Running the numbers after Richmond

Where to begin? Another win by a Joe Gibbs Racing team?

That’s six in the season’s first nine races as Martin Truex Jr. joins teammates Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin in the win column.

Maybe as NASCAR’s Monster Energy Cup Series heads into its first break, the story isn’t how good JGR has been out of the gate but how others have struggled.

Chevrolet teams are now 0-for-9 and that will continue to be an issue. Saturday’s Toyota Owners 400 marked the first time all season that a Chevrolet driver failed to lead at least one lap. The last time that happened was last fall’s stop at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway).

Chip Ganassi Racing’s Kurt Busch has been the most consistent of Chevy drivers, finishing inside the top 10 on six occasions.

Ford has a stellar lineup but thus far only Team Penske’s Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano have struck pay dirt, winning the three races that JGR somehow overlooked.

Stewart-Haas Racing hasn’t been invisible – Kevin Harvick is fourth in points, Clint Bowyer seemed in contention for wins at Bristol and Richmond while Aric Almirola and Daniel Suarez are 11th and 12th in points, respectively. But there’s nothing in the win column yet.

Saturday’s win was No. 20 for Truex, tying him with Speedy Thompson for 41st overall on the NASCAR Cup win list. Thompson’s last victory came at Richmond in 1960.

There are more Richmond tie-ins: Jeremy Mayfield, Carl Edwards and now Truex all won at Richmond with the No. 19. The first of Mayfield’s two victories in the No. 19 (for Evernham Motorsports) came at Richmond in ’04; it was the final race of the “regular” season and catapulted the driver into that year’s Chase.

Truex is the fourth different driver to win a Cup race using the No. 19. The others were John Rostek (Arizona State Fairgrounds in 1960), Mayfield and Edwards.

He is the 10th driver to win a Cup race with JGR, joining Kyle Busch, Tony Stewart, Hamlin, Bobby Labonte, Dale Jarrett, Erik Jones, Matt Kenseth, Logano and Edwards.

Besides being the sixth Cup win for Toyota this year, it was win No. 130 for the automaker since it began fielding Cup teams in ’07. Overall, Toyota now has a combined 468 wins in Cup, Xfinity (154) and the Gander Outdoors Truck Series (184).

Kyle Busch picked up his fifth stage win of ’19 at Richmond and the 25th of his career; Logano won a stage for the fourth time this season. Neither total includes final stage (race) wins. Combined with bonus points for race wins, Busch has already earned 20 playoff points.

On Friday, Harvick ended the run of eight different pole winners to start the season. The SHR driver also started out front at Las Vegas.

Got me to wondering who might be in the midst of longest dry spell when it comes to poles. First thought was Ryan Newman, who won poles frequently earlier in his career and has 51 to his credit.

Now competing for Roush Fenway Racing, Newman’s last pole came in 2013.

That’s not the longest among active drivers though.

Clint Bowyer’s last pole came in 2007. It’s one of two for the SHR racer, it came at New Hampshire Motor Speedway and Bowyer went on to win the race.

Noted in the points standings after nine races: The top two in points are unchanged from this time last season – Kyle Busch and Joey Logano. Fourth and fifth are the same as well – Kevin Harvick and Brad Keselowski. So four of the top five are 2018 all over again. What are the odds of that being the case?

Likewise for Aric Almirola (11th) and Austin Dillon (14th).

Several others in the top 16 are within a position or two of their points position a year ago – Truex and Kurt Busch and Ryan Blaney.

An Xfinity note: Tyler Reddick won the Xfinity championship last year with JR Motorsports and while he hasn’t won a race yet since switching to Richard Childress Racing, Reddick is your points leader through eight races. Says something about the driver and the team.

Christopher Bell (2), Cole Custer (2) and Michael Annett are your series regulars in victory lane so far and they’re second, third and seventh in points.

And along those lines … was reminded last week that the success for Cup teams winning this year shouldn’t come as a surprise since rules packages have slowly made Cup entries more similar to their Xfinity brethren (or so we’ve been told). And which teams have been dominant in Xfinity in recent years?

NASCAR takes a break for the Easter holiday this weekend; next up will be Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway for Cup and Xfinity teams April 27-28. The Truck Series will be back on track at Dover (Del.) International Speedway May 3.


Schrader first to establish NASCAR mark

Saturday, April 15, 1995 – NASCAR competitor Ken Schrader became the first driver to register wins in all three of NASCAR’s national series when he claimed the Craftsman 200 Truck Series race at Saugus (Calif.) Speedway. The Fenton, Mo., native had earned his first Cup win in 1988 and won in the Busch (now XFINITY) Series the following season.

