Paul Menard spins after bumping Joey Logano, causing contact with Greg Biffle, Aric Almirola and Jimmie Johnson.
Dale Earnhardt Jr., Casey Mears, Justin Allgaier, David Ragan and Paul Menard get involved in a wreck on Lap 227 in the STP 500.
NASCAR reminds teams of severe penalties Vote: Who will win at Martinsville? " Play: NASCAR Fantasy Live Related: Crew chief Childers loves chatter about tires MARTINSVILLE, Va. -- NASCAR gave teams a reminder Friday morning about the severity of tampering with tires, a hot-button issue after the sanctioning body sent the Goodyears from select teams for an independent audit the last two weeks. Hendrick Motorsports crew chiefs Alan Gustafson and Chad Knaus, making an early Friday media appearance at Martinsville Speedway , addressed the issue, saying their frantic schedules on race weekends prevented them from witnessing any prohibited behavior first-hand. Still, NASCAR's confiscations and the rumblings at the track made the issue hard to ignore. "It's hard to speculate because that's all I can do, but in my experience there's a lot of smoke around that, right?" said Gustafson, who oversees preparation for Jeff Gordon 's No. 24 Chevrolet. "There's a lot of talk, there's a lot of dialogue, there's a lot of rumors in the garage. So yeah, I think some people think something is going on. And is NASCAR reacting to that or do they feel uncomfortable with what's going on? I don't know that answer. "I do think that it is something that's on the forefront of a lot of people's minds and obviously NASCAR is trying to make sure that we're all on a level playing field and if anyone is violating that that they'll pay the price, which they've reminded us this morning is very, very stiff. That's all I know, but anything beyond that speculation beside the fact is that it's a hot topic obviously." NASCAR took the tires from two teams -- those of points leader Kevin Harvick and Joey Logano -- after the season's fourth Sprint Cup Series race, at Phoenix International Raceway . Harvick's tires were taken again for independent study after last weekend's race at Auto Club Speedway , joining those from the cars driven by fellow Chevrolet drivers Kurt Busch , Paul Menard and Ryan Newman . Officials issued no penalties or expanded details from their findings, and NASCAR Executive Vice President and Chief Racing Development Officer Steve O'Donnell said in a recent appearance on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio that the "audits" were routine. WATCH: Drivers sound off on tire tampering talk Any infraction involving manipulating tires falls under the heading of a P5 penalty -- the second-highest severity in the NASCAR deterrence system, which was introduced before the 2014 season. The NASCAR Rule Book provides examples of P5 penalties, including a specific passage about tires in Section 22.214.171.124.1.a, which states, "Effecting, modifying and/or altering the standard tires in any way, other than through authorized means such as tire pressure adjustments within the recommended range, permitted tire cooling when mounted on the race vehicle; or heat-cycling on the race vehicle on the race track earlier in the Event." The punishment for a P5 violation includes the loss of 50 points in the driver and team owner standings, a fine ranging from $75,000 to $125,000, a six-race suspension for the crew chief, probation until the end of the calendar year for all suspended crewmembers, and any other applicable penalties. The practice of teams potentially "needling" tires with miniscule holes, Gustafson said, would "be a very difficult thing to police." The tactic is intended to provide a slow release of air, which would allow tire pressures to remain more consistent -- while improving grip and durability -- over the course of a green-flag run. Ordinarily, pressures rise as the tires heat up, changing the handling characteristics of the car. Gordon said that he has been a longtime advocate for NASCAR adopting bleeder valves on its tires to better regulate pressure. "I came from sprint cars where they're just built into the wheel," Gordon said. "You set them. Those might not be advanced enough for what we need in a Cup car and a Cup tire, but it just makes sense. It's crazy what we do with air pressures and these big, heavy cars build the air pressures up so much that we're always trying to start them real low, which always causes issues for Goodyear and the teams. They just increase, increase, increase. "So it makes sense to me that we have bleeder valves, but because we don't, it's pushing the teams to do things. … I've heard