The top finishers and title contenders comment on the beating and banging at Martinsville Speedway.
Jimmie Johnson talks about capturing his third Martinsville pole, a track where he has won six times.
Last-minute sub for Kyle Larson finishes 16th at Martinsville Speedway Play: NASCAR Fantasy Live MARTINSVILLE, Va. -- Kyle Larson was hours away from Martinsville Speedway on Sunday afternoon, staying in a Charlotte medical facility while Regan Smith filled in as an 11th-hour substitute in the No. 42 Chevrolet he usually drives. That doesn't mean he wasn't tuned in to how his Chip Ganassi Racing outfit was doing, leading to an entertaining back-and-forth over the team radio communications during pace laps. "We know you're listening, Kyle. We're going to get one for you." "He just texted me to say 'I'm listening.' " "We can't get away with anything." With their talented driver eavesdropping the day after he fainted at an autograph session, Smith wheeled Ganassi's No. 42 to a solid 16th-place finish in the STP 500 , rallying from a mid-race spin and a last-place starting spot. Ganassi officials contacted the NASCAR XFINITY Series regular on Saturday night, shortly after Larson was transported to a local hospital for tests, to inquire about his availability. When Smith awoke at 5:30 a.m. ET, he was already tapped for substitute detail. "I definitely appreciated them calling me in that situation," Smith said. "I hate it for Kyle -- he's a friend and a competitor, so you don't ever want to see that happen. I know it probably tore him up today." On such short notice, the makeshift accommodations -- Smith was fitted using CGR teammate Jamie McMurray 's seat as a model, and he borrowed a crew member uniform for his firesuit -- took some getting used to. He was forced to drop to the rear of the field from the seventh starting position that Larson earned in Friday's Coors Light Pole Qualifying because of the driver change, making his battle an uphill one before the green flag ever unfurled. But Smith made progress, getting to the fringes of the top 10 until he spun after a nudge from Kurt Busch in the 286th of 500 laps during a traffic jam. "It was just a check-up, a chain-reaction deal and by the time it got back to me, I hit the car in front of me and whoever was behind me hit me even harder," Smith said. "It's typical Martinsville. We saw it happening all day. Sometimes it's such a big check-up that you can't do anything about it. It's just a racing deal." The contact dropped him from 17th to 27th, last on the lead lap, for the next restart, but Smith still found momentum that kept him on the leader's pace. "We just fought hard all day long, stayed on the lead lap. That was a big goal, starting where we did," Smith said. "It's tough sometimes to stay on that lead lap here. I thought the car was a little better than where we finished at the end. I got hung on the last restart on the outside and then couldn't get through some of the traffic as quick as I needed to. But nonetheless, good day for sitting at the house last night, thinking I wasn't going to be doing anything." In the span of the last 21 Sprint Cup races dating back to last August, Smith has subbed in for three teams -- the No. 14 and 41 cars from Stewart-Haas Racing and Sunday's ride in the No. 42. The effort wasn't lost on crew chief Chris Heroy, who applauded Smith's versatility in running a largely clean race at one of the sport's roughest tracks. "I was really impressed," Heroy said. "To jump in cold like that and be able to run solid in the top 15 is a real credit. We struggled from time to time with Kyle here, with Juan here, so it's a nice run for our program, and I can't say enough about what a great job he did." Heroy said he spoke to Larson on Sunday morning, saying that his evaluations were going well thus far. "He's in good spirits," Heroy said. "He's passing all his tests. He's an incredible student down there, so I'm going to go check on him right now and drive back to Charlotte." 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
