The NASCAR Sprint Cup CHASE is well under way. Team Penske was quick out of Richmond to pick off wins in the first two of the ten “playoff” races. Brad Keselowski tagged his Richmond win with a top run at Chicagoland. Joe Logano took the next at New Hampshire.
Hendrick’s teams have hung on with Jeff Gordon taking the win at Dover. Johnson, Earnhardt, Jr. and Kahne have run well enough to stay on it.
Gibbs has their teams chasing forward with Kyle Busch, Hamlin and Kenseth. Rousch has Carl Edwards and Stewart-Haas has Harvick. Childress has Newman.
Biffle, Allmendinger, Almirola and Kurt Busch have faded from The CHASE following the the first cut out of Dover.
The Contender Round is next up with the races at Kansas, Charlotte and Talledega. This next set will set the stage for the Eliminator Round which brings The Chase to Martinsville Speedway.
But first….
While The Chase is gearing up for Kansas the regional late model drivers are looking closer at Martinsville and the MDCU 300 which warms the racing in advance of The CHASE.
In many ways, this race is as big as The CHASE and is often referred to as the Daytona 500 of late model stock car racing. These drivers have been running fender to fender all season and practically every weekend at tracks such as South Boston Speedway, Motor Mile Speedway, Caraway, Hickory, Langley…  and many more in the region. The purse is large and the draw is as well. If you are a “race” fan that only goes to races when the Big Top is in town you are missing out if you skip the MDCU 300. While the Sprint Cup NASCAR races are always a big deal these drivers are your neighbors, your business owners and dedicated racers scraping to make the next race with the same car they drove last weekend…. and the weekend before…
And it is always a show! They scrap and scrape and race every lap. These weekend short tracks run shorter races so every lap and every pass counts. Transfer that to the Martinsville Speedway and the MDCU 300 and you have a lot of drivers racing to get in and a lot of drivers racing to make their efforts pay off. One big weekend to tie an entire season into a win and a grandfather clock. It’s the weekend these drivers bring their best to.
Peyton Sellers has driven a lot of fast things and has won with them. Late models, Whelen, NASCAR K&N, Camping World and Nationwide Series… Series champion at South Boston Speedway and this season just a tick off the mark for picking it up at the Motor Mile also. With all of this he has yet to get the grandfather clock from Martinsville. From him, he says he could be on one of his best seasons ever and is heading to Martinsville Speedway with a mission to win. From his NASCAR experience he brings possibly a better head for patience in longer races such as the MDCU. He knows most of the contendors and who to run with and who to give a bit more space. Peyon is a driver who has the foundation to make him, perhaps, just a step above the “racers”.
Matt Bowling is young yet driven. He has put together wins and this year he is pulling a train of success into the gates at Martinsville. A strong season includes finishing in front of NASCAR veterans like Kyle Busch, Matt Kenseth and Denny Hamlin at South Boston and the Hamlin Short Track Showdown. He won there and has several more since. His eyes are set on the MDCU 300 and his determination is worn like a comfortable shirt. For those NASCAR fans who only make the trip when Sprint is in town he says they are missing some of the best on track action by skipping on the local weekend tracks and even more at the MDCU 300. The stars filling the seats of Sprint Cup cars in a few years may be racing right here. For Matt, tomorrow is this weekend and the next race. It’s a big one.
Michael McGuire could be a young gun at the MDCU 300 and he admits his seat time doesn’t compare this season to many others coming to Martinsville. However, he has made moves from local runs to the more advanced K&N Series. McGuire continues to chase his dream of driving and his eye is focused on Martinsville. He is young but has gained a lot of experience from his first win at the age of 14 and seems comfortable with the idea of bringing it on at the MDCU 300.
Peyton, Bowling and McGuire, along with Dennis Holdren, Scott Lancaster and Brian Reedy, were all together for a friendly gathering in Roanoke at Center in the Square in advance of the MDCU 300. The event was set in motion by the folks at Martinsville Speedway to give some attention to these drivers in attendance and to all the drivers, teams and families that put it all together to haul a race car to their local track. Martinsville will be full of them this weekend as the Saturday round of practice and qualifying gets under way. Sunday, the heat racing for remaining spots gets the green flag. Before is a driver autograph session at 10AM and after is the feature race for those that make it in. For race fans it is a weekend of local stars on the big field.
It will be interesting to see the difference from casual dinner conversation about racing to track day and real racing.
The Sprint Cup will be hear soon enough with The CHASE and the championship in motion. For the teams in the region this weekend is their show and they are ready to race at Martinsville.

