Hear what the drivers had to say about the multi-car crash and the possibility of rain in the Coke Zero 400 at Daytona.
Catch up quickly before Sunday's STP 500 (1 p.m. ET, FOX Sports 1) Vote: Who will win at Martinsville? " Play: NASCAR Fantasy Live What: 66th annual STP 500 Where: Martinsville Speedway , Martinsville, Virginia When: Sunday, March 29, 2015 TV/Radio: FOX Sports 1, Motor Racing Network Time: 1:13 p.m. ET Distance: 500 laps (263 miles) Pit Road Speed: 30 mph Caution Car Speed: 35 mph Estimated Pit Window: 125-135 laps, based on fuel mileage On The Front Row " Full starting lineup " See all 43 cars 1. Joey Logano , Team Penske No. 22 Ford (98.461 mph) 2. Ryan Newman , Richard Childress Racing No. 31 Chevrolet (98.328 mph) To The Rear Casey Mears , Germain Racing No. 13 Chevrolet (transmission); Regan Smith , Chip Ganassi Racing No. 42 Chevrolet (driver change, subbing for Kyle Larson ); Justin Allgaier , HScott Motorsports No. 51 Chevrolet (backup) Failed To Qualify Brendan Gaughan , Premium Motorsports No. 62 Chevrolet; Ron Hornaday Jr ., TMG No. 30 Chevrolet. Fastest In Practice First practice: Ryan Newman , Richard Childress Racing No. 31 Chevrolet (97.835 mph) " Full results Second practice: Denny Hamlin , Joe Gibbs Racing No. 11 Toyota (97.113 mph) " Full results Final Practice: Kurt Busch , Stewart-Haas Racing No. 41 Chevrolet (97.098 mph) " Full results It's Not Where You Start After qualifying first or second in two of the last three races, defending Sprint Cup champion Kevin Harvick will roll off from the No. 17 position at Martinsville. He's qualified worse this season, starting 18th at Las Vegas. For the record, he won Las Vegas. Remember When? A Ford team has not finished first or second at Martinsville since 2002, going 0-for 24 since Kurt Busch won the fall race here while driving for Roush Fenway Racing . Chevrolet teams have won the last eight races at the 0.526-mile track. Hey Buddy, Move It "There is a lot of blocking that goes on (at Martinsville) and nobody wants go give up the inside, but the guy behind can control that a little bit. You can just get to their bumper and move them. … The guy that chops your nose off a lot going into say, Turn 3, you are just going to move him. … It is frustrating at times, but you definitely want to be on the offensive here rather than the defensive." – Paul Menard , RCR No. 27 Chevrolet He Can See The Front Tony Stewart will start sixth at Martinsville, his best starting spot since the fall race at Texas last year. He's also coming off his best finish of the season, a 14th-place result last week at Auto Club Speedway . The three-time Martinsville winner says earning a good starting spot "is half the battle" on the tiny track. "If you can just get a good pit spot and … a decent starting spot to where you do not have to beat the thing to death trying to get to the front, that's half the battle," he said. Pole or Bust Pole winners have won two of the last five Martinsville races, which might be good news for No. 1 qualifier Joey Logano . But drivers starting outside the top-20 have won the last two – Kurt Busch won from 22nd last spring while Dale Earnhardt Jr . won from 23rd in the fall race. Winless and counting Yes, it's been quite a while since a Toyota team won a Sprint Cup Series points races, 31 races in fact, and while Joe Gibbs Racing driver Denny Hamlin says a victory at Martinsville would be a big boost, it wouldn't be a cure-all. "It's been tough and it's been a hard year for the organization and the manufacturer," he said. "Not that a win here would just satisfy all those needs -- we still know that realistically we've got a lot of work to do, but it definitely would take a lot of pressure off because right now we're all in that hornets' nest of the bubble spot if this thing comes down to points." An Off-Weekend? Let's Go Racing Chase Elliott , the defending XFINITY Series champion and the son of NASCAR Hall of Fame member Bill Elliott , is making his Sprint Cup Series debut today. Elliott will start 27th in the No. 25 Chevrolet fielded by Hendrick Motorsports . "You just want to put together 500 solid laps on Sunday and try to run all the laps and hope we can have a good day," Elliott, 19, said. The XFINITY Series has the weekend off, returning to action Friday, April 10 at Texas Motor Speedway . Defending STP 500 