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Sunday, March 30
Denny Hamlin celebrates winning the Goody's Cool Orange 500 with his team at Martinsville Speedway. It was Hamlin's first NASCAR
Sprint Cup Series win in his home state of Virginia. (Photo Credit: Jason Smith/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Hamlin Holds Off Gordon For Martinsville Win
By Reid Spencer, Sporting News NASCAR Wire Service
MARTINSVILLE, Va. (March 29, 2008) - Hendrick Motorsports flexed its muscles Sunday, but Denny Hamlin’s team made the right call in the pits, propelling the No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota to victory in the Goody’s Cool Orange 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Martinsville Speedway.
Taking fuel only to polesitter Jeff Gordon’s four tires and fuel on the final pit stop for both drivers on Lap 388, Hamlin beat Gordon out of the pits for a restart on Lap 394, after Ken Schrader’s Toyota spread oil on the track to bring out the 18th and final caution of the race.
Jeff Burton, Brian Vickers, Carl Edwards and Casey Mears stayed on the track during the Lap 388 pit stop, but one-by-one Hamlin picked them off. He passed Burton for the lead off Turn 2 on Lap 427 and held it the rest of the way, as the 500-lap race went green to the finish.
Denny Hamlin leads second-place Jeff Gordon under the checkered flag.
As the frontrunners worked through traffic in the closing laps, Gordon passed Burton for second and finished 0.398 seconds behind Hamlin. Burton held onto third, followed Jimmie Johnson (who rallied from a spin on Lap 296) and Tony Stewart. Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished sixth and Mears seventh to give Hendrick four of the top seven positions. Jamie McMurray, Edwards and Clint Bowyer completed the top 10.
“You got a clock, baby, you got a clock,” shouted crew chief Mike Ford as Hamlin crossed the line, referring to the grandfather clock trophy that goes to the winner.
The victory was Hamlin’s fourth in the series in 85 starts and the first in his home state. The win also broke a 24-race dry spell prolonged by a streak of rotten luck, the latest installment of which occurred two weeks ago at Bristol when Hamlin’s fuel pickup faltered with him in the lead on a green-white-checkered-flag restart. Hamlin finished sixth.
“It’s the first Virginia win for me, and well, finally the curse is over -- I hope,” said Hamlin, who notched the second win in the series for Toyota. “We’ve had some bad luck these past few weeks. We’ve been so close so many times, and it feels great to finally break through.”
Like Johnson, Gordon lost track position in a mishap. Gordon’s occurred off Turn 4 on Lap 57 when the nose of his No. 24 Chevrolet was nicked during a four-car melee. Gordon restarted 32nd on Lap 65 and began a charge through the field; he regained the lead on Lap 269.
But the last two sets of tires didn’t work well with Gordon’s car. Handling issues and cold, wet track conditions made overtaking Hamlin impossible in the closing laps.
“It came down to pit strategy, and Denny and those guys definitely did the right thing,” said Gordon, who believed at the time that Hamlin had taken two tires instead of none. “I just couldn’t get going on those
last two sets.
“I was trying to figure out why the car had no grip out there the last few laps. Then I got out of the car and realized that we were racing in the rain.”
Adhesion didn’t seem to be an issue for Hamlin, who won the race on old tires after opting for track position on the final stop. Hamlin also survived a mistake on Lap 215 when his car crossed the pit road commitment line on the backstretch, forcing him to pit from the lead to avoid incurring a penalty.
Hamlin restarted 19th on Lap 219 and, like Gordon, charged to the front.
Unlike Gordon, Hamlin stayed there.
Jeff Burton third-place finish in the Goody's Cool Orange 500 was good enough to gain him three spots to take over the driver point standings lead.
Notes: With series points leader Kyle Busch finishing 38th, Burton took over the top spot in the standings by 39 points over Richard Childress Racing teammate Kevin Harvick. ... Gordon (ninth) and Johnson (10th)climbed back into the top 12 in points as did Hamlin, who moved up seven spots to eighth. Martin Truex Jr. (13th), Matt Kenseth (15th) and Kurt Busch (16th) fell from the top 12. ... Michael McDowell finished 26th in his Cup debut, beating teammates Michael Waltrip (35th) and David Reutimann (39th).