Schrader had to overcome a penalty for rough driving early in the 200-lap race; he eventually moved to the front when leader Butch Miller and Joe Ruttman tangled.

At the start of the 2019 NASCAR season, 28 drivers had won at least one race in all three series, the most recent being Richard Childress Racing’s Austin Dillon.

NASCAR adds Indy to ’94 Cup schedule

Wed., April 14, 1993 – Indianapolis Motor Speedway officials announce the legendary track will host a 400-mile race for NASCAR’s premier series Aug. 6, 1994. It will mark the first time any type of racing other than the annual Indianapolis 500 for open-wheel entries has been contested on the 2.5-mile speedway.

Nine NASCAR teams had tested at Indy the previous year (1993) as NASCAR and Indy officials considered the move.

The inaugural Brickyard 400 was scheduled for 400 miles to avoid overshadowing the 500 and to fit into a 3-hour time slot for broadcast purposes. It was scheduled as a Saturday event, leaving Sunday as a potential rain date should one be required.

Pearson’s final win comes at Darlington

Sunday, April 13, 1980 – No rust was evident for David Pearson as the Silver Fox from Spartanburg, S.C., made a triumphant return to NASCAR’s premier series, winning the CRC Chemicals Rebel 300 at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway. It was the three-time champion’s first start in the series since winning the Southern 500 Labor Day classic on the same track the previous year.

The victory was No. 105 for Pearson, driver of the No. 1 Hoss Ellington-owned Chevrolet, and was his last in NASCAR’s top series. He was the second driver to top 100 victories and currently remains second on the all-time win list behind Richard Petty (200 wins). He ended his racing career with a Darlington track record 10 victories.

The race was stopped after 258 of the 367 scheduled laps had been completed due to darkness. Earlier, the race had been delayed for 2 hr., 18 min., because of rain. Pearson led a race-high 99 circuits around the 1.366-mile track.

Pole winner Benny Parsons, Harry Gant, Darrell Waltrip and Dick Brooks completed the top five.

Hooters exits as primary sponsor

Monday, April 12, 1993 – Hooters officials announce the restaurant chain is withdrawing its primary sponsorship of the No. 7 Ford for Alan Kulwicki Racing effective immediately. The decision comes 11 days after a plane crash claimed the lives of owner/driver Alan Kulwicki, Mark Brooks (son of Hooters CEO Bob Brooks) and two others. “The relationship between Hooters and Alan Kulwicki was unique,” Bob Brooks said. “… It is unrealistic to think that such a relationship could be formed with a new owner and driver in so short of a time.”

The crash occurred Thur., April 1 approximately six miles from Tri-Cities Airport in Blountville, Tenn. The Food City 500 NASCAR Cup Series race was scheduled for Bristol Motor Speedway that weekend. Kulwicki was the defending series champion as well as the defending race champion.

Bojangle’s, sponsor for Cale Yarborough Motorsports and driver Derrike Cope, also sponsored the No. 7 at North Wilkesboro (April 16-18) along with Easter Seals Foundation and Shriners Hospital for Crippled Children. It was the first appearance by the team since the plane crash, following an off-weekend after the Bristol race. Jimmy Hensley drove the car to a 12th-place finish.

Team owner Felix Sabates oversaw the operations of the Kulwicki team until a buyer could be found. NASCAR competitor Geoff Bodine announced on May 11 that he had purchased the team.

Sabates said the Hooters decision to withdraw its sponsorship was due to his refusal to name ARCA driver Loy Allen driver of the No. 7 entry instead of Hensley. The company sponsored Allen in seven ARCA races in ’93 and eventually seven Cup races (through Naturally Fresh) during the second half of the ’93 season. Allen qualified for four of the seven Cup races.

According to reports, Sabates stated that he “was empowered to do what is best for the team.”

“I am not going to put a nobody in the car,” he said.

Foyt gets checkers, Panch gets win

Sunday, April 11, 1965 – A.J. Foyt finished first but the victory went to Marvin Panch in the Atlanta 500 NASCAR premier series race at Atlanta International Raceway. Panch won the race from the pits, where he had taken up residence after climbing out of the No. 21 Wood Brothers Ford on lap 211 due to heat exhaustion and strained neck muscles. That’s when Foyt climbed in and the Texan held off Bobby Johns in the Holman-Moody Ford for the “win.”