A stats-based look ahead as the series comes back East to Martinsville Play: NASCAR Fantasy Live DAYTONA BEACH, Fla.-- Below is a look at some of the top statistical performers at Martinsville Speedway in Martinsville, Virginia going into the STP 500 on March 29 (1 p.m. ET, FOX Sports 1). MARTINSVILLE-SPECIFIC STATS Clint Bowyer (No. 15 5-Hour Energy Toyota) · Four top fives, 12 top 10s · Average finish of 12.1 · Average Running Position of 12.1, sixth-best · Driver Rating of 95.0, seventh-best · 296 Fastest Laps Run, seventh-most · Average Green Flag Speed of 91.276 mph, sixth-fastest · 6,586 Laps in the Top 15 (72.9%), seventh-most · 613 Quality Passes (passes of cars in the top 15 under green), sixth-most Dale Earnhardt Jr . (No. 88 Diet Mountain Dew Chevrolet) · One win, 12 top fives, 17 top 10s · Average finish of 12.4 · Average Running Position of 10.6, fourth-best · Driver Rating of 101.2, fourth-best · 523 Fastest Laps Run, fourth-most · Series-high 1,181 Green Flag Passes · Average Green Flag Speed of 91.386 mph, fourth-fastest · 7,860 Laps in the Top 15 (78.3%), third-most · 719 Quality Passes, second-most Jeff Gordon (No. 24 Axalta Chevrolet) · Eight wins, 28 top fives, 35 top 10s; seven poles · Average finish of 6.8 · Series-best Average Running Position of 6.6 · Driver Rating of 119.8, second-best · Series-high 1,105 Fastest Laps Run · 1,000 Green Flag Passes, ninth-most · Average Green Flag Speed of 91.689 mph, second-fastest · 8,848 Laps in the Top 15 (88.2%), second-most · Series-high 754 Quality Passes Denny Hamlin (No. 11 FedEx Express Toyota) · Four wins, nine top fives, 14 top 10s; three poles · Average finish of 8.7 · Average Running Position of 8.8, third-best · Driver Rating of 110.1, third-best · 612 Fastest Laps Run, third-most · Average Green Flag Speed of 91.473 mph, third-fastest · 7,503 Laps in the Top 15 (83.1%), fourth-most · 659 Quality Passes, fifth-most Kevin Harvick (No. 4 Budweiser / Jimmy John's Chevrolet) · One win, three top fives, 12 top 10s · Average finish of 16.4 · Average Running Position of 14.4, eighth-best · Driver Rating of 91.8, eighth-best · 255 Fastest Laps Run, ninth-most · 1,016 Green Flag Passes, eighth-most · Average Green Flag Speed of 91.130 mph, eighth-fastest · 6,475 Laps in the Top 15 (64.5%), eighth-most · 593 Quality Passes, seventh-most Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet) · Eight wins, 18 top fives, 22 top 10s; three poles · Average finish of 6.2 · Average Running Position of 6.8, second-best · Series-best Driver Rating of 122.5 · 1,041 Fastest Laps Run, second-most · Series-best Average Green Flag Speed of 91.700 mph · Series-high 8,932 Laps in the Top 15 (89.0%) · 689 Quality Passes, third-most Matt Kenseth (No. 20 Dollar General Toyota) · Four top fives, 11 top 10s · Average finish of 14.7 · Average Running Position of 15.7, 11th-best · Driver Rating of 84.9, 12th-best · 178 Fastest Laps Run, 11th-most · 1,097 Green Flag Passes, third-most · Average Green Flag Speed of 91.043 mph, 11th-fastest · 5,235 Laps in the Top 15 (52.2%), 12th-most Joey Logano (No. 22 Shell Pennzoil Ford) · Three top fives, four top 10s · Average finish of 14.0 · Average Running Position of 15.1, 10th-best · Driver Rating of 85.1, 10th-best · Average Green Flag Speed of 91.036 mph, 12th-fastest Jamie McMurray (No. 1 CESSNA Chevrolet) · One top five, 12 top 10s; two poles · Average finish of 17.3 · Driver Rating of 85.1, 11th-best · 195 Fastest Laps Run, 10th-most · Average Green Flag Speed of 91.060 mph, 10th-fastest · 5,471 Laps in the Top 15 (54.5%), 10th-most · 452 Quality Passes, 12th-most Ryan Newman (No. 31 Quicken Loans Chevrolet) · One win, eight top fives, 12 top 10s; three poles · Average finish of 15.0 · Average Running Position of 15.0, ninth-best · Driver Rating of 87.4, ninth-best · 1,071 Green Flag Passes, fifth-most · 5,843 Laps in the Top 15 (58.2%), ninth-most · 568 Quality Passes, ninth-most Tony Stewart (No. 14 Code 3 Associates / Mobil 1 Chevrolet) · Three wins, 10 top fives, 16 top 10s; three poles · Average finish of 13.6 · Average Running Position of 11.2, fifth-best · Driver Rating of 97.6, fifth-best · 397 Fastest Laps Run, sixth-most · Average Green Flag Speed of 91.253 mph, seventh-fastest · 6,711 Laps in the Top 15 (70.4%), sixth-most · 471 Quality Passes, 10th-most The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series 2015 Top 16 at Martinsville Speedway Rank Driver Races Poles Wins Top Fives Top 10s DNFs Average Finish Driver Rating 1 Kevin Harvick 27 0 1 3 12 1 16.4 91.8 2 Joey Logano 12 0 0 3 4 0 14.0 85.1 3 Martin Truex Jr . 18 0 0 2 4 2 23.1 68.7 4 Dale Earnhardt Jr . 30 0 1 12 17 2 12.4 101.2 5 Brad Keselowski 10 0 0 1 5 0 15.2 83.4 6 Ryan Newman 26 3 1 8 12 2 15.0 87.4 7 Jimmie Johnson 26 3 8 18 22 1 6.2 122.5 8 Kasey Kahne 22 1 0 3 4 5 21.1 76.4 9 Paul Menard 15 0 0 0 1 1 20.5 63.4 10 Aric Almirola 12 0 0 1 3 3 23.8 66.0 11 AJ Allmendinger 13 0 0 1 3 1 19.7 72.2 12 Casey Mears 23 0 0 0 3 2 23.5 64.0 13 Matt Kenseth 30 0 0 4 11 2 14.7 84.9 14 Denny Hamlin 18 3 4 9 14 1 8.7 110.1 15 David Ragan 17 0 0 0 2 1 22.0 64.5 16 Jamie McMurray 24 2 0 1 12 2 17.3 85.1 * – Based on last 20 races at Martinsville Speedway (2005 – 2014). Martinsville Speedway Data Season Race #: 6 of 36 (03-29-15) Track Size : 0.526-mile Banking/Turn 1 & 2 : 12 degrees Banking/Turn 3 & 4 : 12 degrees Banking/Frontstretch : 0 degrees Banking/Backstretch : 0 degrees Frontstretch Length : 800 feet Backstretch Length : 800 feet Race Length : 500 laps / 263 miles Top 10 Driver Ratings at Martinsville Jimmie Johnson ........................ 