Complete Race Results click here
Post-Race Driver Point Standings click here
NASCAR Newscast - Martinsville Review click here
Interview With Podium Finishers click here
Elliott Sadler was unable to practice his car Saturday as a result of a back injury during the week. Sadler plans to start
Sunday's race with Saturday's truck race winner Dennis Setzer on standby to fill in, if needed.
Saturday First Practice Speed Chart click here Jimmie Johnson fastest at 95.299 mph
Saturday Final Practice Speed Chart click here Jeff Gordon fastest at 95.439 mph
Jeff Gordon's seventh career pole award at Martinsville ties him Darrell Waltrip for that honour at the historic 1/2-mile.
Qualifying Results click here
Starting Lineup click here
Jeff Gordon won the Coors Light Pole Award for the Goody’s Cool Orange 500 with a lap of 19.666
seconds, 96.288 mph.
Qualifying: Friday, March 28 (SPEED at 4:30 p.m./AT)
Final Practice: Saturday, March 29 (SPEED at 10 p.m.-SDD)
RaceDay: Sunday, March 30 (SPEED at 12:30 p.m./AT)
Pre-Race Show: Sunday, March 30 (FOX & TSN-alt at 2:30 p.m./AT)
Race: Sunday, March 30 (FOX & TSN-alt at 3 p.m./AT)
- This is his 65th pole in 515 career NASCAR Sprint Cup races. He is fourth on the all-time pole winners list
behind Richard Petty (126), David Pearson (112) and Cale Yarborough (70).
- This is his second pole and sixth top-10 start in 2008.
- This is Gordon’s seventh pole at Martinsville Speedway. He also started first here in September 1995
when qualified was canceled.
- Denny Hamlin posted the second-fastest qualifying time with a lap of 19.775 seconds, 95.757 mph. This
is his fourth top-10 start in six Martinsville races – all also top-fives. This is Hamlin’s second top-10 start in
- Aric Almirola (third) posted his career-first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series top-10 start. His best start in his
seven-race NASCAR Sprint Cup Series career was 16th, which came last race at Bristol.
- Jamie McMurray (fifth) was the fastest of the drivers required to make the field on time.
- Sam Hornish Jr. (26th) was the fastest qualifying rookie.
- Michael McDowell (34th) qualified for his career-first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race.
- Drivers on the "did not qualify" list this week include: Kyle Petty, John Andretti, Tony Raines and Joe Nemechek.
*AT is one hour ahead of ET, i.e. if it's 2 p.m./AT - it's 1 p.m./ET...
Green Flag Fast Facts
The Race: GOODY’S COOL ORANGE 500
The Place: Martinsville Speedway
The Track: .526-mile oval
The Distance: 500 laps/263 miles
TV: FOX & TSN-alt, 2:30 p.m./AT, 1:30 p.m./ET
Radio: MRN, SIRIUS Satellite Radio
2007 Winner: Jimmie Johnson
2007 Polesitter: Jeff Gordon
Pre-Race Schedule (local track time): Friday—Practice, 12-1:30 p.m.; Qualifying, 3:40 p.m. Saturday—Practice, 11:30 a.m.-12:15 p.m.; Final Practice, 12:50 -1:50 p.m.
Year-To-Date Standings click here
NASCAR Newscast - watch a preview for this weekends Martinsville event click here
Martinsville Storylines click here
Martinsville On NASCAR Schedule From the Start click here
Pre-Race Pit Stops
- Earnhardt Seeks Breakthrough Win; McDowell Seeks Solid Debut...The upside for Dale Earnhardt Jr. (No. 88 Amp Energy/National Guard Chevrolet) coming into Sunday’s event at Martinsville Speedway:
He’s fifth in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series point standings, the highest-ranked of Hendrick Motorsports’ star-studded four-man team.
The downside: He has never won at Martinsville Speedway.