about a lot of things with valve caps and poking holes in tires for years, but I've never seen it done, have never had proof that it was done, so it's very interesting to me that NASCAR is investigating this further and I look forward to seeing what comes out of it. "If they find a way to stop that, if it's really going on, I get excited about our chances because I know that we're not doing it, so it will close the gap for us to whoever may be doing it. WATCH: Chris Rice explains the issue Gordon was at the center of another TireGate in September 1998, when rival team owner Jack Roush accused his Hendrick team of using illegal, chemically treated tires to gain an advantage. He said Friday that if Ray Evernham, his crew chief, was doing something illegal back then, he wasn't aware of it. No team has been outed as a rule-breaker yet, but the murmurs of unusual happenings in the garage persist. Gordon said when the rumor mill churns as loudly as its current tenor, there's something to it -- just how it's being done is the question. "I don't know if there's anything or not," said Knaus, crew chief for Hendrick's No. 48 Chevy driven by Jimmie Johnson -- like Gordon, an eight-time Martinsville winner. "I'm busy on Sunday and I don't have a lot of friends in the garage. I don't talk to anybody else, either, so it's OK. My friends are outside of racing. So I don't know what's going on. I know I sent ( Sprint Cup managing director) Richard Buck a text and I said, 'Hey man, can we poke holes in our tires? Is that OK?' and he sent me a text back that said, 'Absolutely not.' So that's all I know." Denny Hamlin said that NASCAR told all crew chiefs at Phoenix International Raceway last fall to discontinue the tactic, but since it deals with one of the three so-called sacred areas -- engine, tires and fuel -- the penalties should be fittingly severe. "If it's out there and they know about it, you should be gone forever," said Hamlin, a four-time Martinsville winner. "I mean, that's a major, major, major thing. This isn't like the old rodeo days of being able to go out there and run a big motor or soak the tires. This is a professional sport and when people alter tires that's a big, big deal. Definitely no room for it in the sport, that's for sure. Hope they clamp down on that if they do find it, and if they find it multiple times with somebody, they should have a permanent vacation somewhere." That said, Hamlin acknowledged that trying to make the distinction between a natural tire leak and a man-made one is difficult. "They'll figure out a way, and whether it will be with someone else taking a look at the tires to try to figure it out, they'll find it," Hamlin said of NASCAR officials. "And when they do, that person when they feel NASCAR getting hot on them, they're going to stop doing it and that's maybe when you'll see some performance differences. You never know." 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
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
Paul Menard goes spinning, Junior can't avoid him
Odd incident draws out second yellow RELATED: Play NASCAR Fantasy Live " Sign up for RaceView today BRISTOL, Tenn. -- Opposing teams and drivers had a chance to see the fabled "notebook" of a fellow competitor during Friday's second NASCAR Sprint Cup Series practice at Bristol Motor Speedway . Yes, a literal notebook. Crew chief Slugger Labbe apparently left his pad on top of driver Paul Menard's No. 27 Chevrolet SS while the team prepped in between practice sessions. That much became apparent when sheets of paper were swept off the hood and onto the concrete as Menard hit the high banks at the 0.533-mile track. The incident brought out a caution flag less than five minutes into the final practice session. NASCAR officials helped clean the paper off the oval as Menard came in for a quick sweep of the hood -- as did Matt Kenseth, who had full-sized sheets of notebook paper stuck on his grille. It was the second odd caution Friday. Earlier, on-track time was halted briefly to retrieve a wayward tape measure. @nascarcasm took the opportunity to give Labbe a starring role in one of Hollywood's new classics. #nascar #bristol pic.twitter.com/oeL0XaQj8W — nascarcasm (@nascarcasm) August 22, 2014 MORE: READ: Latest NASCAR news WATCH: Latest NASCAR video PLAY: NASCAR Fantasy Live FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Paul Menard explains his circuitous route to Victory Lane after winning the Ollie's Bargain Outlet 250 at Michigan International Speedway.
Paul Menard gets into the wall after trying to get to the back bumper of Chase Eliott.
