Martinsville Speedway announces addition of LED lights
RELATED: See the race that led to Martinsville changes MARTINSVILLE , Va. -- Martinsville Speedway track president Clay Campbell remembers the tipping point well. Watching from outside Turn 4 as Jeff Gordon led the final laps of last November's rain-delayed NASCAR Sprint Cup Series playoff race practically by candlelight, Campbell knew big changes were needed. "It looked like a rock concert with people taking pictures with their phones and the (auxiliary) lights in the grandstand," Campbell said. "I knew then that being in the Chase, such a critical point in the season, and thinking what would've happened if we hadn't finished that race? We don't want to be in that position, so there's our reason." With that eventful race as a fulcrum, Martinsville Speedway announced Wednesday that it will have an LED lighting system in place for its NASCAR weekends next year. Campbell made the announcement Wednesday as part of an early kickoff to the historic short track's 70th anniversary season in 2017. Campbell said that the track did not currently have plans in place for nighttime races, with its premier series dates in 2017 already locked in to start at 2 p.m. ET (in April) and 1 p.m. ET (October). But Campbell indicated that the $5 million initiative -- which he described an "insurance policy" against late-afternoon finishes in diminished sunlight -- should provide flexibility in case of inclement weather. "It's a race that all the drivers really want to win because of the uniqueness of the track and the history of the trophy as well, so adding lights can only add to its legacy and the special-ness that this place has held for so long," said Dale Earnhardt Jr ., part of the delegation helping to make the announcement at the .526-mile track. "I'm really happy for the track. Believe that it'll, like I say, open up a lot of possibilities for the future. "The fans can come knowing that if we are pushed back early in the day, there's still a great opportunity if we get good weather throughout the remainder of the day, we've got time to get the race in and can run late and you won't have an issue. … I think it's awesome and a long time coming." The announcement means that 16 of the 23 tracks that host NASCAR premier series events in 2017 will have lights in place. Campbell said that the choice of LED lights over conventional halogen lighting is an example of "doing so much more with less," providing better illumination with less power. The track indicated that the project will use an estimated 750 lights mounted from both inside and outside the track. With a project of this magnitude, Campbell said, one of the largest challenges has been keeping the details under wraps for so long. "It's been hard because we've been working on it for months," Campbell said. "As we got closer and closer, it's tough because it's a huge deal with a lot of people involved in making this happen. "
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Martinsville announces new two-day schedule
BUY TICKETS: See the races in Martinsville MARTINSVILLE , Va. -- As Martinsville Speedway celebrates its 70th anniversary in 2017, fans will get more value for their ticket to the fall race, as the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series will qualify and race on the same day, Sunday, October 29. Saturday will have an "old-school" feel as well, as NASCAR will return to a true "happy hour" practice session, immediately following the Alpha Energy Solutions 200 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race. All kids 12-and-under are admitted free on Saturday. "I think the weekend schedule is really going to add value to a Martinsville Speedway ticket," Martinsville Speedway President Clay Campbell said. "The fans are the ones who are the real winners here. A Sunday ticket gets fans all of the same excitement they’ve always had, but now they get to watch qualifying as well. "On Saturday, you can bring the kids for free and treat them to a full day of action, as they will get to see the current Cup stars practice and the future of the sport race in the Alpha Energy Solutions 200." Martinsville Speedway and NASCAR are also planning a fan event on Friday, October 27, featuring some of NASCAR's top stars. More information on the event will be available in the coming months. NASCAR makes its first visit to Martinsville Speedway March 31-April. This year the historic track celebrates its 70 th anniversary. The weekend starts on Friday with Virginia Lottery Pole Day and continues on Saturday with the Alpha Energy Solutions 250 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Race. Kids 12-and-under are admitted free Friday and Saturday. The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series will be in action on Sunday with the running of the STP 500 . The race is the first short-track race of the season and marks the series’ return to the east coast after the "West Coast Swing." Last year Kyle Busch became the first driver in the tracks storied history to win both the Truck and Premier Series races in the same weekend. In addition to buying tickets at the track, tickets can be purchased by calling 1.877.RACE.TIX or online at www.martinsvillespeedway.com .