Champion Kurt Busch , Stewart-Haas Racing No. 41 Chevrolet Driver Rating Best driver rating average at Martinsville Speedway based on past 10 years: Jimmie Johnson , Hendrick Motorsports No. 48 Chevrolet (122.5) Jeff Gordon , Hendrick Motorsports No. 24 Chevrolet (119.8) Denny Hamlin , Joe Gibbs Racing No. 11 Toyota (110.1) Former Martinsville Speedway Winners In Field Jeff Gordon , Jimmie Johnson 8; Denny Hamlin 4; Tony Stewart 3; Kurt Busch 2; Dale Earnhardt Jr ., Kevin Harvick , Ryan Newman 1 MORE: READ: Latest NASCAR news PLAY: Sign up for Fantasy Live WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView today FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Denny Hamlin paced the field in Saturday's opening practice Vote: Who will win at Martinsville? " Play: NASCAR Fantasy Live RELATED: Practice results After qualifying 15th on Friday, Denny Hamlin powered his No. 11 Toyota to the top of the leaderboard during Saturday's NASCAR Sprint Cup practice for Sunday's STP 500 (1 p.m. ET, FOX Sports 1) at Martinsville Speedway . The Joe Gibbs Racing driver posted a speed of 97.113 mph and has won four times at the paperclip oval, ranking third among active drivers in NASCAR's premier series. Just behind Hamlin was Jimmie Johnson , who wheeled his No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet at 96.988 mph around the short track after overcoming an electrical issue midway through practice. Rounding out the top five were Hendrick Motorsports teammates Jeff Gordon and Kasey Kahne , followed by Joe Gibbs Racing 's Carl Edwards . Coors Light Pole Award winner Joey Logano didn't show quite as much speed in today's practice session, ranking 15th on the leaderboard. Since qualifying 17th yesterday, reigning Sprint Cup champion Kevin Harvick seemed to have found his groove around the short track today, posting the 10th-fastest speed in the field. A little further back was Chase Elliott , who is making his Sprint Cup debut with Hendrick Motorsports in Sunday's STP 500 . The 19-year-old posted the 20th-fastest speed. Final Practice " Results Defending STP 500 winner Kurt Busch finally showed his speed during the final practice at Martinsville Speedway , powering his No. 41 Stewart Haas Racing Chevrolet at 97.098 mph around the 0.526-mile track. Jimmie Johnson 's momentum from the earlier practice continued, as the No. 48 driver once again posted the runner-up speed on the leaderboard of 96.810 mph. Following Johnson was Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jeff Gordon , along with Joe Gibbs Racing 's Denny Hamlin , who topped the leaderboard in practice earlier in the day. Richard Childress Racing 's Ryan Newman , who posted the fastest speed during Friday's Sprint Cup practice session, rounded out the top five. Coors Light Pole Award winner Joey Logano seemed to find his power again in this practice, putting up the seventh-fastest speed on the leaderboard. Right behind Logano was 2014 Sprint Cup champion Kevin Harvick , who posted the eighth-fastest speed in his No. 4 Stewart Haas Racing Chevrolet. Dale Earnhardt Jr ., the last driver to celebrate a Sprint Cup win at Martinsville, continued to run in the middle of the pack, putting up the 18th-fastest speed. Chase Elliott , who will be making his first start in a Sprint Cup car with Hendrick Motorsports , slowed a bit in the final practice, ranking 27th on the leaderboard. The 19-year-old will make his Sprint Cup debut from the 27th position in Sunday's STP 500 . MORE: READ: Latest NASCAR news PLAY: Sign up for Fantasy Live WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView today FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
17-year-old held lead late, but spin-out took him out of contention PLAY: NASCAR Fantasy Live RELATED: Full race results " See the dramatic closing laps MARTINSVILLE, Va. -- NASCAR's oldest national-series track often shines its light on veterans, sometimes chewing up newbies like so many hot dogs coming from the infield concession stand. Cole Custer , though, nearly turned conventional wisdom on its head, almost converting an amazing comeback at the tender age of 17. Custer, making just his first start of the season and his 10th NASCAR Camping World Truck Series appearance overall, nearly sewed up some Martinsville magic in Saturday afternoon's Kroger 250 , rallying twice from