NASCAR.com's Matthew Dillner chats with Martinsville Speedway President, Clay Campbell about changing the hot dogs for the first time in 68 years.
Kevin Harvick and others comment on a wild race in Loudon, and how they were able to survive the carnage.
Get the on-track times for everything at the Lone Star track Play: NASCAR Fantasy Live The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series and NASCAR XFINITY Series head to Texas Motor Speedway for a doubleheader of NASCAR action, while the NASCAR Camping World Truck 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;nbsp; All times are ET THURSDAY, APRIL 9: ON TRACK -- 4:30-5:30 p.m.: NASCAR XFINITY Series practice ( Follow live ) -- 6:30-8 p.m.: XFINITY Series final practice ( Follow live ) GARAGECAM ( Watch live ) -- 4 p.m.: XFINITY Series FRIDAY, APRIL 10: ON TRACK -- 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m.: NASCAR Sprint Cup Series practice ( Follow live ) -- 2-3:20 p.m.: NASCAR Sprint Cup Series final practice ( Follow live ) -- 4:45 p.m.: NASCAR XFINITY Series Coors Light Pole Qualifying ( Follow live ) -- 6:45 p.m.: NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Coors Light Pole Qualifying ( Follow live ) -- 8:30 p.m.: NASCAR XFINITY Series O'Reily Auto Parts 300, FOX Sports 1 ( 200 laps, 300 miles) ( Follow live ) GARAGECAM ( Watch live ) -- 11 a.m.: Sprint Cup Series SATURDAY, APRIL 11: ON TRACK -- 7:30 p.m.: NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Duck Commander 500 , FOX (334 laps, 501 miles) ( Follow live ) MORE: READ: Latest NASCAR news PLAY: Sign up for Fantasy Live WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView today
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
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
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
Earnhardt will drive No. 55 Chevrolet at Auto Club Speedway Play: NASCAR Fantasy Live Viva Motorsports announced Monday that NASCAR XFINITY Series driver/owner Jamie Dick will sit out this weekend's race at Auto Club Speedway after being diagnosed with new onset diabetes. Dick, 26, visited the infield care center at Phoenix International Raceway , reporting symptoms of fatigue and dizziness after finishing 28th Saturday in the fourth XFINITY Series race of the season. Medical personnel at the track recommended Dick visit nearby West Valley Hospital in Goodyear, Arizona, that evening. According to the team, Dick was released from the hospital Sunday afternoon. The team said he returned to the Charlotte, North Carolina, area for further treatment and evaluation. "I would like to thank everyone for their support during this difficult time," Dick said in a statement released by the team. "It was quite a surprise to hear the diagnosis from the doctors, but the response from the NASCAR and PIR medical staffs was outstanding. The support from the racing community, my Viva Motorsports team, and the fans has been overwhelming. Now I need to learn about this disease and do whatever it takes to get back behind the wheel as soon as possible." Jeffrey Earnhardt , who drove the Viva No. 55 Chevrolet in the other two XFINITY events this season, will fill in for Dick in Saturday's Drive4Clots.com 300 (4 p.m. ET, FOX Sports 1) in Fontana, California. 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
Erik Jones has team's only experience at Martinsville
Storied paperclip oval was one of original tracks on NASCAR circuit Vote: Who will win at Martinsville? " Play: NASCAR Fantasy Live NASCAR’s Sprint Cup Series heads to Martinsville (Va.) Speedway this weekend, one of two annual treks to the legendary half-mile that have taken place for more than 65 years. Before Charlotte, Bristol, Texas or Talladega. Before Daytona or Darlington even, there was Martinsville. They were racing at Martinsville before NASCAR grew from an idea into reality. “Stock car racing makes its debut at the new Martinsville Speedway next Sunday afternoon when more than 35 of the nation’s leading drivers risk their necks and cars for over $2,000 in prize money. … The new track boasts the largest grandstand of any speedway in the South, a huge affair which will seat 10,000 spectators. The total capacity of the speedway is 20,000 people. Built at a cost of $85,000, the Martinsville Speedway is regarded as one of the finest half-mile dirt tracks in the United States.” The item appeared in one of the region’s daily newspapers. The date was Monday, Sept. 1, 1947. NASCAR was officially incorporated in February 1948. Built by local businessman H. Clay Earles, Martinsville hosted one of the eight original stops on the NASCAR Strictly Stock schedule in 1949. Before that, drivers who would become some of stock car racing’s earliest stars could be found hustling their way around the paperclip-shaped track. Red Byron, winner of the inaugural ’49 race, won the track’s first official event two years earlier, a 50-lap affair for Modified stock cars. Fonty Flock won there in ’48 just as NASCAR was getting started. One by one, the other tracks on the schedule that first season eventually fell by the wayside – Charlotte Speedway, Daytona’s beach and road course, Occoneechee Speedway in Hillsboro, North Carolina, Langhorne and Heidelberg (Pennsylvania), Hamburg (N.Y.) Speedway. Even North Wilkesboro, a staple from the start, eventually faded into the background when NASCAR departed after the ‘96 season. Martinsville, however, remains. “It means we, and by that I mean going back to when the place was