Hamlin: A win is only acceptable thing at Martinsville
BUY TICKETS: See the races at Martinsville " Full schedule There have been more disappointments than celebrations for Denny Hamlin at Martinsville Speedway , but that doesn't make the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series venue any less prominent in the eyes of the Joe Gibbs Racing driver. "A win is the only thing that's acceptable when I get to this race track," Hamlin, 36, said during a visit to the legendary oval earlier this month. "I know I take a lot of pride in coming to this race track and running well." Hamlin, a native of Chesterfield, Virgina, has made 403 starts in NASCAR's top series and won 29 times. Five of those victories have come at Martinsville , the .526-mile track that's been hosting NASCAR races for 70 years now. The track's short straightaways and tight, flat turns put a premium on track position and hearken back to the series' earlier days, when contact among competitors was expected, if not always tolerated. "That's something not many tracks can say," Hamlin said of the facility's longevity. "The history here, you look at all the old photos of this race track. Even though a lot has changed around the race track, the race track itself has not changed. The configuration hasn't changed; it's so very similar to how it used to be many, many years ago." Hamlin has earned more top-five (12) and top-10 (17) finishes at Martinsville than any other track on the schedule and between 2008-'10 he won four of six races there. He's a perennial contender during the twice-yearly visits to the track, but the driver of the No. 11 Toyota admits that with confidence comes a bit of anxiety. "Because if I don't win it's not a successful weekend," he said. "That's a lot of pressure to put on yourself, especially in today's competition, to go out there and expect to win, because all the drivers are so good." They're good, but few have been able to dominate at a particular track the way Hamlin and a handful of others have through the years at Martinsville . Richard Petty owns the track win record with 15 career victories; Darrell Waltrip made off with the unique clock trophy 11 times. More recently, former Hendrick Motorsports drivers Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson piled up nine victories apiece. Johnson is still around to try and add to his total and won the fall race last season. RELATED: Every winner at Martinsville " Hamlin's stats there The gains enjoyed by those drivers are harder to come by today, according to Hamlin, because of widespread data sharing that goes on among the individual organizations. When it comes to competition, there are few secrets in the garage and even fewer among teammates. "So the advantages you had have been whittled down," he said. "To continue to put the expectations of coming here and winning no matter what (may be) a little unrealistic but it's a goal we always set." For Hamlin, a successful weekend at Martinsville starts and ends with "feel." It's what has put him in contention on most occasions and helped put him in the winner's circle here more than anywhere else. "This is one of the very few race tracks I never look at lap times," he said. "Lap times mean nothing to me here. Whether we're first in practice or 20th it really doesn't matter to me because I know the feel in the car that I've got to have to win." Hamlin has won at least one race every season since he began running full-time in the series in 2006. He will be looking for his first win of 2017 when the STP 500 gets underway Sunday (2 p.m. ET, FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). "It's been circled on our calendar," he said. &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;
Gragson scores first top-five finish in Martinsville debut
BUY TICKETS: See the races at Martinsville RELATED: Full race results " Updated standings MARTINSVILLE , Va. -- Forgive Noah Gragson if there was an element of "here we go again" to his Martinsville Speedway debut in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. The first two races of his rookie season had barely begun before trouble struck -- the Lap 3 crash at Daytona, the Lap 2 spin at Atlanta. In Saturday's Martinsville matinee, a mishap waited until Lap 101, when contact with fellow rookie Chase Briscoe sent Gragson's Kyle Busch Motorsports No. 18 Toyota into a Turn 2 spin. "I thought our day was over," said Gragson, a current member of the NASCAR Next initiative. "We were running, say, in the top