pit-road penalties to become a contender for the victory in the final laps. Custer actually sprang to the top of the scoring pylon with four laps left in regulation with a bold, full-contact move to get past veterans Matt Crafton and Joey Logano . But the teenager was far from home free, anticipating payback from one of the two. Crafton delivered with a series of bumps, sending the youngster spinning to bring out one final caution flag and send the race to overtime. From there, Custer limped home with what he figured was a damaged rear gear to finish 16th as the final truck on the lead lap. "I knew he was going to come back for me, though," Custer said after emerging from his battered No. 00 Chevrolet, the first truck series effort for JR Motorsports. "You know, he did it respectfully and I just gave him all I had to stay up there. … It's Martinsville. You're going to beat and bang for the win. It's what it is." Custer started second alongside eventual race winner Logano but faced an unexpected deficit early on because of pit-road penalties. Custer's No. 00 was flagged for speeding in a 36th-lap exchange of pit stops, then was tagged again on Lap 143 of a scheduled 250 for exceeding the limit again. The repeat offense had both Custer and crew chief Joe Shear Jr. scratching their heads, especially since Custer said he was never over their target RPMs on the tachometer. Either way, Custer methodically marched from the tail end of the field, helped by the second set of eyes and advice provided by spotter Eddie D'Hondt -- Jeff Gordon 's spotter in the Sprint Cup Series. Custer was characteristically stoic on the team communications Saturday, but the encouragement from Shear and D'Hondt made all the difference. "Eddie's helped me a lot this weekend," Custer said. "That's a big reason why we were fast. Joe brought a great truck to the race track, and I was happy with the day. Didn't get the finish, but at least we were fast. It was a big step up from last year for me, so we'll come back here in the fall, and I think we'll have something, too." He almost had something Saturday, gaining on front-runners Crafton and Logano as their battle for the lead became more heated as the laps wound down. By the time 10 laps remained, it was a free-for-all that went from a two-horse race to three. While the two veterans ahead of him scrapped and scraped, Custer saw opportunity, driving hard into the corner entry to push both trucks up the race track. Custer dove low beneath both Crafton and Logano to squirt out in front, and D'Hondt keyed his mic: "Don't you look in that mirror! I got it." Had he looked, he would have seen that Crafton's bright No. 88 Toyota was coming full-bore and that Logano's No. 29 Ford had recovered nicely, too. Crafton, the two-time defending Camping World Truck Series champ, laid the bumper to the youngster multiple times in the 248th lap, forcing Custer to lose control, spin and stall as he brushed into the lead. "I was kind of nervous," Custer said after suddenly rising to the top spot. "I didn't know there were so many laps left. I thought there were only a couple laps left, so I thought if I could get in front, I could've stayed there. Matt was just a little bit better than us and could catch us, and I deserved to get punted back." Crafton described Custer's pass for the lead with the words "pounded" and "pile-drove" but chalked up the contact to the nature of short-track racing. Logano wasn't displeased with how their run-in eventually unfolded. "With inside 10 (laps) to go, I heard that he was coming, but I heard that he was about 3 or 4 (truck-lengths) back," Logano said of Custer's late charge. "The next thing you know, here he comes banzai-ing in there and takes both of us up the race track. I haven't seen a replay yet or not, but my initial reaction I was really mad, and I guess I wasn't disappointed to see what I saw." Though Custer was powerless to mount an improbable third comeback to the front, Shear commended his young driver on the cool-down lap: "They knew that we were here." Martinsville remains the only track where Custer has multiple truck series starts, and Shear said he noticed the difference from his earlier efforts. He also noticed how Custer kept his composure at a track that usually riles up even the most patient drivers . "He's young still. He'll learn how to flip out like the rest of these Cup drivers someday," Shear said with a laugh. "But no, he did a good job with that. He could've easily gotten rattled and torn up even worse than he did, so he did a fantastic job. He's definitely a really mature kid for his age, and I'm proud to work with him." MORE: READ: Latest NASCAR news PLAY: Sign up for Fantasy Live WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView today FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
