Comparing two of NASCAR's greatest streaks Vote: Who will win at Martinsville? " Play: NASCAR Fantasy Live Editor's note: Kevin Harvick has eight consecutive top-two finishes. The all-time best top-two streak is 11, by Richard Petty. Here's a look at how they compare.
No. 4 dominant again but finishes eighth
California native picks up his first XFINITY win at Auto Club
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Former Daytona 500 champions Jamie McMurray, Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson are among the drivers that will appear at Preseason Thunder Fan Fest at Daytona International Speedway on Jan. 20-21. Preseason Thunder returns in 2011 as Sprint Cup Series drivers will take to the new asphalt at Daytona in a three-day test session Jan. 20-22. Test and Fest set at Daytona Expectations and excitement Order all your Daytona tickets Tickets for Preseason Thunder Fan Fest are $20 and available by calling 1-800-PITSHOP or online at www.daytonainternationalspeedway.com. Ticket-holders for the 2011 Daytona 500 and children 12 and under will receive free admission. Advanced reservations are available (limited to 250 people) for special autograph sessions to be held with participating 2010 Chase drivers and Daytona 500 champions. Additional driver autograph sessions will be held on both days with wristbands available the day of the event. To request access to the special autograph sessions, race fans can call 1-800-PITSHOP or visit the Daytona International Speedway ticket office beginning at 9 a.m. ET Saturday. In addition to viewing the on-track activity from the Sprint FanZone, fans can watch each day's testing at no cost from a section of the Oldfield Grandstands near Turn 4. Drivers currently scheduled to make appearances on Jan. 20, beginning at 6 p.m. ET, are Dale Earnhardt Jr., Brad Keselowski, David Ragan, Kurt Busch, Carl Edwards, Denny Hamlin, Kasey Kahne, Mark Martin, Martin Truex Jr. and Regan Smith. Scheduled to appear on Jan. 21, during the 5-7 p.m. ET session are Johnson, Kevin Harvick, Clint Bowyer, David Reutimann, Casey Mears, Jeff Burton, Joey Logano, Kevin Conway , Kyle Busch, Paul Menard and Ryan Newman. In the 7-9 p.m. ET session, drivers scheduled to appear are McMurray, Gordon, A.J. Allmendinger , Brian Vickers, Greg Biffle, Juan Montoya, Marcos Ambrose and Matt Kenseth. Lastly, race fans will be able to camp in the infield at Daytona for free with their admission ticket during the three-day test inside Turns 3 and 4. Sites will be provided on a first-come, first-served basis. Gates to the infield will open at 8 a.m. ET on Jan. 20. Among the activities planned for both days include: interactive driver question-and-answer sessions on the main stage; show cars, displays, music; photo opportunity with the Harley J. Earl Daytona 500 trophy; and blood drive outside the Turn 4 tunnel. The Roar Before the Rolex 24, the tune-up session for the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series teams in advance of the 49th running of the Rolex 24 at Daytona, is set for Jan. 7-9. Tickets are $15 daily for the Roar Before the Rolex 24, with driver fan forums, tech talks and pit stop demonstrations slated for Saturday. ticket-holders for the 2011 Rolex 24 at Daytona and children 12 and under will receive free admission. Tickets for both the Preseason Thunder Fan Fests and the Roar Before the Rolex 24 are available online at http://www.daytonainternationalspeedway.com or by calling 1-800-PITSHOP.