122.5 Jeff Gordon .............................. 119.8 Denny Hamlin ............................ 110.1 Dale Earnhardt Jr . ..................... 101.2 Tony Stewart ............................... 97.6 Kyle Busch ................................. 96.2 Clint Bowyer ............................... 95.0 Kevin Harvick .............................. 91.8 Ryan Newman ............................. 87.4 Joey Logano .............................. 85.1 Note: Driver Ratings compiled from 2005-2014 races (20 total) among active drivers at Martinsville Speedway . Qualifying/Race Data 2014 pole winner : Kyle Busch , Toyota 99.674 mph, 18.998 secs. 03-28-14 2014 race winner : Kurt Busch , Chevrolet 72.176 mph, (03:38:38), 03-30-14 Track qualifying record: Jamie McMurray , Chevrolet 99.905 mph, 18.954 secs. 10-24-14 Track race record: Jeff Gordon , Chevrolet 82.223 mph, (3:11:55), 09-22-96 Martinsville Speedway : History · Opened in September 1947 by H. Clay Earles , Martinsville, originally a dirt track, is one of the oldest continuously-operating race tracks in the United States. · The first NASCAR-sanctioned race at Martinsville was on July 4, 1948. · The first NASCAR Sprint Cup race was Sept. 25, 1949. · The track was paved in 1955. · The first 500 -lap event at Martinsville was in 1956. · Concrete corners were added atop asphalt in 1976. Notebook · There have been 132 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Martinsville Speedway , one in the inaugural year and two races per year since 1950. · 602 drivers have competed in at least one NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Martinsville; 380 in more than one. · NASCAR Hall of Famer Richard Petty has the all-time most NASCAR Sprint Cup Series starts at Martinsville with 67; Jeff Gordon has the most starts among active drivers with 44. · Curtis Turner won the inaugural Coors Light pole at Martinsville Speedway in 1949. · 58 drivers have Coors Light poles at Martinsville, led by NASCAR Hall of Famer Darrell Waltrip with eight; Jeff Gordon leads all active drivers with seven. · 12 drivers have won two or more consecutive Coors Light poles at Martinsville Speedway . Four of the 12 have won three consecutive poles at Martinsville: Glen Wood (Fall of 1959 and 1960 sweep); Darrell Waltrip (1979 sweep and spring 1980); Mark Martin (fall of 1990 and 1991 sweep); Jeff Gordon (2003 sweep and spring 2004). · Youngest Martinsville pole winner: Ricky Rudd (4/26/1981 – 24 years, 7 months, 14 days). · Oldest Martinsville pole winner: Morgan Shepherd (4/26/1987 – 45 years, 6 months, 14 days). · 48 different drivers have won at Martinsville Speedway , led by Richard Petty with 15; Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon lead the series among active drivers with eight wins each. · 24 drivers have multiple wins at Martinsville Speedway only five active drivers have multiple wins: Jimmie Johnson (eight), Jeff Gordon (eight), Denny Hamlin (four), Tony Stewart (three) and Kurt Busch (two). · Hendrick Motorsports leads the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in wins at Martinsville Speedway with 22. · 21 of 132 races (15.9%) at Martinsville Speedway have been won from the Coors Light pole; seven of those 21 wins came from active drivers: Tony Stewart (2000), Jeff Gordon (2003 twice), Jimmie Johnson (2008, 2012, spring 2013) and Denny Hamlin (2010). · The Coors Light pole is the most proficient starting spot in the field at Martinsville producing more wins (21) than any other starting position. · 36 of the 132 (27.2%) NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Martinsville Speedway have been won from the front row: 21 from the pole and 15 from second-place. · 95 of the 132 (71.9%) NASCAR Sprint Cup races at Martinsville Speedway have been won from a top-10 starting position. · Seven of the 132 (5.3%) NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Martinsville Speedway have been won from a starting position outside the top 20 – including both races last season. · The deepest in the field that a race winner has started was 36th, by Kurt Busch in the fall of 2002. · Youngest