Matt Crafton, Johnny Sauter and Erik Jones offer up their thoughts following the Kroger 250 .
No. 24 driver says he cost team shot at win
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
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Catch up quickly before Sunday's STP 500 (1 p.m. ET, FOX Sports 1) Vote: Who will win at Martinsville? " Play: NASCAR Fantasy Live What: 66th annual STP 500 Where: Martinsville Speedway , Martinsville, Virginia When: Sunday, March 29, 2015 TV/Radio: FOX Sports 1, Motor Racing Network Time: 1:13 p.m. ET Distance: 500 laps (263 miles) Pit Road Speed: 30 mph Caution Car Speed: 35 mph Estimated Pit Window: 125-135 laps, based on fuel mileage On The Front Row " Full starting lineup " See all 43 cars 1. Joey Logano , Team Penske No. 22 Ford (98.461 mph) 2. Ryan Newman , Richard Childress Racing No. 31 Chevrolet (98.328 mph) To The Rear Casey Mears , Germain Racing No. 13 Chevrolet (transmission); Regan Smith , Chip Ganassi Racing No. 42 Chevrolet (driver change, subbing for Kyle Larson ); Justin Allgaier , HScott Motorsports No. 51 Chevrolet (backup) Failed To Qualify Brendan Gaughan , Premium Motorsports No. 62 Chevrolet; Ron Hornaday Jr ., TMG No. 30 Chevrolet. Fastest In Practice First practice: Ryan Newman , Richard Childress Racing No. 31 Chevrolet (97.835 mph) " Full results Second practice: Denny Hamlin , Joe Gibbs Racing No. 11 Toyota (97.113 mph) " Full results Final Practice: Kurt Busch , Stewart-Haas Racing No. 41 Chevrolet (97.098 mph) " Full results It's Not Where You Start After qualifying first or second in two of the last three races, defending Sprint Cup champion Kevin Harvick will roll off from the No. 17 position at Martinsville. He's qualified worse this season, starting 18th at Las Vegas. For the record, he won Las Vegas. Remember When? A Ford team has not finished first or second at Martinsville since 2002, going 0-for 24 since Kurt Busch won the fall race here while driving for Roush Fenway Racing . Chevrolet teams have won the last eight races at the 0.526-mile track. Hey Buddy, Move It "There is a lot of blocking that goes on (at Martinsville) and nobody wants go give up the inside, but the guy behind can control that a little bit. You can just get to their bumper and move them. … The guy that chops your nose off a lot going into say, Turn 3, you are just going to move him. … It is frustrating at times, but you definitely want to be on the offensive here rather than the defensive." – Paul Menard , RCR No. 27 Chevrolet He Can See The Front Tony Stewart will start sixth at Martinsville, his best starting spot since the fall race at Texas last year. He's also coming off his best finish of the season, a 14th-place result last week at Auto Club Speedway . The three-time Martinsville winner says earning a good starting spot "is half the battle" on the tiny track. "If you can just get a good pit spot and … a decent starting spot to where you do not have to beat the thing to death trying to get to the front, that's half the battle," he said. Pole or Bust Pole winners have won two of the last five Martinsville races, which might be good news for No. 1 qualifier Joey Logano . But drivers starting outside the top-20 have won the last two – Kurt Busch won from 22nd last spring while Dale Earnhardt Jr . won from 23rd in the fall race. Winless and counting Yes, it's been quite a while since a Toyota team won a Sprint Cup Series points races, 31 races in fact, and while Joe Gibbs Racing driver Denny Hamlin says a victory at Martinsville would be a big boost, it wouldn't be a cure-all. "It's been tough and it's been a hard year for the organization and the manufacturer," he said. "Not that a win here would just satisfy all those needs -- we still know that realistically we've got a lot of work to do, but it definitely would take a lot of pressure off because right now we're all in that hornets' nest of the bubble spot if this thing comes down to points." An Off-Weekend? Let's Go Racing Chase Elliott , the defending XFINITY Series champion and the son of NASCAR Hall of Fame member Bill Elliott , is making his Sprint Cup Series debut today. Elliott will start 27th in the No. 25 Chevrolet fielded by Hendrick Motorsports . "You just want to put together 500 solid laps on Sunday and try to run all the laps and hope we can have a good day," Elliott, 19, said. The XFINITY Series has the weekend off, returning to action Friday, April 10 at Texas Motor Speedway . Defending STP 500 Champion Kurt Busch , Stewart-Haas Racing No. 41 Chevrolet Driver Rating Best driver rating average at Martinsville Speedway based on past 10 years: Jimmie Johnson , Hendrick Motorsports No. 48 Chevrolet (122.5) Jeff Gordon , Hendrick Motorsports No. 24 Chevrolet (119.8) Denny Hamlin , Joe Gibbs Racing No. 11 Toyota (110.1) Former Martinsville Speedway Winners In Field Jeff Gordon , Jimmie Johnson 8; Denny Hamlin 4; Tony Stewart 3; Kurt Busch 2; Dale Earnhardt Jr ., Kevin Harvick , Ryan Newman 1 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
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
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
Joey Logano talks to Hermie Sadler after winning the Kroger 250 at Martinsville Speedway.
Joey Logano sits down in the media center at Martinsville Speedway following his win in the Kroger 250 .