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NASCAR Winter Notebook

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DAYTONA BEACH, FL (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – The 2020 NASCAR Season gets underway in a little over a month with the season-opening Busch Clash and Daytona 500.  The short off-season was not short on news however.  Here’s some of the biggest headlines to get you up to speed.

  • NASCAR is tweaking the short track package for the 2020 Season following a whopping six lead changes at both races at Martinsville Speedway.  The new package is a reduced downforce package that will also be in effect on road courses and includes these changes:
    • Spoiler size reduced to 2.75-inches from 8-inches.
    • Splitter overhang reduced to 0.25-inches from 2-inches.
    • Radiator pan vertical fencing to be removed.
  • Team Penske is swapping crew chiefs on all three Cup Series entries.  Jeremy Bullins moves to the No. 2 Ford Mustang of Brad Keselowski.  Todd Gordon moves to the No. 12 Ford Mustang of Ryan Blaney and Paul Wolfe moves to the No. 22 Ford Mustang of Joey Logano.  Not only are the crew chiefs moving but the road and pit crews for each team will follow their crew chiefs.
  • Joe Gibbs Racing is promoting James Small to crew chief for Martin Truex and the No. 19 Toyota.  Small replaces Cole Pearn, who announced in December that he was leaving racing to spend more time with his family.
  • Joey Gase will compete full-time in the Cup Series with Rick Ware Racing.
  • Jerry Baxter is joining Richard Petty Motorsports as the crew chief for the No. 43 Chevrolet of Bubba Wallace.  Baxter and Wallace worked together in the Truck Series in 2013-14, winning five races and finishing third in the championship.
  • Ryan Sparks will be the crew chief for the No. 32 Go FasRacing Ford Mustang driven by Corey LaJoie.  Sparks spent 13-years with Richard Childress Racing as race engineer, most recently for Austin Dillon.
  • World of Outlaws racer David Gravel, who won the Don Martin Memorial Silver Cup this past July at Lernerville Speedway, will try his hand at NASCAR by running a couple of Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series races for GMS Racing.
  • NASCAR is experimenting with new pit stop procedures at select standalone Xfinity and Truck Series events.  This graphic explains the new rules:
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Speedweeks gets underway beginning Friday, February 7th when the ARCA Menards Series practice followed on Saturday with Busch Clash Practice for Cup Series followed by ARCA qualifying.  Two Daytona 500 practice sessions for the Cup Series take place in the afternoon with the Lucas Oil 200 for the ACRA Series at 4:45 p.m. ET.

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NASCAR

Martin Truex Jr Victorious At Martinsville Speedway

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James Gilbert/Getty Images

MARTINSVILLE, PA (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – Martin Truex Jr passed teammate Denny Hamlin on lap 485 and went on the win the rain-delayed NASCAR Cup Series Blue-Emu Maximum Pain Relief 500 at Martinsville Speedway.  The victory was Truex’s second of 2021 and 29th of his Cup Series Career.

“He (Hamlin) started getting tight, our car was getting better and better,” said Truex of the late race pass. “We were able to take advantage of it. Really happy. For whatever reason our car really turned on when the lights went down. Always good when a plan comes together and it works out the way you hoped it would.”

Hendrick Motorsports Chase Elliott finished second, his seventh top-10 finish in 13-races at Martinsville and fourth top-10 of 2021.

“Really, really hard-fought second actually for us,” said Elliott. “We were not great, but had some, I guess our strong suit was kind of early on in the run, then really faded hard, too hard there in the latter part of a run. But we never got one of those super long runs, which is probably a good thing for us because we were struggling on that end. But, yeah, proud we could fight back.”

Hamlin settled for third after leading the most laps in the race (267).

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“Had a really good car on the short run all day,” said Hamlin. “Got great restarts. Was fast for 25, 30 laps. Then it seemed like guys would start catching us. Unfortunately it was just too many laps there at the end that we couldn’t hold those guys off.”

Hendrick Motorsports teammates William Byron and Kyle Larson finished fourth and fifth respectively, giving HMS three cars in the top 5.

The race featured 18-lead changes among 7-drivers and was slowed by 15-caution flags for 105-laps.

The next NASCAR Cup Series race is April 18, 2020 at Richmond Raceway.

Martinsville Cup Results

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NASCAR

Josh Berry Gets First Career Xfinity Series Win At Martinsville Speedway

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James Gilbert/Getty Images

MARTINSVILLE, VA (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – Josh Berry passed Ty Gibbs for the lead on lap 223 and stayed out front for the final 27-laps to get his first career NASCAR Xfinity Series win in the rain-delayed Cook Out 250 at Martinsville Speedway.  The victory was the first career victory for Berry in 13 Xfinity Series starts.

“Man, I wanted to win so bad for these guys,” said Berry referring to his No. 8 JR Motorsports team. “They’re such a great group. I knew this would be a good opportunity to win. (Crew chief) Taylor (Moyer) called a perfect race. The car was good, and we just kept tweaking on it. The tires were pretty worn out there at the end. I was struggling a little bit with wheel-hop. This is just unbelievable.”

Berry’s JR Motorsports teammate Noah Gragson finished second and picked up a $100,000 Dash 4 Cash bonus, which eased the pain of being the runner-up.

“One hundred thousand dollars richer,” said Gragson. “Great 1-2 finish for our team at JR Motorsports. I really wanted to win there, but I was having to protect the bottom to keep the guys behind me from moving me out of the way. I couldn’t open up my arc the way I needed to and make speed.”

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Daniel Hemric finished in third position followed by Gibbs, who faded to a fourth place finish.  Gibbs’ teammate Brandon Jones finished fifth. Jones was the leader Friday night when storms red-flagged the event after completing 91-laps.

The race featured 13-lead changes among 9-drivers.  The race was slowed by 12-caution flags for 75-laps.

The next race for the NASCAR Xfinity Series is April 24, 2021 at Talladega Superspeedway.

Martinsville Xfinity Results

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NASCAR

Mother Nature Wins At Martinsville Speedway

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Photo: James Gilbert/Getty Images

MARTINSVILLE, VA (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – Mother Nature is throwing a wrench into this weekend’s NASCAR Cup Series and Xfinity Series Schedules at Martinsville Virginia.

Friday’s Xfinity race is under a red flag following 92-laps of the scheduled 250-lap event after rain showers put an end to NASCAR’s attempt to get the event finished.  Joe Gibbs Racing’s Brandon Jones is scored as the leader of the race.

NASCAR has rescheduled the remainder of the event for Sunday at Noon ET.

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The Cup Series race was red flagged on lap 43 because of showers.  JGR’s Denny Hamlin is scored as the leader.  Hamlin has led 38-laps.  Team Penske’s Joey Logano started on the pole position and led the other laps.

NASCAR will restart the event on Sunday at 4 p.m. ET.

Per NASCAR rules, an event is considered official after half of the scheduled distance has been completed.

Both races will be broadcast live on FS1, the Motor Racing Network (MRN) and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.

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