Matt Crafton, Johnny Sauter and Erik Jones offer up their thoughts following the Kroger 250.
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
John Hunter Nemechek falls victim to transmission trouble late in the running of the Kroger 250 at Martinsville Speedway.
Joey Logano talks to Hermie Sadler after winning the Kroger 250 at Martinsville Speedway.
Driver recalls coming to track as a kid, uniqueness of trophy Vote: Who will win at Martinsville? " Play: NASCAR Fantasy Live MARTINSVILLE, Va. -- Dale Earnhardt Jr . doesn't always credit himself for his driving ability, but when he does, he prefers to do it at Martinsville Speedway . Earnhardt enters Sunday's STP 500 (1 p.m. ET, FOX Sports 1) with an increasing amount of short-track savvy on his side, logging seven top-10 finishes in his last nine starts at the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series' shortest track. It's a fur piece from his unflattering Martinsville debut, a four-laps-down 26th place back in 2000. "The first time I came here, I hit everything, even the pace car," Earnhardt said. "It looked like, at that time, after my first race here, that it was going to be quite a challenge to sort it out and understand what I needed to do." Perhaps that, combined with his appreciation for the speedway's rich heritage, kindled his glee at winning his first Martinsville Speedway grandfather clock trophy last fall -- that, and knowing that being able to wheel a car plays an even bigger factor here than at most venues. "There is something about the race track -- obviously it has so much history, the style or racing that you do, and it takes some driver to win here. I don't often take a lot of credit for everything we do good out there, but I will say that at Martinsville, it does take a little bit of driver to do well here. I feel like when you win at certain tracks like Martinsville you can feel good about it that you were part of that puzzle and part of making that happen." Things clicked here for Earnhardt early on, shortly after a period of extensive testing at the .526-mile track with the former Dale Earnhardt Inc. team. The extra track time led to a stellar streak of five consecutive top-five finishes (2002-04) and a feel for the paper-clip layout that has aided his Martinsville resume. MORE: Dale Jr. looks at Martinsville But it's also the childhood memories of visits to Martinsville -- the family trips, his father's six wins here -- that have stuck with him. "It was one of the race tracks that I always could come to even when we were in school it being such a short trip from home," said Earnhardt, who spent 29 fruitless efforts before his first Martinsville victory. "We always did get to go to this race. So it is one of the few tracks that I always got to go to even as a young kid. You could get right up on the action man, right against the fence down there in the corner and see the guys coming through there in practice. And you could see the balance of the cars and what they were dealing with. It is just a fun place to be at even as a kid. "I don't know man, just been coming here a long time and I always wanted to win. That clock makes it even more special and more desirable, I guess, because of the uniqueness of that trophy." RELATED: NASCAR.com offers its review of the new hot dog Earnhardt has proven to be a purist when it comes to racing tradition, wearing his fondness for nostalgia on its sleeve. So when Martinsville Speedway changed course on the provider of its trademark hot dogs this weekend, a shift in a decades-long concessions custom, Earnhardt said as long as the hot dogs had the same flavor as the original, he would give them his blessing. "I kind of liked them to begin with and if they are anywhere close that will be fine with me," Earnhardt said. "I will probably be having two for (Friday) lunch and I'm going to call it a day." 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
Cole Custer will join Logano on the front row for the Kroger 250 Play: NASCAR Fantasy Live RELATED: Full lineup for Kroger 250 Joey Logano won the Keystone Light Pole Award for Saturday's Kroger 250 at Martinsville Speedway (2:30 p.m. ET, FOX Sports 1). Logano turned the fastest lap in the final round of the three-round group qualifying session to earn the top starting spot, setting a new track record with a lap of 97.088 mph. It was a sweep of poles this weekend for the 24-year-old driver as Logano also took the Coors Light Pole Award for Sunday's STP 500 (1 p.m. ET, FOX Sports 1). Joining him on the front row will be Cole Custer (96.622 mph), who is making the first Camping World Truck Series start for JR Motorsports. The second row will consist of Cameron Hayley (96.499 mph) and Erik Jones (96.357 mph). Tyler Reddick enters the race as the series points leader, while two-time defending series champion Matt Crafton is just two points behind him. Reddick will start seventh, while Crafton, the defending race winner, will start 13th. The Kroger 250 is the third of 23 races this season in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. After the Martinsville race, the series is off again for just over a month before resuming its schedule on May 8 at Kansas Speedway. 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