XFINITY Series champ will start 27th on Sunday (1 p.m. ET, FOX Sports 1) Vote: Who will win at Martinsville? " Play: NASCAR Fantasy Live RELATED: Full starting lineup MARTINSVILLE, Va. – The weather issues might have been a concern, but nothing could dampen the spirits of Chase Elliott Friday at Martinsville Speedway . The 19-year-old will make his NASCAR Sprint Cup Series debut here in Sunday's 66th annual STP 500 (1 p.m. ET, FOX Sports 1), thanks to a qualifying effort that will see his Hendrick Motorsports No. 25 Chevrolet start 27th in the 43-car lineup. Joey Logano ( Team Penske ) will start on the pole. "I don't know how I feel about being excited about being 27th, but at the same time it's really exciting to making our first Cup race," Elliott said. "It's just crazy how different a world this is on this side of things, being timed so close. Just a couple of hundredths (of a second) would have had us in the top 24, and a tenth would have had you, heck, up in the teens. "I was doing my best to get in and that was our goal today. Certainly a lot of pressure off to not have to worry about that tomorrow and we can focus on our race car for Sunday afternoon." Because the No. 25 team was making its first appearance and had no owner points, Elliott needed to qualify inside the top 36, ahead of at least nine others, to guarantee himself a spot in the field. Forty-five teams made at least one qualifying attempt. Elliott will move into the Sprint Cup Series full-time next season, taking over the No. 24 ride of four-time champion Jeff Gordon . For 2015, he'll make five attempts on the Sprint Cup side, with Richmond (April 25), Charlotte (May 24), Indianapolis (July 26) and Darlington (Sept. 6) completing his schedule. The defending NASCAR XFINITY Series champion and driver of the No. 9 JR Motorsports Chevrolet in that series, Elliott rolled out onto the Martinsville half-mile with a little over half the 20-minute opening session remaining. He was 22nd after the first lap and improved to 17th with a second trip around. A third lap produced the seventh fastest time at that time while a fourth lap failed to improve upon that effort. After pulling back into the garage, Elliott and his team watched as other drivers began posting faster laps. He had fallen to 27th when Ron Hornaday Jr . crashed to briefly bring the first round to a halt. Elliott went back out for a second shot at improving his position, briefly climbed back into the top 24, but then just as quickly was bumped back out. "The challenge was obviously the weather, and just the lack of laps," crew chief Kenny Francis said. "Now all that's behind us and he's got a chance to get some laps tomorrow and we can work on our car, think about it without near the stress. And we can lean on our teammates some." While the No. 25 group is part of the Hendrick organization, Friday's weather delay meant the four full-time teams of Gordon, Dale Earnhardt Jr ., Jimmie Johnson and Kasey Kahne were busy trying to map out their own strategies for practice and qualifying. Because of the rain, the start of Sprint Cup practice was delayed by more than two hours, and the planned session of an hour-and 25 minutes was squeezed into about 45 minutes. "That was another challenge; yeah, we're part of Hendrick but I mean we're on our own down here (on the far end of the garage)," Francis said. "With the weather and the lack of time, those guys are on their own agenda … so there's not much to collaborate on. "That was a bit challenging. It was fortunate we had a good baseline from the 24 car (of Gordon)." The STP 500 is the sixth of 36 races on this year's Sprint Cup Series schedule. MORE: READ: Latest NASCAR news PLAY: Sign up for Fantasy Live WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView today FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
All three RFR drivers currently sit in top five in standings