That’s not to say he hasn’t been close.
Earnhardt has seven top fives in 16 Martinsville starts — including a fifth in 2007’s spring event.
Of Earnhardt’s 17 NASCAR Sprint Cup victories, four have come on short tracks (ovals less than one mile in length) — three at Richmond International Raceway, one at Bristol Motor Speedway.
Meanwhile, on the other end of the learning curve this week we find Michael McDowell, who is technically replacing David Reutimann in the No. 00 Aaron’s Dream Machine Toyota for Michael Waltrip Racing. But in reality, he’s replacing NASCAR legend Dale Jarrett, who retired after the March 16 race at Bristol, leaving the No. 44 UPS Toyota to David Reutimann, the former driver of the No. 00.
McDowell is assured of making his first NASCAR Sprint Cup start Sunday; the No. 00 is safely within the top 35 of the owner points and is thus guaranteed a spot in the field.
Said McDowell: “To make your debut at Martinsville is tough. Lot of laps … lot of hard laps. … I’ve done a lot of training to make sure I’m in shape for 500 laps.”
- Jeff Hammond To wave Green Flag...To celebrate Jeff Hammond’s long history at Martinsville Speedway, it is only fitting he gets to wave the green flag for the Goody’s Cool Orange 500. Hammond has been named as Honorary Starter for the upcoming Goody’s Cool Orange 500 at Martinsville Speedway. As a jackman, Hammond stood in Martinsville’s victory lane four times with driver Cale Yarborough. Once promoted to crew chief for Darrell Waltrip, Hammond found victory lane 10 more times at Martinsville, four of which were Goody’s 500 events (1984, 1987, 1988, 1989). Hammond secured a total of 43 wins as a crew chief. NASCAR fans now enjoy Hammond’s commentary during FOX and SPEED television broadcasts.
- Second-Straight Short-Track Week Bodes Well For Johnson, Gordon...By any calculation, the following numbers just don’t add up.
Together, Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet) and Jeff Gordon (No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet) have won a total of six NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championships — but not a single race thus far this season.
Five races worth of frustration finds Johnson 13th in the series standings, Gordon 14th.
That has opened the door for some early-season optimism by everyone else, following last season’s Johnson-Gordon domination that resulted in 16 victories and a 1-2 finish in the final standings.
Don’t be surprised if the door gets slammed shut, for at least a week, come Sunday, as the series visits a short track for the second straight week, following the previous event at Bristol Motor Speedway.
Martinsville Speedway — site of Sunday’s Goody’s Cool Orange 500 — seemingly arrives at a most opportune time for the two struggling past champions. Johnson has won the last three Martinsville events; together, he and Gordon have won eight of the last 10 races at the .526-mile oval, the series’ only track that was on the very first NASCAR schedule in 1948.
Sixty years of Martinsville amounts to a lot of history but since 2003, history had been made, basically, by Johnson and Gordon — especially in April of 2007 when the two seriously tested the stability of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series’ “new car” with a contact-laden battle over the race’s closing laps. Johnson outslugged his Hendrick Motorsports teammate by a scant .065 seconds.
- On The Bubble: Hornish Is In, Franchitti’s Not...With five races in the books for the 2008 NASCAR Sprint Cup season, the weekly guaranteed starting spots start going to the top 35 teams in current car owner point standings. (For this season’s first five races, the guarantees went to the top 35 teams in the final 2007 points.)
There are some definite surprises thus far — on both sides of the “bubble.”
Michael Waltrip Racing has all three of its teams in the top 35 — with Waltrip (No. 55 NAPA Toyota), David Reutimann (No. 44 UPS Toyota) and Michael McDowell (No. 00 Aaron’s Dream Machine Toyota) driving.
Sam Hornish Jr. (No. 77 Mobil 1 Dodge) the former Indianapolis 500 and IndyCar Series champion, is safe for now. Hornish, who started the year with an impressive 15th-place run at the Daytona 500 for Penske Racing, has the 35th and final spot going into Martinsville.