Martinsville winner: Richard Petty (04/10/1960 – 22 years, 9 months, 8 days). · Oldest Martinsville winner: Harry Gant (09/22/1991 – 51 years, 8 months, 12 days). · NASCAR Hall of Famer Dale Earnhardt leads the series in runner-up finishes at Martinsville Speedway with seven; Jeff Gordon leads all active drivers with five, followed by his Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jimmie Johnson with four. · Richard Petty leads the series in top-five finishes at Martinsville Speedway with 30; Jeff Gordon leads all active drivers with 28, followed by Jimmie Johnson with 18. · Richard Petty leads the series in top-10 finishes at Martinsville Speedway with 37; Jeff Gordon leads all active drivers with 35, followed by Jimmie Johnson with 22. · Jeff Gordon leads active drivers in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in average starting position at Martinsville Speedway with a 7.318. Denny Hamlin (9. 500 ) and Ryan Newman (9.654) are the only other active drivers with an average starting position at Martinsville inside the top 10. · Three active drivers have a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series average finish in the top 10 at Martinsville: Jimmie Johnson (6.231), Jeff Gordon (6.841) and Denny Hamlin (8.722). · There have been five NSCS green-white-checkered finishes at Martinsville Speedway : fall 2007 ( 500 /506), fall 2008 ( 500 /504), fall 2009 ( 500 /501), spring 2010 ( 500 /508), and spring 2012 ( 500 /515). · Qualifying has been cancelled due to weather conditions eight times in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at Martinsville Speedway ; the most recent was the fall race of 2011. · Jeff Gordon has participated in the most NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Martinsville Speedway without a DNF (44). · Tony Stewart (4/18/1999) and Scott Riggs (4/10/2005) won their first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Coors Light poles at Martinsville Speedway . · Mike Bliss (09/27/1998), Travis Kvapil (10/24/2004) and Michael McDowell (3/30/2008) are active drivers that made their first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series career starts at Martinsville Speedway . · 12 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers have posted consecutive wins at Martinsville Speedway . Fred Lorenzen won four NSCS races straight (the most) from the fall of 1963 through the spring of 1965. Jimmie Johnson is the most recent driver to win consecutive races (Fall of 2012 / Spring of 2013) at Martinsville. · All eight active NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers who have won at Martinsville Speedway participated in at least two or more races before visiting Victory Lane. Tony Stewart won at Martinsville (2000) with the fewest previous appearances (three). · Ryan Newman competed at Martinsville Speedway 20 times before winning in the spring of 2012; the longest span of any the eight active NASCAR Sprint Cup Series winners. · Two active drivers have made 10 or more attempts before their first win at Martinsville Speedway : Kevin Harvick (19) and Ryan Newman (20). · Chevrolet leads series in wins at Martinsville Speedway with 54 victories – including the last eight consecutive races. · Since the advent of electronic scoring the closest margin of victory in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at Martinsville Speedway is the April 1, 2007 race won by Jimmie Johnson with a MOV of 0.065 second. · Danica Patrick is the only female driver to compete at Martinsville Speedway in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. Below are Patrick’s stats at Martinsville. Driver Starting Position Finishing Position Driver Rating Date Danica Patrick 32 12 72.6 4/7/2013 Danica Patrick 41 17 64.7 10/27/2013 Danica Patrick 10 32 52.4 3/30/2014 Danica Patrick 30 34 61.3 10/26/2014 · Seven car numbers have produced five or more Martinsville Speedway NSCS wins: Car Number – Drivers – (Years) o No. 43 – Richard Petty (1960, ’62, ’63, ’67 sweep, ’68, ’69 sweep, ’70, ’71, ’72 sweep, ’73, ’75 and ’79); John Andretti (1999) o No. 11 – Cale Yarborough (1974, ’76, ’77 sweep, ‘78); Darrell Waltrip (1981, ’82, ’83, ’84); Geoff Bodine (1990 sweep); Denny Hamlin (2008, ’09, ’10 sweep) o No . 28 – Fred Lorenzen (1961, ’63, ’64 sweep, ‘65 and ‘66); Buddy Baker (1979); Ernie Irvan (1993). o No . 2 – Dale Earnhardt (1980); Rusty Wallace (1993, ‘94 sweep, ’95, ’96 an
Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano talk about their strong finishes at Martinsville Speedway as they finish 2nd and 3rd in the STP 500 .
