his second win of the season. *Both are at Virginia tracks! Richmond and now, Martinsville.
The day finished very well for Larson. Team mate Chase Elliott stepped back into the #9 for the first time since his snowboard accident. Six weeks out and Martinsville maybe wasn’t the best for a return. The rhythm of racing here isn’t easy on the legs. However, Elliott did salvage a top 10 after starting deep in the pack.