Casey Mears (No. 5 CARQUEST/Kellogg’s Chevrolet), part of Hendrick Motorsports’ powerhouse lineup, is 33rd, only 12 points ahead of Hornish. Mears, keep in mind, was a winner of one of NASCAR’s biggest events last season, the Coca-Cola 600 at Lowe’s Motor Speedway.
Jamie McMurray, a member of Jack Roush’s well-stocked stable of drivers, is 36th this week, forced to rely on his qualifying speed to make Sunday’s field. Like Mears, McMurray also had a marquee win last season, capturing the Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway in July.
Dario Franchitti, last year’s Indy 500 and IndyCar Series champion, is down in 38th, amid a challenging start to his first NASCAR season driving for Chip Ganassi and Felix Sabates.
And veteran Kyle Petty is 40th, with his team an already-perilous 60 points behind Hornish’s. Encouraging: In recent years, Petty has shown glimpses of his 1980s form at Martinsville; he finished 10th in the 2006 fall race. … “I have a lot of experience at Martinsville and that should help us qualify our way in to Sunday’s race,” Petty said. “This is not an enviable position to be in, but I have a good team around me and we can dig our way out of this. … I’ve been in this situation before and we’ve come out just fine. We’re more than capable of hitting a streak where we get a string of top-10 or top-15 finishes. Martinsville would be a good place to start one.”
- Bowyer Two Times Tough...Clint Bowyer (No. 07 BB&T Chevrolet) is following last year’s spectacular season in fine fashion. A third-place finisher in the Chase for NASCAR Sprint Cup, Bowyer is ninth in series points going into Martinsville. But he’s also leading the points in the NASCAR Nationwide Series, after a runner-up finish at Nashville Superspeedway this past Saturday night. This marks the first time Bowyer has led the standings of a NASCAR national series.
Virginia Tech’s Beamer Serving As Grand Marshal … Frank Beamer, head football coach at Virginia Tech, will be the Grand Marshal for the Goody’s Cool Orange 500. “I think most people know how much I love racing, and I’m delighted by this honor,” Beamer said.
“This is a real privilege,” added Martinsville Speedway President Clay Campbell.
- Burton After Short-Track Sweep...Jeff Burton (No. 31 AT&T Mobility Chevrolet), winner at Bristol Motor Speedway’s half-mile two weeks ago, will try to pull off an early-season short-track sweep on Sunday. In 2005, an adjustment of the NASCAR Sprint Cup schedule put Bristol and Martinsville back-to-back. Consecutive short-track races were once commonplace, but that had disappeared from the schedule in 1999. The last time a driver swept short-track events on consecutive weeks was Jeff Gordon, at Bristol and Martinsville, in 1997.
Burton — fourth in series points this week — has a solid record at Martinsville: In 27 starts, he has a victory, nine top-five and 13 top-10 finishes. According to Loop Data statistics, Burton has been the sport’s seventh-best green-flag passer at Martinsville over the last six races there.
“Martinsville is both a physical and emotional race,” Burton said. “I think it’s the longest feeling race that we run all year and I like that challenge … obviously some challenges are bigger than others. To me, that’s what our sport is all about. It’s about being difficult and trying to overcome obstacles and Martinsville is a pretty big obstacle to overcome.”
- NASCAR’s 60th Anniversary Season Returns To One Of The Originals — Martinsville...The year was 1948 and the fledgling sport was NASCAR. That was the first season, with a 52-race schedule for mostly Modified machines, although there were the relatively sparse appearance of cars that would come to define NASCAR — the Strictly Stocks, precursor to today’s NASCAR Sprint Cup cars.
That schedule came to Martinsville Speedway, with an event on July 4. The speedway had actually opened a year earlier, with only 750 seats.
For the first installment of what would become one of NASCAR’s true traditions — racing on or around the July 4 holiday — Fonty Flock was the winner.
An ambitious gentleman by the name of Bill France, who also was NASCAR’s founder and first president, finished eighth.
Aric Almirola scored his best career starting spot during time trials; a third in the DEI No. 8 car..
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