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
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 220.127.116.11.1.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
Crew chief of No. 4 welcomes scrutiny that comes with winning RELATED: NASCAR warns about tire tampering MARTINSVILLE, Va. -- With reigning NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Kevin Harvick still riding a historic streak of top-two finishes, it's only natural that the focus of 42 other teams would hone in on the Stewart-Haas Racing No. 4 Chevrolet -- the car to beat until someone else tries to stake a claim to the heavyweight championship belt. But when the sanctioning body announces for two straight weeks that it will take the tires from the SHR No. 4 as part of a routine audit, eyebrows raise and questions start circulating -- especially when the speculation swirls about teams altering their standard Goodyears. Rodney Childers, the car's crew chief, has grown frustrated by the extra attention, but he's still laughing some of it off, taking it as a compliment. "Honestly, I'm flattered," Childers said with a grin at the back of his team's hauler. "I love it." Harvick leads the NASCAR Sprint Cup standings by 28 points, a significant gap heading into only the sixth race of the season, on Sunday at Martinsville Speedway . Harvick's run of finishing first or second stands intact at eight races, stretching back to last season, and he's the only multiple winner thus far in 2015. With all the success and accolades, it's natural that the class of the field would get the lion's share of scrutiny. But Childers calls it simply the cost of doing business. "I don't think everybody realizes that they've taken our tires 17 times in the last 18 months," Childers said. "Every time we finish first or second, our car goes back to the R&D Center with the tires we won the race on. NASCAR's doing their jobs and everybody else is making a big deal about it, right? If I'm one of the other competitors, yes, I would want them to take the 4 car's tires. Of course I would. "They're doing their jobs, just like they've done year after year after year. …I'm starting to get a little bit ill about it. It's turned into a joke." NASCAR has taken the tires from select teams the last two weeks for further review at an independent lab. Rumblings persist in the garage that teams have been placing small holes in their tires, with the goal of leveling air pressure when tires heat up during green-flag racing, but NASCAR officials reported that the tires from the first audit showed nothing illegal. Results of the second review haven't been released. The only common thread in both examinations was that Harvick's No. 4 was chosen as part of the audit both weeks. But Childers' reasoning goes, wouldn't a car that's consistently near the front of the pack be inspected with the finest-toothed comb? "That's their job. Why would they not?" Childers said. "If you've got a car that's on a streak like the 4 car's been and they've got eight top-twos in a row, nobody's done that since 1967 when there was 2.5 cars on the lead lap at the end of each race, it's a big damn deal, you know. I don't blame them at all. I'm 100 percent on their side. You've got to do what you've got to do to keep a level playing field. "If I was on another team, I would feel like I had pretty good cars and I had a good driver and we were doing the best job we could. You would hope that your cars are pretty close to somebody else's and your driver's pretty close to someone else, and when you can't run with them, you get aggravated and start looking at what could be different. They also need to look at qualifying because bleeding your tires for qualifying for one lap, it don't help -- we beat 'em every week. They better get working on their cars, I tell ya." Childers said trips to the NASCAR Research & Development Center have been business as usual, but some of the newfound consideration may stem from a new level of transparency from NASCAR officials. The recent philosophy shift, owed in large part to the sanctioning body's marketing and communications arm, has pulled back the curtain on many technical procedures that used to be conducted behind the scenes. "I think so. And as a competitor, we don't mind that," Childers said. "The only thing I don't like is when it stirs up a bunch of drama because there's no need for it. But it's part of it. You don't want the drama surrounding your team. You want to keep them focused on what you're doing. All in all, they're doing their jobs." For Childers, the accusations are nothing new. He says he's been hearing them since he started racing at age 12. The allegations have followed him throughout, even through his days as a Late Model hotshot at Tri-County Motor Speedway in the North Carolina foothills where he assembled a hot streak that rivals Harvick's current run -- winning what he estimated as 11 straight races in the 1998 season. "The tech official had searched my car to death," Childers said. "It's like the last race of the year, and I'd beat this guy, and he kept paying to get (my engine) tore down over and over and over. The head tech official comes over, gives me the head back for my engine and goes 'you're good.' " Childers said the official then asked an odd question -- if he could borrow his right shoe. He handed it over. "I didn't know what he was doing," Childers said, "and he walks it right over to that guy that had paid to tear me down all year and handed it to him and said, 'I guess this is what you need.' " 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
Victory Junction Camp guest reporter Gavin Grubb talks with NASCAR Vice Chairman Mike Helton about Martinsville hot dogs, mustaches, and more.
See how the postseason picture looks after the sixth race of the season