FONTANA, CA (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – It’s very rare in modern day NASCAR that one car is the fastest through two practice sessions. It’s even more rare when that car is the fastest in consecutive lap average. Alex Bowman and the No. 88 Cincinnati Chevrolet were exactly that and won Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series Auto Club 400 to cap off a dominating weekend.
“I don’t know that we’ve changed anything since we unloaded off the truck, so that really comes down to a lot of great preparation in the shop, (Crew Chief) Greg (Ives) making really good decisions with our package that we brought here this year,” said Bowman, who led 110-of-200-laps en route to his second career Cup Series Victory. “This is a place we’ve struggled at for the last two years, so for him to be able to unload that close, really the last two weeks in a row, makes my job much easier. We can really fine tune the car throughout practice instead of having to make huge changes. It’s really been our probably best couple practices the last two years that I’ve been driving for HMS, and I just attribute that to the hard work in the shop and great work over the off-season.”
Joe Gibbs Racing’s Kyle Busch finished second in the No. 18 Interstate Batteries Toyota Camry. Busch started 17th and worked his way into the top ten by finishing tenth in the race’s first stage. Busch managed to keep his car in the top ten in the ensuing laps, working his way up to seventh by the end of the race’s second stage. Busch battled into the top five during the races final stage.
“The Interstate Batteries Camry wasn’t a second-place car, but thankfully we got a good finish out of here, we tried to get some points,” said Busch on pit road following the race. “We’ve just got to get a little bit better. We finished the end of last year so strong, I don’t know what we’re missing here, but obviously it’s a little bit of something here or there, maybe a little bit of something in a few different areas, but overall, good car today”.
Chip Ganassi Racing’s Kurt Busch finished third in the No. 1 Monster Energy Chevrolet Camaro after starting the race fourth.
“All weekend the car just had a good vibe to it, the way it unloaded and the way we made small changes on our Monster Energy Chevy, I was really proud of this effort,” said Busch.
Hendrick Motorsports Chase Elliott finished fourth in the No. 9 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet. Team Penske’s Brad Keselowski rounded out the Top 5 in the No. 2 America’s Tire Ford.
The race featured 16-lead changes among eight drivers and was slowed by 3-caution flags for 13-laps.
The next NASCAR Cup Series race is March 8, 2020 at Phoenix Raceway.
Martin Truex Jr Victorious At Martinsville Speedway
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).
“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.
Josh Berry Gets First Career Xfinity Series Win At Martinsville Speedway
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.”
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.
Mother Nature Wins At Martinsville Speedway
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.
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.