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;
Fill-in-the -blank: Auto Club
RELATED: Read more Inside Groove I should have known it was going to be a special weekend at Auto Club Speedway when an owl interrupted practice Jimmie Johnson wrecked his primary car in practice Kyle Larson won the pole . Sure enough, I was right wrong wondering what happened to my pet owl . Auto Club Speedway always provides the most exciting westernmost fastest most recent race of the season, and this race was really no exception ordinary race onions, Animal Style, please week to have Matt Kenseth on your fantasy team . What really blew my mind was when Martin Truex Jr. didn't pit for tires at the end of the race Kyle Larson tweeted a picture of his credit card . Why would someone do such a careless misinformed silly genius thing? I guess we can't all be like Brad Keselowski Clint Bowyer Daniel Suarez Jamie McMurray Ryan Blaney Chase Elliott Chip Ganassi , who ended up having a really solid race. It's still amazing to me how Jimmie Johnson has finished every single career lap at ACS Kyle Larson is so fast this season we've been racing at Auto Club Speedway for 20 years "Ty Dillon" is an anagram for "Tiny Doll" . I think I'm going to celebrate Kyle Larson's win Clint Bowyer's best finish in nearly two years Brad Keselowski's impressive comeback Daniel Suarez's second consecutive seventh-place finish heading to Martinsville next week by stocking up some Cottonelle at Target buying some Mobil 1 at Rush Truck Centers installing Wurth auto parts on my Ford while sipping Miller Lite ordering whatever a Number 7 is at Subway logging onto Twitter and telling Dale Jr. to go faster . While it's been fun racing on something that's described as "D-shaped" out West for the past three weeks on fast tracks without Carl Edwards winning all the races with young drivers leading the pack at over 200 mph , it'll be nice to head to Martinsville next week for some good, old-fashioned short-track racing short-track tempers paper-clipping hot dog chugging paint trading -- that is, as soon as I track down my pet owl set down my phone and grab some Cottonelle short pit for fresh tires write Kyle Larson's name on my playoff grid send more angry tweets to Dale Jr.'s crew chief buy Kyle Larson gear and pretend I've been a fan for years set my clock back to East Coast time drop my Matt Kenseth diecast off a cliff so it's crash-accurate .
Harvick: 'Kyle Larson is the best driver to come along since Jeff Gordon'
BUY TICKETS: See the races at Martinsville With three runner-ups and a win on Sunday at Auto Club Speedway, Kyle Larson's strong start to the season has gotten the attention of many in the racing industry. That includes 2014 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion Kevin Harvick, who made quite the bold statement on the current points leader during Tuesday's premiere of his radio show "Happy Hours" on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. "Kyle Larson is the best driver to come along since Jeff Gordon in my opinion," Harvick said definitively. RELATED: Take 5 from Auto Club " Larson wins Auto Club 400 He went on to talk about Larson's talent, how he wins in everything he drives and how "everyone in the garage wants a Kyle Larson." "I think Chase Elliott is going to be great too, but Kyle Larson has something special," Harvick said. By the looks of it, Harvick's son Keelan is a fan of Larson's as well. I mean what the heck @KyleLarsonRacin pic.twitter.com/h5C14IV3Xh — Kevin Harvick (@KevinHarvick) March 28, 2017
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Larson breaks runner-up streak with win at Auto Club
RELATED: Full race results " Series standings " Detailed breakdown MORE: Buy Larson gear FONTANA, Calif. -- What a difference one position makes. After three straight second-place finishes in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, polesitter Kyle Larson finally found Victory Lane, pulling away after an overtime restart to win Sunday's Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway. Larson took the checkered flag at the end of the second extra lap as team owner Chip Ganassi celebrated from his perch atop the pit box. "It's great to be Kyle Larson right now," said the 24-year-old driver. Resilient Brad Keselowski, whose spin on Lap 3 caused the first caution of the afternoon -- and damaged his No. 2 Team Penske Ford -- rolled home in second place, .779 seconds behind the driver variously known as "Young Money" and " The California Kid." Larson, who led a race-high 110 laps, kept his cool through four cautions and subsequent restarts over the final 21 laps, giving up the lead to pit for fresh tires on Lap 193 of a planned 200 , as Denny Hamlin, Martin Truex Jr. and Jamie McMurray stayed on the track. RELATED: Stages 1,2 results from Auto Club But Larson quickly surged back to the front after a Lap 196 restart, passing Hamlin for the top spot through Turn 2 a lap later and holding it through the overtime. "I was staying as calm as I could be, but also frustrated at the same time," Larson said of the late-race stops and starts. "It seems like every time I get to the lead at the end of one of these things, the caution comes out and I've got to fight people off on restarts. Our Target Chevy was amazing all day. We were able to lead a lot of laps today. Truex was better than us that second stage by quite a bit. We were able to get the jump on him the following restart and led pretty much the rest of the distance. "I had to fight them off there after the green flag stops (before the final caution), and that was a lot of fun. This is just amazing. We've been so good all year long, three seconds in a row. I've been watching all the TV like 'He doesn't know how to win,' but we knew how to win today, so that was good." In posting his second career victory ( the first coming at two-mile Michigan last year), Larson completed his first weekend sweep, having won Saturday's NASCAR XFINITY Series event. Larson extended his Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series lead to 29 points over second-place Chase Elliott, who finished 10th. Clint Bowyer ran third, posting his best finish since June 2015 at Sonoma, where he also came home third. Truex, who opened a lead of more than eight seconds in winning the second 60-lap stage, was fourth, with Joey Logano recovering a lost lap with a late wave-around to finish fifth. Keselowski cut a tire during a jam-up at the