MDCU 300 – 10/4-5/2014 | Goody’s Headache Relief Shot 500/Kroger 200/VA Lottery Pole Day – 10/24-25-26/2014

Martinsville DuPont Credit Union (MDCU) online

Martinsville Speedway online.

Drivers Michael McGuire, Scott Lancaster, Dennis Holdren, Peyton Sellers, Matt Bowling, Brian Reedy ready to see the fans and race for the win at the MDCU 300. Martinsville Speedway President Clay Campbell (center)

The NASCAR season has crossed over the lip of racing in and is now racing on to the Sprint Cup. The CHASE has been set following the checkered flag at Richmond and is ready to be set loose on the first race at Chicagoland.
Between Richmond and Chicago, the drivers who made The CHASE were busy with strategy and planning and cars and teams and chasing themselves across America and the towns they will be racing in. Dale Jr. was in California, Johnson was in New York and in between were all the others including Ryan Newman who was put through some paces in Martinsville.
At Martinsville High School on Wednesday, September 10th, Newman drove the #31 Caterpillar RCR Chevy around the running track that circles the football field. He drove a wheeled robot designed and built by the students. He stepped with the cheerleaders… sort of. He threw a football. He kicked a football… sort of. He fed a bulldog (the school mascot) a microphone… sort of.
The party with the MHS Bulldogs was a showcase of the pride of the school and, like Martinsville Speedway, a history with the town. Newman also spoke to the current class from the Speedway stage brought in next to the field he had previously driven around. He has an engineering degree and not only knows how to drive the car but also knows how it works. He stressed the importance of school and finding the interests within and seeking the drive to pursue goals and dreams. He talked about racing from an early age and being lucky enough and driven enough to be able to pursue that love and turn it over to a career. Newman is not loud or particularly animated when speaking yet he held the students’ attention with knowledgeable authority. He spoke from experience and it came through.
Following the track, field and cheers at the high school the mood changed to the business of racing as the venue changed to Martinsville Speedway. Here, in more familiar surroundings, Newman elaborated on The CHASE and how Martinsville plays into the strategy. The history of racing there, the fact it is the only short track in The CHASE and the challenge of racing there all come together to make Martinsville a focal point of the post season. So much so that Hendrick’s teams have already tested there. Several more, including Newman and RCR, are planning on Martinsville tests before October race day.
Newman already has one grandfather clock (the traditional trophy of winning at Martinsville) and would like nothing better than another on the way to a possible championship. The chips, realistically, are not stacked in his favor. Although an accomplishment to make The CHASE with his first season at RCR the points, position and strength of other teams Newman will be up against is huge. The possibility is there and, listening to Newman speak, so is the determination. The reality of getting there may be the thing as there is so much that would have to fall into place with good runs of the #31 and a little bad luck falling to competitors.
As Ryan Newman said, The CHASE is a series of races and overall strategy is good but week to week focus is key. Looking ahead to Martinsville on the weekend of October 26th is several races away. To capitalize on a good run at the historic speedway some momentum needs to be brought into the Goody’s Headache Relief Shot 500.
As the engines set ready for the drivers’ “start” command at Chicago, time is turning like the hands on a grandfather clock towards Martinsville. In time, we’ll see how Ryan Newman and the others in The CHASE are stacked as the engines start again in Virginia.

Martinsville Speedway website

Ryan Newman website

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There was tension at Richmond leading into racing. The pre-race was fine and the drivers were fine with the usual chatter and smiles before the engines started but the tension was there. Ten drivers were still playing the field and the math to be on the CHASE stage following the Federated Auto Parts 400.

One of them was starting on the pole. Jeff Gordon needed a good run to pop the bubble.