Keselowski: 'Testing is like a lottery ticket' Play: NASCAR Fantasy Live CONCORD, N.C. -- More than one dozen NASCAR Sprint Cup Series teams spent Wednesday at Charlotte Motor Speedway , validating information gleaned from simulation programs while testing on a track and a tire that they will see approximately two months from now. The open test, part of NASCAR National Series Unified Testing Program for 2015, provides one team from each Sprint Cup organization the opportunity to participate. It is the second open test conducted this season, following NASCAR's elimination of private team testing at the conclusion of 2014. "Just being able to try things and look at the data acquisition and see exactly what it did," Keith Rodden, crew chief for Hendrick Motorsports driver Kasey Kahne said of the advantages of the test. "Because on a race weekend we don't get to run those sensors so you always have some questions. "When I run tests, I try to make big changes, I don't try to 'Happy Hour' it and try to run fast. I don't really care what (speeds) we're running today … we're trying to make big picture changes, do things to the car to make it act differently. Being able to look at that data that comes right off the car when we come in is really valuable. "The second part of that is being able to correlate your simulation tool to the actual track data. That's the biggest advantage." Sixteen cars were on the track during the day-long session -- including one from each manufacturer running data-gathering wheel force transducers. In addition to Kahne, drivers participating were Kevin Harvick ( Stewart-Haas Racing ), Aric Almirola ( Richard Petty Motorsports ), Joey Logano ( Team Penske ), Jamie McMurray ( Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates), Denny Hamlin ( Joe Gibbs Racing ), Brian Scott (RAB Racing), Ryan Blaney ( Wood Brothers Racing ), Martin Truex Jr . ( Furniture Row Racing ), Michael McDowell ( Leavine Family Racing ), Clint Bowyer ( Michael Waltrip Racing ) Ricky Stenhouse Jr . ( Roush Fenway Racing ) and JJ Yeley ( BK Racing ). A one-day Goodyear tire test was conducted on Tuesday, and Almirola was one of four drivers taking part in that session as well. "We've just been running through a lot of setup things and a lot of aero stuff and a lot of things that we kind of came up with over the winter and we've had a lot of questions about, whether they were going to be better or not," the RPM driver said. "It's hard when the wind tunnel tells you one thing – sometimes the race track agrees and sometimes it doesn't, so we've just been kind of validating some stuff on the race track that we've seen in the wind tunnel … validating some stuff that we've been seeing in our new simulation software and kind of correlating that to the real world aspect at the race track. "It's been a great test for us as far as those things are concerned." Gene Stefanyshyn, NASCAR's Vice President for Innovation and Racing Development, said such open team tests were helpful to the sanctioning body, but primarily for the teams' benefit. Three elements, he said, stand out. Unlike previous tests conducted prior to the '15 testing program, teams did not test at tracks where Sprint Cup races were held, and they tested on tires that likely wouldn't be used. That combination limited the amount of knowledge that could be gained. "We've got a lot of cars on the track," Stefanyshyn said, "so we can really get our head around those and make sure those tires are going to work well." Stefanyshyn also said such tests are able to be conducted in a more cost-efficient manner for teams "and we provide them with a higher level of service as they do all this." Brad Keselowski , the 2012 series champion, wasn't testing, but was on hand at CMS Wednesday. "You never know what you might learn or stumble across," the Team Penske driver said. "Testing is like a lottery ticket – you might win a $1 scratch-off, or you might get lucky and win $3-4 million." There have been times, he said, when he departed a test thinking it had been a complete waste of time, but others that proved to be more valuable. "I distinctly remember a test before the Kansas race (in '12)," he said, "and I really feel like what we learned at that test won us the championship." MORE: READ: Latest NASCAR news PLAY: Sign up for Fantasy Live WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView today FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