Foyt turned down several offers to drive in relief after his own No. 41 Ford was sidelined due to a hung throttle less than 100 laps into the race. Team members with drivers Sam McQuagg and Junior Johnson approached the Indy 500 winner asking for assistance, but Foyt declined. He was leaving the track when members of the Wood Brothers team asked if he would spell Panch for the remainder of the race.

“I’ve been friends with Marvin and the Woods boys a long time,” Foyt told reporters after the race, “so I decided to go in.”

The victory was career win No. 13 of 17 for Panch, who returned later that season and won the fall race for a sweep of the NASCAR Atlanta stops.

Live from Greenville, it’s NASCAR

Saturday, April 10, 1971 – ABC’s “Wild World of Sports” provides the first live, flag-to-flag coverage of a NASCAR premier series event, televising the Greenville 200 from Greenville-Pickens Speedway in its entirety. Bobby Isaac, a late entry, led 181 of the race’s 200 laps to pick up his 32nd career victory.

David Pearson, Dick Brooks, Dave Marcis and Benny Parsons completed the top five in a race that lasted 1 hr., 16 min., 46 sec. There was one caution for five laps.

ABC had previously televised edited versions of select NASCAR races on its “Wide World” program but never live races in their entirety. The broadcasting group used five cameras – three above the grandstands, one in Turn 2 and one hand-held camera assigned to roam pit road. A sixth camera was used for graphics (starting lineup, running order, etc.)

On-air talent for the program consisted of ABC host Jim McKay and veteran automotive reporter Chris Economaki in the booth along with broadcaster Ken Squier on pit road.

The race, which featured a 26-car field, was blacked out within a 150-mile radius of Greenville, S.C.

The race purse of $20,600 was a record for a 100-mile NASCAR race.

Golden Boy gets win amid threats of lawsuit

Sunday, April 9, 1961 – Fred Lorenzen scores his first career victory in NASCAR’s premier series when he is declared the winner of the Virginia 500 at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway. The win comes in his 20th career start and in the No. 28 Holman-Moody Ford in which he captured 27 of his 28 career victories.

Lorenzen’s first NASCAR victory came in a rain-shortened race. Only 171 of the scheduled 500 laps had been completed when the event was halted due to rain. However, because the final 23 laps, from lap 149-171, were run under caution, the official length of the race is listed as 149 laps.

After the race, NASCAR president Bill France announced that the race would be rescheduled for April 30; the race would be considered official, however, and another Martinsville race was simply added to what was previously a 51-race schedule.

The “rescheduling” brought threats of a lawsuit from Darlington (S.C.) track president Bob Colvin who contended that his track’s contract with NASCAR forbid any race being scheduled or re-scheduled for April 30, which was one week prior to the running of Darlington’s Rebel 300. France told the Associated Press that it was his understanding that the contract with Darlington did not take into consideration rain dates.

Colvin said he told NASCAR to “hire some lawyers for I will go to court. … I guarantee you one thing. If this (Martinsville) wasn’t France’s track, there wouldn’t be any argument at all.”

At the time, the Martinsville track, which began hosting NASCAR-sanctioned races in 1949, was co-owned by founder H. Clay Earles and France.

A front-row first for Riggs

Friday, April 8, 2005 – Scott Riggs captures the first pole of his career in NASCAR’s premier series, earning the No. 1 spot at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway.  His lap speed of 96.671 mph in the No. 10 Chevrolet fielded by MB2 Motorsports was good enough to push Ryan Newman, previously fastest, into the No. 2 slot for the Advance Auto Parts 500.

Riggs’ pole came in his 41st start in the series. He had already won poles in the Busch and Truck Series before his Martinsville Cup effort.

 Although he started on the pole, Riggs failed to lead a lap in that weekend’s race, eventually finishing 21st. He won two more poles the following year and ended his Cup career with a total of three.

First, last and monkey business

Sunday, April 5, 1953 – Indiana native Dick Passwater registers his lone victory in NASCAR’s premier series, winning at Charlotte (N.C.) Speedway. Piloting a 1953 Olds 88, Passwater led only the final three laps in the 150-lap feature.

Passwater made just 20 starts between 1952-53. His Charlotte win was the first NASCAR victory for car No. 78.

It was also the only NASCAR victory for Passwater’s car owner, Frank Arford.

Two spectators were injured in the race when driver Gene Comestock’s entry rolled over a fence and pinned them underneath the car. They were transported to local hospitals.

According to reports, the Charlotte race also marked the first appearance of Jocko Flocko, a rhesus monkey that rode “shotgun” with 1952 series champion Tim Flock for eight events that season.