Racing at Richmond generally has some bobbles. Touches and spins which usually puts some kinks on the sheet metal is normal. This race wasn’t so normal. It was almost more of a dance than a race. Light on cautions and a bit heavy on leads…

Until the last 10 laps. Questions are all over the board focusing on the exit of turn 4 onto the front stretch. Clint Bowyer, running a wheel on the outside of Dale, Jr., seemed to just lose it and went sideways sliding down onto the apron. The #88 made it by but left its driver a little confused.

“It was the craziest thing I ever saw.  He just spun right out.” said Dale Earnhardt, Jr.

Ryan Newman was leading and was just a few laps away from potential victory and a CHASE spot when Bowyer’s #15 went for a slide. Pit road change ups rattled the lineup leaving Newman back slightly with not enough race to make it back. (more…)

Chase For the NASCAR Sprint Cup Clinch Scenarios for Richmond

10 Drivers Vie for Five Remaining Spots (Compiled by NASCAR)

 DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Sept. 2, 2013) – Below are the 2013 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup clinch scenarios for Saturday night’s Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond International Raceway, the final race before the Chase field is set. Six drivers have clinched top-10 spots in the Chase: Jimmie Johnson, Clint Bowyer, Kevin Harvick, Carl Edwards, Kyle Busch and Matt Kenseth. Kasey Kahne, on the strength of two wins, has clinched at least a Wild Card spot.

Four drivers control their top-10 clinching destiny. Regardless of the finishes of any other driver… (more…)

Tony Stewart. One guy crashes up and the rest of racing gets shaken up. At Watkins Glen, Max Papis was yanked away from his Grand-Am ride to pilot the #14 of Stewart. At Michigan, Austin Dillon was pulled away from his Nationwide duties to drive the #14.

At the center is a focus on non-traditional NASCAR racing. Stewart crashed while racing sprint cars on dirt. The next two weeks had drivers taking attention away from road course racing to drive the #14 and one of those (Papis) was taken from one road course to another. Dillon took attention away from his #1 points position in the NASCAR Nationwide Series and the race at Mid-Ohio (road course) to drive for Stewart at Michigan.

Dirt tracks and road courses. Dillon had earlier won the Camping World Series truck race at Eldora which is a dirt tack owned by Tony Stewart. Timing may not have suited Dillon as he stepped away from Mid-Ohio and his first in points position to drive for Stewart but it was an opportunity not to be skipped.

Even if he did have to start at Mid-Ohio in the back for missing qualifying…

Even if he’ll eventually be competing against Stewart as he moves to his own Cup ride, likely to be #3…

(Yes – The #3. He’s in it for Nationwide and will likely have it again. Sorry, Dale Sr. fans… No use boo-hooing so you might as well start pulling out some cheers…)

And even if his grandfather (Richard Childress) is losing Kevin Harvick to Stewart-Haas in 2014… (more…)

“Third time is a charm” or perhaps things sometimes happen in “threes” or maybe it’s just luck…

Tony Stewart is out of the #14, Mobil 1 – Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet for Watkins Glen. That is certain. How many more races he could miss as the season runs closer to Richmond and “The Chase” is yet to be determined.

At Southern Iowa Speedway, Stewart was running quite well in his #14 sprint car when he slid into a slower car and went for an airborne tumble. The result was a smashed car and a broken leg. To be exact, he broke the bones in his lower right leg. (more…)

At one of the historic speedways in America, host to NASCAR for 65 years, racing took place with late-model stock cars for a full day of fender scraping, bumper ripping and wall refinishing.

Apparently, the same was going on for the Cup drivers at Kansas…

The Virginia Is For “Racing” Lovers 300 was turning laps through heat races, last chance advances and a main event which left metal and fiberglass stacked on trash bins throughout Martinsville Speedway. A few tempers were scraped along the way, as well.

Meanwhile, the Hollywood Casino 400 was crunching numbers with attrition and battered metal as the Chase was being knocked around the new pavement of Kansas Speedway. A few tempers may have been scraped along the way.

For Kansas, 14 cautions littered the day. There were at least that many for the late-model folks at Martinsville. We suspect there were more… (more…)