SAFER barrier to be installed in Turn 1, Turn 4; asphalt in Turn 1 RELATED: Learn about the SAFER barrier Daytona International Speedway announced Wednesday that it plans to install SAFER (Steel and Foam Energy Reduction) barrier and lay down asphalt to improve safety at the World Center of Racing in advance of its July race weekend. The announcement come less than a month after Kyle Busch suffered a compact fracture to his right lower leg and a mid-foot fracture of his left foot following an accident in the Alert Today Florida 300 XFINITY Series race. In a statement, the track said it "performed an extensive review of the facility and developed a significant plan for additional safety initiatives" with its parent company, International Speedway Corporation (ISC), and NASCAR. Before NASCAR returns to Daytona for July 4th weekend and the Subway Firecracker 250 XFINITY race and the Coke Zero 400 Sprint Cup race, it will implement the following measures: · Additional 20,000 square feet of asphalt in Turn 1 · Realignment of a portion of the inside retaining wall from infield road course exit to Turn 1 · Installation of SAFER barrier (Steel and Foam Energy Reduction) on realigned retaining wall and existing retaining wall in Turn 1 · Installation of SAFER barrier on retaining wall at pit road exit · Installation of SAFER barrier between the exit of Turn 4 to pit road entry The realignment of the retaining wall in Turn 1 and installation of SAFER barrier on the realigned and existing retaining wall in Turn 1 address the area where Busch hit the wall. Daytona International Speedway President Joie Chitwood III, who vowed to eventually ring the entire racing surface with SAFER barrier after Busch's accident on Feb. 21, also said SAFER barrier would be installed on the backstretch if possible. "In addition, based on material availability and timing, we will install SAFER barrier on the outside backstretch wall and will complete as much as possible prior to the July NASCAR weekend," Chitwood said. "Following the July races, we will complete any remaining installation of SAFER barrier on the outside backstretch wall, and continue to install SAFER barrier on the remaining areas of the property. "We will provide additional updates regarding our safety initiatives as circumstances warrant. The safety of the competitors and our fans is our top priority." While much of Daytona's 2.5-mile track features the impact-absorbing SAFER barrier, the area struck by Busch's car did not. His No. 54 Joe Gibbs Racing car skidded across grass into the infield retaining wall in Turn 1. Busch has missed the first three races of the season and is out for an undetermined time with Matt Crafton sitting in for him at the Daytona 500 and David Ragan filling the role in the No. 18 Sprint Cup ride. "We should have had a SAFER barrier there today; we did not," Chitwood said in February. "We're going to fix that. We're going to fix that right now." "This is not going to happen again," he continued. "We're going to live up to our responsibility. We're going to fix this and it starts right now." Indianapolis Motor Speedway was the first NASCAR-sanctioned track to put the barriers in place, completing its initial installation in May of 2002. A second generation of the barrier was installed at IMS in '05. Kansas Speedway completed its first SAFER barrier project in August of '04 and other NASCAR-sanctioned facilities have since upgraded their facilities to include the system as well. Since the season-opening weekend at Daytona, tracks have added safety measures to their facilities and continue to investigate ways to make their venues safer. However, no NASCAR-sanctioned track currently features the energy-reducing materials on all of its interior and exterior walls. NASCAR.com's Kenny Bruce contributed to this article. MORE: READ: Latest NASCAR news PLAY: Sign up for Fantasy Live WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView today FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
A happy-go-lucky Kyle Busch and other drivers comment on the Coke Zero 400.
Alan Cavanna tells you which drivers earned the most points in this week's NASCAR Fantasy Live game and gives a shout out to this week's top player.