five and the 29 (Briscoe) took us out in the left-rear and cheap-shotted us. But my guys at Kyle Busch Motorsports -- crew guys, pit-stop guys -- they didn't give up on me. We kept fighting till the end and managed to get a fourth-place finish. "First time to Martinsville , I'm just so thankful for everyone who makes this possible." Gragson's methodical rally turned back a handful of factors working against him. Among those was the race track itself, the tricky .526-mile layout that tends to be most demanding on newcomers. Add to that a rainy Friday that reduced valuable practice time to just an hour, leaving Gragson to learn as he navigated Saturday's 250-lapper. On the plus side, Gragson found his way with the help of top-shelf equipment from the KBM stables, sage advice from team owner Kyle Busch over the team radio communications, and veteran crew chief Marcus Richmond reassuring him after his early setbacks. "We've had some shaky starts here in the beginning, the first two races," said Richmond, in his first year with the Kyle Busch-owned team. "Noah's a good short-track racer, coming from short tracks, so I think Martinsville fell right into his place. And we've just been preaching to him to stay calm. Just do your deal, don't get excited, and it'll come to you in the end." It eventually did Saturday, when Gragson ran third in the late stages before ceding the position to defending series champ Johnny Sauter with 37 laps remaining. He still emerged with his career-first top-five finish and a longing to return to Martinsville -- "my new favorite race track," he says -- in the fall. "This is huge for myself gaining confidence, the team … we needed this," Gragson said. "We were struggling after those first two races. Takes a little weight off my shoulders knowing that I can run with these guys in the top five." &lt;/p&gt;
Return to Martinsville brings reunited Peters-Kendrick duo full circle
Photo credit: Red Horse Racing BUY TICKETS: See the races at Martinsville Reunited and it feels so good. That's the mantra for veteran driver Timothy Peters and crew chief Chad Kendrick heading into Saturday's Alpha Energy Solutions 250 (3 p.m. ET, FOX, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) at Martinsville Speedway . The race is the third of the 2017 season in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and marks the first time that the Peters-Kendrick pairing has been back at the 0.526-mile track since their win there in 2009. "It's pretty cool being able to reunite and how things worked out," Peters told NASCAR.com. "Obviously, both of us getting our first win together was a pretty big deal at Martinsville . Since our last time that we won, pretty much we haven't worked together since but remained good friends. Chad's matured as a crew chief. I've matured as a driver and he's had great success at Martinsville . Going back this weekend is a great homecoming." RELATED: Recap every Martinsville race " Get results from October 2009 race That homecoming feeling is aided by two factors: both Peters and Kendrick consider Martinsville to be their home track, and the duo's back story goes back to short track and Late Model circuits all over Virginia. The two raced each other and both admitted they did not like the other at first. "He was THE guy to beat," Kendrick said. "He was the guy when I first started racing against him in the late '90s, I didn't really care for him. We didn't really know each other. We were just competitors and I didn't really like him. It was more of he was THE guy and you wanted to beat that guy." But a chance meeting at a chassis shop saw the two bond and become friends with Kendrick helping Peters work on his Late Model entry if he wasn't racing. That relationship carried forward when Peters got the call to go to Bobby Hamilton Racing where Kendrick worked as a mechanic for the team. From there, came the crew chief position with Peters in 2009 that started with Premier Racing before the two went to Red Horse Racing in the middle of the season. Opportunities took Kendrick elsewhere over the past seven years, including most recently a four-year stint atop the box at Brad Keselowski Racing. During that time, Kendrick scored five wins atop the box. Meanwhile, Peters has spent that time behind the wheel for Red Horse Racing, tallying an additional nine wins. RELATED: Being a crew chief 'the next best thing' for Kendrick
Full schedule for Martinsville