built by my grandfather all the way through until now, are doing something right,” said Clay Campbell, grandson of the track’s founder and president of the facility since 1988. “A lot of guys that started close to the same time, obviously they aren’t around now. I think my grandfather had the vision to keep investing in the facility and doing things that were necessary not only from a fan standpoint but from a competitor’s standpoint and everything that he did, I think we’re pretty much following the same philosophy.” • • • “It was dirt to begin with,” Richard Petty said, easing back in the recliner inside his motorhome. “I never ran on it when it was dirt. My daddy did and he won some races.” Outside, cars are circling Phoenix International Raceway , site of the recently completed CampingWorld.com 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races. PIR is roughly 2,000 miles from Martinsville, and Petty, now 77, is nearly as removed from his days as a championship driver. One of the five inaugural members of NASCAR’s Hall of Fame, Petty is the sport’s all-time leader in premier series wins with 200 and is one of only two drivers to win seven championships. He’s also a valuable link to NASCAR’s past. And Martinsville, much like the Petty family, is an unbroken piece of ribbon that has run through the sport from its earliest days. Petty’s father, Lee, was NASCAR’s first three-time champion. A Hall of Fame member as well, Lee Petty won 54 times. Three of those victories came at Martinsville – two when it was dirt and a third after the track was paved. “When they asphalted it (in ’55), it was completely different,” Richard Petty said. “When they re-did the track, they cleaned up the infield. When (NASCAR) ran there and it was dirt, there were bushes in the infield, a little creek running down through there. All that was there was the track. “Once they asphalted it, they didn’t just do the track, they cleaned up everything else. It was like a brand new track. It was shaped the same, but everything else was different.” The creek is still there today, running underneath the track and working its way from one end of the speedway to the other. Petty won 15 times at Martinsville, a record matched only by his success at North Wilkesboro. It’s no surprise that Martinsville remains a staple on the schedule after all these years. “Not really,” he said. “It’s just so different from any other track we run.” At 0.526 mile, it’s the shortest of the short tracks and unlike other venues, there’s only the slightest banking in the turns. Turn 43 cars loose all at one and it isn’t just close-quarters racing -- it’s the closest-quarters racing fans are likely to see all season long. “Back when we had drum brakes, the deal was being able to run 500 laps and have brakes when the race was over,” Petty said. “Probably wasn’t but two or three cars that had brakes that could stop the thing when it was over with. “It was just a good track for the way I drove and the way (crew chief) Dale Inman set up cars; we just had a good combination for that race track. We understood the track.” From 1967-73, Petty won 10 times at Martinsville, including five straight starts between ’68-71. “We spent more time working on the brakes that week than we did on getting (the car) to handle or run fast,” Petty said. “From our strategy standpoint … a lot of times we didn’t race that hard. We saved our brakes, stayed in the race. But as far as going out and trying to lead all the laps and everything, that wasn’t our deal. It was more of a survival track. Over a period of time they got the brakes better and it got to where you had to race all the time.” • • • The lone block concession stand in the infield is one of the few reminders of Martinsville’s past. “The last piece of history,” Campbell said. “It goes back as far as the ‘60s, probably longer than that.” Other structures have been upgraded or replaced through the years. The sport has changed, and those that follow it have as well. Keeping up with the fast-paced sport, and everything it entails “is difficult,” Campbell said, “but therein lies the fun part of the business and the challenge of it. “It’s no different than the competitors – they have to keep changing to newer things and keep up with the pace; and the same thing for the facilities. Fortunately now with us being a part of ISC and a bigger global picture we’re more in touch with things that we need from a social media standpoint, Wi-Fi and on and on and on. Things we now have and things we’re exploring for the future.” International Speedway Corp. owns 12 of the 23 tracks hosting NASCAR Sprint Cup Series events in 2015. The company purchased the speedway in 2004. Nearly 170 tracks have hosted one or more NASCAR premier series races since that inaugural 1949 season, from Airborne to Wine Creek, Auto Club to Watkins Glen. Most are now gone. Martinsville, one of the very first, is still there. “We’re very fortunate that we had the things we needed and on are par with most of the others so we can keep on moving right along,” Campbell said. “Things like the garage, access roads coming in, the (Turn 4) tunnel, the suites, and things of that nature. “Luckily, as time went on with my grandfather, he didn’t sit still and that was a good thing. Because had he done that we’d be playing catch-up, and now’s not the time to be playing catch-up.” 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
Perfect Saturday: Keselowski led two Cup practices, won NNS pole before race win