start of the race, the went for a ride off Jimmie Johnson's bumper on Lap 3. All things considered -- among them a suspension to crew chief Paul Wolfe for an infraction last week at Phoenix -- Keselowski was happy with his second-place result. "We were tore all to hell," Keselowski said. "Got tore up there really early in the race. Went all the way to the back, just clawed all the way up to second ... The last few restarts were obviously key for us. We seemed to get settled into about 10th there, maybe seventh or eighth. "Then kind of just executed the last few restarts. Good pit calls and so forth. Good timing with the yellows. We caught a few breaks, for sure, and made good adjustments to our car to make up for the damage. It takes a little bit of everything: good execution, good work by the team, and a little bit of luck on the last few yellows." NOTES: -- Before the race, the track announced a three-year extension of its race entitlement sponsorship, keeping the name Auto Club 400 through 2020. -- With Keselowski having early troubles, Larson is now the only driver who has scored points in both the first and second stages in each of the five races this year. -- Twenty-first Jimmie Johnson maintained his perfect record at Fontana -- but just barely. After a litany of issues throughout the race, Johnson got back on the lead lap as the "lucky dog" under the final caution. He has now finished on the lead lap in all 23 of his starts at Auto Club, completing all 5,306 laps raced at the speedway during his career. &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;
Larson hangs on for XFINITY triumph at Auto Club
RELATED: Results " Larson on pole for Sunday's race " Detailed breakdown FONTANA, Calif. -- Kyle Larson kept pole-sitter Joey Logano at bay after a restart with four laps left in Saturday's Service King 300 NASCAR XFINITY Series race at Auto Club Speedway and held on to win by .127 seconds. Larson and Logano had swapped the lead on three successive laps before Brandon Jones plowed into the outside wall on Lap 142 to bring out the seventh and final caution of the afternoon. The lead cars pitted for fresh tires under the yellow flag, with Larson exiting pit road first and Spencer Gallagher grabbing the second spot with a two-tire stop. That proved Logano's undoing, as his No. 22 Team Penske Ford was pinned behind Gallagher's GMS Racing Chevrolet for the restart on Lap 147 of 150. Logano chased Larson to the checkered flag but couldn't prevent the driver of the No. 42 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet from scoring his first victory of the season, his second at Fontana and the sixth of his career. " The racing there at the end with Joey was awesome," said Larson, a California native who got his first NASCAR XFINITY Series victory at the 2-mile track. "I had just a couple-lap fresher tires than he did, and I was able to chase him down. That was a lot of fun. WATCH: Larson overcomes speeding penalty to win "I wish that last caution wouldn't have come out, because it would have been easier for me to win, I think. But a heck of a race. I honestly didn't think we would be here yesterday. I was struggling bad in practice. Fought the balance a lot throughout the race, too. Finally, the last few runs, we hit on it and it felt good for the short run and throughout the long run." MORE: Larson fast, atop Monster Energy Series standings Both the winner and the runner-up had obstacles to overcome. Larson recovered from a pit road speeding penalty to win the race. Logano sped on pit road and subsequently fell to the back of the field when the jack on the left side of his Ford dropped prematurely during an extended stay on pit road. But Logano -- who led six times for a race-high 70 laps -- was in prime position at the end, though he acknowledged that Gallagher's two-tire call deprived him of the chance to overtake Larson. "What's his number? 23?" Logano asked. "Yeah, I don't know about that move. That wasn't a good move. I don't know what they were thinking, but that maybe wasn't the best play at this race track. I knew he was going to spin them (his tires). There's no way he couldn't. It wasn't his fault. "He was a sitting duck and I was a sitting duck behind him that lost too much track position on that restart being too far behind Kyle. If not for that, we would have probably been door-to-door across the line bumping and banging or something. We were able to catch Larson the last few laps. We were definitely faster, but I needed another lap, maybe two." Kyle Busch led 55 laps and finished third after scraping the wall on Lap 122 while in pursuit of Logano, who was leading at the time. Erik Jones ran fourth and Sunoco rookie William Byron fifth as the highest-finishing series regular. The action-filled race wasn't without a number of hard crashes. Paul Menard's Chevrolet nosed hard into the outside wall after contact from Jones, who appeared to misjudge his Turn 4 exit on Lap 94. WATCH: Fiery hit for Menard at Auto Club "I don't know if he tried to push me or if he was just crossing over," Menard said after leaving the infield care center. "Definitely had a brain fart." Cole Custer took a wild ride when he clobbered the Turn 1 wall with an assist from Ryan Sieg -- and was upset when he exited the car. "I just got hooked going into the corner," Custer said. "I think I hit him (Sieg) a tick just on my side-draft going off of (Turn) 4, and then he decided just to hook us going into Turn 1 and wreck us. I thought we could have competed for a win there. We had a bad pit stop. We were going to work our way back up there, but just got our day ended by a clown move." The incident left him with a wrecked car for the second straight week. "Last week it was all my fault and I'll take that all on me," said Custer, who finished 35th. "Today it was just a clown. I don't understand what his reasoning was to pay us back that much, but that's just a joke." Notes: Byron is second in the series standings, 17 points behind seventh-place finisher Elliott Sadler… Darrell Wallace Jr. finished sixth for the fourth-straight race… Busch won both the first and second stages of the race, earning a total of two playoff points toward the owner's championship. Contributing: Staff reports </p>
GarageCam from the XFINITY Series garage at Auto Club
GarageCam hosts talk with Darrell Wallace Jr., Justin Allgaier, more in the garage at Auto Club Speedway
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