Sprint Cup qualifying pushed an hour and 25 minutes Play: NASCAR Fantasy Live " Full Martinsville schedule MARTINSVILLE, Va. -- Rain delayed Friday's on-track activity at Martinsville Speedway for roughly four hours on Friday. The first of three Friday practices for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series was slated for a 10 a.m. ET start, but steady rain at the .526-mile track threw the schedule into question. Shortly after 1:30 p.m. ET, a revised schedule was released, that will see Sprint Cup practice run from approximately 2 p.m. ET to 2:50 p.m. ET. The Camping World Truck Series will have just one practice that begins at 3 p.m. ET but will run until 5:30 p.m. ET. Sprint Cup Series Coors Light Pole Qualifying was pushed back from 4:45 p.m. ET to 6:10 p.m. ET. Per a NASCAR bulletin sent to teams earlier this week, the opening round of qualifying will be 20 minutes instead of 15 minutes as it had been for the past four events. Cars finally hit the track for Sprint Cup practice at 2:04 p.m. ET after another brief spell of wet weather put the session into a brief hold. Sunday's 500-lapper, the STP 500 (1 p.m. ET, FOX Sports 1), is the sixth race of the season and first short-track event of 2015 for the Sprint Cup Series. Saturday's Kroger 250 (2:30 p.m. ET, FS1) is the third race of the year for the Camping World Truck Series. MORE: READ: Latest NASCAR news PLAY: Sign up for Fantasy Live WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView today
Get the on-track times for everything at the Virginia short track Play: NASCAR Fantasy Live The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series head to Martinsville Speedway for a doubleheader of NASCAR action, while the NASCAR XFINITY Series is off. Check out the full schedule below. &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;nbsp; All times are ET SUNDAY, MARCH 29: RUN OF SHOW 12:30 p.m.: FOX Sports 1 live on air. 12:30 p.m.: Driver introductions. 1 p.m.: Presentation of colors by Martinsville Henry County Combined Law Enforcement Color Guard. 1:00:20: Invocation by Chatham Heights Baptist Church's Mike Hatfield. 1:00:45: Intro to the national anthem. 1:01 p.m.: National anthem by The Training and Doctrine Command Band Herald Trumpets from Ft. Eustis, Virginia. 1:02:30: Flyover: The Bandit Flight Team (Turn 4 to Turn 1). 1:07:30: "Drivers, start your engines" by STP Vice President of Marketing, Jamie Kistner. 1:13:30: Start of the STP 500 (500 laps, 263 miles). ON TRACK -- 1 p.m.: NASCAR Sprint Cup Series STP 500 , FOX Sports 1 (500 laps, 263 miles) ( Follow live ) PRESS CONFERENCES ( Watch live ) -- 10 a.m.: Joe Gibbs -- 10:30 a.m.: Carl Edwards -- 4:45 p.m. (approx.): Post-NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race FRIDAY, MARCH 27: ON TRACK -- CANCELED: 10-11:45 a.m.: NASCAR Camping World Truck Series practice, FOX Sports 1 -- Approx 2:05 p.m.-2:50 p.m. ET: NASCAR Sprint Cup Series practice, FOX Sports 1 ( Get results ) -- 3-5:30 p.m.: NASCAR Camping World Truck Series final practice, FOX Sports 1 ( Get results ) -- 6:10 p.m.: NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Coors Light Pole Qualifying, FOX Sports 1 ( Get results ) PRESS CONFERENCES ( Watch live ) -- 9 a.m.: Tyler Reddick -- 10:30 a.m.: Alan Gustafson and Chad Knaus -- 11 a.m.: Martinsville sponsor announcement -- 11:40 a.m.: Dale Earnhardt Jr . -- noon ET: Jeff Gordon -- 3:30 p.m.: Denny Hamlin -- 7:10 p.m. (approx.): Post-NASCAR Sprint Cup Series qualifying -- 7:45 p.m. (approx.): Chase Elliott GARAGECAM ( Watch live ) CANCELED : Camping World Truck Series SATURDAY, MARCH 28: ON TRACK -- 10 a.m.-10:55 a.m.: NASCAR Sprint Cup Series practice, FOX Sports 1 ( Get results ) -- 11:15 a.m.: NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Keystone Light Pole Qualifying, FOX Sports 1 ( Get results ) -- 1-1:50 p.m.: NASCAR Sprint Cup Series final practice, FOX Sports 2 ( Get results ) -- 2:30 p.m.: NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Kroger 250 , FOX Sports 1 (250 laps, 131.5 miles) ( Get results ) PRESS CONFERENCES ( Watch live ) -- 8:30 a.m.: Aric Almirola -- 9 a.m.: Paul Menard -- 4:45 p.m. (approx.): Post-NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race GARAGECAM ( Watch live ) -- Saturday, 9:30 a.m.: Sprint Cup Series MORE: READ: Latest NASCAR news PLAY: Sign up for Fantasy Live WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView today
See where your favorite driver will pit on Saturday (2:30 p.m. ET, FS1) Play: NASCAR Fantasy Live The pit stall assignments are out for Saturday's Kroger 250 at Martinsville Speedway (2:30 p.m. ET, FOX Sports 1), and Joey Logano has the prime spot on pit road. Logano, who won the Keystone Light Pole Award, has the No. 1 pit stall and will be the closest to the exit of pit road . He also has the advantage of having no one in front of him. Erik Jones (starting fourth), John Hunter Nemechek (starting 16th), Mason Mingus (starting 20th) and Ben Kennedy (starting 22nd) will also have no one directly in front of them when they pit. Tyler Reddick chose pit stall No. 42, which is the first one when trucks pull onto pit road. Reddick starts the race from the seventh spot. 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