Wrapping up the week that was and look forward to the week ahead Play: NASCAR Fantasy Live Hendrick Motorsports will have five teams vying for starting positions in Sunday's STP 500 (1 p.m. ET, FOX Sports 1) NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Martinsville Speedway , but HMS officials aren't skirting the rules. Since 2006, NASCAR has limited Sprint Cup organizations to no more than four full-time teams. However, officials allow a fifth entry for a maximum of seven starts "for the purpose of enabling a rookie driver … to become familiar with NASCAR Sprint Cup Series competition." In addition to full-time teams for drivers Dale Earnhardt Jr ., Jeff Gordon , Jimmie Johnson and Kasey Kahne , HMS will field a fifth entry for defending XFINITY Series champion Chase Elliott at Martinsville. It will be Elliott's first attempt in the Sprint Cup Series, one of five scheduled for the 19-year-old this season. Elliott will also be entered in Sprint Cup races at Richmond (April 25), Charlotte (May 24), Indianapolis (July 26) and Darlington (Sept. 6). The No. 25 Chevrolet will carry sponsorship from NAPA and will be led by crew chief Kenny Francis. Elliott is slated to replace Gordon in the team's No. 24 Chevrolet beginning in 2016. It will be the first time an organization has fielded five Sprint Cup teams in one race since 2009 provided Elliott qualifies for the 43-car field. HMS fielded a fifth team on a part-time basis that season for driver Brad Keselowski -- his final start with HMS came at Charlotte Motor Speedway in October. Roush Fenway Racing was allowed to field five full-time teams through the end of '09 due to sponsorship agreements that were in place when the cap was announced three years earlier. MORE INSPECTION TIME ADDED • NASCAR will continue to incorporate additional time into the pre-qualifying inspection process as the Sprint Cup Series returns from a three-week West Coast swing and heads to Martinsville. Schedule adjustments at Las Vegas, Phoenix and Auto Club Speedway resulted in an additional 15 minutes of off-track time at each venue to allow teams to prepare and present their cars for pre-qualifying inspection and for officials to complete the inspection process. The move came in the wake of inspection delays at the season's second event, the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway . Thirteen cars were unable to complete the pre-qualifying inspection process in time to post an official first-round qualifying lap at Atlanta. Friday's schedule at Martinsville indicates changes from '14 that will provide an additional 10 minutes of time between the end of opening practice and the start of qualifying. Compared to last year's Martinsville spring race schedule, opening practice is now five minutes shorter (12-1:25 p.m. ET) and qualifying will being later (4:45 p.m. instead of 4:40 p.m.). In addition, in a NASCAR bulletin distributed to teams, the first round of Sprint Cup Series qualifying will now be 20 minutes at short tracks and intermediate tracks. This takes affect at Martinsville this weekend. NO PRACTICE PENALTIES • No teams required more than three attempts to pass pre-qualifying inspection at Auto Club Speedway , meaning none will be docked 15 minutes at the beginning of practice Friday at Martinsville. NASCAR notified teams earlier this year that any vehicle that fails qualifying inspection more than twice will be subject to a 15-minute practice penalty that will be applied during the opening practice of the next scheduled event. TIRES IMPOUNDED • NASCAR impounded the tires from four teams following Sunday's Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway . Tires from the teams of Kevin Harvick and teammate Kurt Busch ( Stewart-Haas Racing ), as well as teammates Ryan Newman and Paul Menard ( Richard Childress Racing ) went back to the NASCAR R&D Center for evaluation. Harvick and Busch finished second and third, respectively, while Menard finished fourth and Newman fifth. It marked the second time this season that NASCAR had impounded tires following a Sprint Cup Series event. The sanctioning body took tires from the teams of race winner Harvick and eighth-place finisher Joey Logano after this month’s Phoenix race. No issues with the Phoenix tires were found, according to NASCAR officials. Sunday's race was the first for teams with the new left-side tire code at Auto Club. There was no change in the right-side tires. • According to Goodyear, Sprint Cup and Camping World Truck Series teams will run the same Goodyear tire codes this weekend at Martinsville used when the two series visited the half-mile track last October. This particular tire is not used for any other events by the two series. PIT ROAD PENALTIES • Officials in NASCAR's Pit Road Officiating (PRO) trailer called 12 of the 22 penalties issued during Sunday’s Auto Club 400 , the second fewest through this year’s first five races. Six of the 12 were for tire violations -- failure to control an outside tire. Only Phoenix saw fewer total violations (19) and those made by officials in the PRO trailer (nine). There have been 158 penalties thus far this season, including 60 that were called by the PRO group. Officials in the tower continue to call infractions for speeding when entering/exiting pit road, pitting before pit road is open and various safety-related violations. Officials in the PRO trailer use video to respond to potential infractions such as too many crewmen in contact with the pit service area, crewmen over the wall too soon and pit box tire violations. PENALTIES FOR FONTANA INFRACTIONS • On Wednesday, NASCAR issued penalities for infractions during race weekend at Auto Club Speedway . Click here for penalties on the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series No. 33 team, and click here for penalties on the NASCAR XFINITY Series No. 8 team. POST-RACE INSPECTIONS • Because of the schedule that saw teams competing at Las Vegas, Phoenix and Auto Club Speedway in consecutive weeks, final post-race inspection for entries from both Phoenix and Auto Club will be conducted Wednesday at the NASCAR R&D Center in Concord, North Carolina. Both Stewart-Haas Racing entries of driver Kevin Harvick , which finished first and second at Phoenix and Auto Club, respectively, were sent back to the R&D Center as well as the cars of Auto Club winner Brad Keselowski ( Team Penske ) and Phoenix runner-up Jamie McMurray ( Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates). 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
Miss Sprint Cup Jaclyn and Paul Menard show off his new Brickyard 400 ring and discuss his thoughts about Indianapolis.