NASCAR.com's Kenny Bruce and Chris Rice let you know who and what to watch for in Sunday's STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway.
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
Get full lineup of NASCAR programming for the week RELATED: See the full weekend schedule All times ET Monday, March 30 3 a.m., NASCAR Sprint Cup Series STP 500 (re-air), FOX Sports 1 10 a.m., NASCAR Sprint Cup Series STP 500 (re-air), FOX Sports 1 5 p.m., NASCAR America Live, NBC Sports Network 6 p.m., NASCAR Race Hub, FOX Sports 1 7 p.m., NASCAR Race Hub (re-air), FOX Sports 2 Tuesday, March 31 3:30 a.m., NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Kroger 250 (re-air), FOX Sports 1 5 p.m., NASCAR America Live, NBC Sports Network 6 p.m., NASCAR Race Hub, FOX Sports 1 7 p.m., NASCAR Race Hub (re-air), FOX Sports 2 Wednesday, April 1 10 a.m., NASCAR Sprint Cup Series STP 500 (re-air), FOX Sports 2 5 p.m., NASCAR America Live, NBC Sports Network 6 p.m., NASCAR Race Hub, FOX Sports 1 7 p.m., NASCAR Race Hub (re-air), FOX Sports 2 Thursday, April 2 2:30 a.m., The List: Dale Earnhardt (re-air), NBC Sports Network 5 p.m., NASCAR America Live, NBC Sports Network 6 p.m., NASCAR Race Hub, FOX Sports 1 7 p.m., NASCAR Race Hub (re-air), FOX Sports 2 Friday, April 3 2:30 a.m., The List: Iconic Cars (re-air), NBC Sports Network 5 p.m., NASCAR America: Scan All 43 (re-air), NBC Sports Network 6 p.m., NASCAR Race Hub, FOX Sports 1 6:30 p.m., NASCAR K&N Series West: Kern County Raceway (tape), NBC Sports Network 7 p.m., NASCAR Race Hub (re-air), FOX Sports 2 7:30 p.m., The List: Greatest Finishes (re-air), NBC Sports Network 8 p.m., 1979 DAYTONA 500 (re-air), FOX Sports 2 8 p.m., The List: Memorable Moments (re-air), NBC Sports Network 8:30 p.m., The List: Rookie Seasons (re-air), NBC Sports Network 9 p.m., The List: Iconic Cars (re-air), NBC Sports Network 9:30 p.m., The List: Dale Earnhardt (re-air), NBC Sports Network 10 p.m., The List: Greatest Finishes (re-air), NBC Sports Network 10:30 p.m., The List: Memorable Moments (re-air), NBC Sports Network 11 p.m., The List: Rookie Seasons (re-air), NBC Sports Network 11:30 p.m., The List: Iconic Cars (re-air), NBC Sports Network Saturday, April 4 Midnight, The List: Dale Earnhardt (re-air), NBC Sports Network 12:30 a.m., The List: Greatest Finishes (re-air), NBC Sports Network 1 a.m., The List: Memorable Moments (re-air), NBC Sports Network 1:30 a.m., The List: Rookie Seasons (re-air), NBC Sports Network 2 a.m., The List: Iconic Cars (re-air), NBC Sports Network 2:30 a.m., The List: Dale Earnhardt (re-air), NBC Sports Network Sunday, April 5 9 a.m., Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge: Sebring (tape), FOX Sports 1 &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;nbsp; MORE: READ: Latest NASCAR news PLAY: Sign up for Fantasy Live WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView today
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
NASCAR.com's Chuck Bush recaps the STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway. Highlights include Chase Elliott's Sprint Cup Series debut, Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s shifter issues and Denny Hamlin taking home another Martinsville clock.