RELATED: Entry list for STP 500 " Entry list for Alpha Energy Solutions 250 NASCAR heads to Martinsville Speedway for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series and the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. Check out the full weekend schedule below. Note: All times are ET SUNDAY, APRIL 2: ON TRACK -- 1:20:00 p.m.: MENCS Driver Introductions w/ NASCAR Special Awards -- 2:00:00 p.m.: Presentation of Colors by: Local Law Enforcement and Public Safety Honor Guard -- 2:00:20 p.m.: Invocation by: Martinsville Speedway Track Chaplin, Mike Hatfield -- 2:01:00 p.m.: National Anthem by: Martinsville , Bassett and Magna Vista High School Marching Bands -- 2:02:30 p.m.: Flyover: The Bandit Flight Team (Turn 4 to Turn 1) -- 2:07:30 p.m.: "Drivers, Start Your Engines" by: From Hit FOX TV Show "Prison Break," Rockmond Dunbar -- 2:13:30 p.m.: Start of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series STP 500 (500 laps, 263 miles), FS1 ( Results ) PRESS CONFERENCES ( Watch live ) -- 10:45 a.m.: Rockmond Dunbar -- 11 a.m.: Edsel Ford -- 11:15 a.m.: STP availability with Richard Petty, Aric Almirola, Steve Letarte and Katina Walker, STP Director of Marketing -- 5:30 p.m.: (approx) Post-Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race FRIDAY, MARCH 31: ON TRACK -- noon-1 p.m.: Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series practice, FS1 ( Results ) -- 1:10-2 p.m.: NASCAR Camping World Truck Series practice, FS1 ( Results ) -- 3-3:55 p.m.: NASCAR Camping World Truck Series final practice, FS1 -- Canceled due to rain -- 5:05 p.m.: Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Coors Light Pole Qualifying, FS1 -- Canceled due to rain PRESS CONFERENCES ( Watch live ) -- 10 a.m.: AJ Allmendinger -- 10:30 a.m.: Kyle Larson -- 10:45 a.m.: Jimmie Johnson -- 11 a.m.: Timothy Peters, Harrison Burton -- 1:15 p.m.: Denny Hamlin -- 2 p.m.: Joey Logano -- 2:30 p.m.: Kyle Busch -- 2:45 p.m.: Daniel Suarez SATURDAY, APRIL 1: ON TRACK -- 11-11:55 a.m.: Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series practice, FS1 ( Results ) -- 12:05 p.m.: NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Keystone Light Pole Qualifying, FS1 ( Results ) -- 1:30-2:20 p.m.: Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series final practice, FS1 ( Results) -- 3 p.m.: NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Alpha Energy Solutions 250 (250 laps, 131.5 miles), FOX ( Results ) PRESS CONFERENCES ( Watch live ) -- 5:45 p.m.: (approx) Post-Camping World Truck Series race &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;
Clint Bowyer leads final practice at Martinsville
BUY TICKETS: See the races at Martinsville " Full schedule for Martinsville MORE: Final practice results " Best 10-lap averages Clint Bowyer led Saturday's final practice at Martinsville Speedway in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series ahead of Sunday's STP 500 (2 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). Bowyer turned a fast lap of 93.863 mph around the .526-mile track in his No. 14 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford. Defending race winner Kyle Busch was second in his No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota at 93.567 mph. Jamie McMurray (93.530 mph, No. 1 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet) was third in the 50-minute session. Brad Keselowski (93.525 mph, Team Penske No. 2 Ford) and Ryan Newman (93.511 mph, No. 31 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet) rounded out the top five. Kyle Larson, last week's winner at Auto Club and the driver with the top starting spot for Sunday's race, was 14th at 92.951 mph. Keselowski leads Practice 2 Practice 2 results Keselowski topped Saturday's first Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series practice session with a fast lap of 94.406 mph. The driver of the No. 2 Team Penske Ford has yet to win at Martinsville but has two runner-up finishes in the last four races at the .526-mile track. Newman (No. 31 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet) came in second (94.092 mph) for the 55-minute practice session, followed by Martin Truex Jr. (93.835 mph, No. 78 Furniture Row Racing Toyota) in third. Joey Logano (93.835 mph, No. 22 Team Penske Ford) and AJ Allmendinger (93.729 mph, No. 47 JTG Daugherty Racing Chevrolet) rounded out the top five. Nine-time Martinsville winner Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet) finished seventh (93.604 mph). &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;
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