Tuesday, October 25, 2016

The Frontstretch Newsletter: Martinsville Entry Lists are Out

Presented by Frontstretch.com
The Best Seat at the Track, The Best View on the Net!
Oct. 25, 2016
Volume X, Edition CXCIV


What to Watch: Tuesday

- Today is a work day for the teams ahead of Martinsville.  If anything of note breaks, we'll have it for you at Frontstretch.

Tuesday's TV Schedule can be found here.

Today's Top News
by the Frontstretch Staff

Entry List: Gray Gaulding Will Attempt to Make Sprint Cup Debut in Goody's Fast Relief 500

The entry list is out for Sunday's Goody's Fast Relief 500 at Martinsville.  41 cars are entered for 40 spots, meaning one will fail to make the race.  18-year-old Gray Gaulding will attempt to make his debut for The Motorsports Group, as the No. 30 returns to the track while Dylan Lupton returns to the No. 83 for BK Racing.  Read more

Entry List: Chase Elliott Returns to Truck Series in Texas Roadhouse 200

The Camping World Truck Series heads to Martinsville as well for Saturday's Texas Roadhouse 200. 37 trucks are entered for 32 spots, a lineup expected to change throughout the week as more sponsor and driver pairings are announced.  Among the notable entries this week is Sprint Cup rookie Chase Elliott; he'll drive the No. 71 Chevrolet for Contreras Motorsports carrying sponsorship from NAPA Auto Parts.  Read more


Today's Featured Commentary
Why a Four-Time Race Winner Fell Out of the Chase
Sitting in the Stands: A Fan's View
by S.D. Grady

There's been lots of talk recently about the unfair results the current Chase format creates.  Indeed, this week we saw the sport's 2016 sweetheart, Martin Truex, Jr. and likely Final Four participant Brad Keselowski both slip outside the top 8 after their engines detonated during Sunday's Hellmann's 500 at Talladega. It doesn't feel right that two drivers who have each won four races this year are going to watch the Chase play out without the chance to go for the gold themselves.

But if they should still be in the Chase, that means there must be a bunch of drivers in that top 8 who haven't really earned their spot in the limelight.  Let's check who is left.

Joey Logano has earned two wins, three poles, 13 top 5s and a whopping 22 top 10s this year.  I guess he's done enough to be playing for the Cup. We'll let him stay.  

Jimmie Johnson--check.  Three wins, 9 top 5s and 14 top 10s are on his stats. Happy Harvick, while not pleased with stablemate Kurt Busch, definitely should be going for the big prize with four wins, 15 top 5s and 24 top 10s.

Matt Kenseth and Denny Hamlin each have multiple wins with a bevy of high-scoring finishes. We can agree they have been in it to win it all year. Carl Edwards, well, he collected pole position flags like it was nobody's business.  Cousin Carl added six to his trophy case in 2016 and followed that up with a couple wins and a bunch of strong finishes.

So far, the next few races are going to feature a collection of drivers who have earned their place in the sun.

The last two that are still part of the Chase are the Busch brothers. Kyle is busy burning down barns with four wins and double digit top-5 and top-10 stats. Kurt, meanwhile has been doing his job, just not nearly as well.  If there was a single driver who perhaps should trade spots with the unlucky Keselowski or Truex, Kurt Busch would be it.

Now, if we go and pull out the point standings without using this Chase elimination nonsense, the eight top competitors would be Harvick, Keselowski, Logano, Busch, Busch, Hamlin, Edwards and Truex Jr.  Furthermore, Edwards and Truex's hopes of grabbing the Cup would be mostly over. In that reality, Keselowski would still be in the hunt.

But was he really the 2016 Champion in the making for us? Unfortunately, the answer is yes.

Once again, the Chase isn't just creating drama, it is destroying entire seasons with a whimsical swipe of Fate's hand. No matter how many times these teams have to sit back and digest the uncertain results of a day at the track, there has got to be a lot of frustration when your entire year is wiped out by a single mechanical failure that was poorly timed. I think both the Nos. 2 and 78 teams ought to get an Emmy for Best "Faking Acceptance After Losing It All" Interview. Certainly, NASCAR fans are not being so sedate in their criticism of the sport.

How would we be able to swallow the current state of events? We can decide that we don't live in a world of "what if," that our current Chase reality is correct and true -- but the Chase was not only designed to up the attention factor for NASCAR, it was supposed to reward wins (Brad has four) and consistency (he has an average finish of 10.9 -- just slightly lower than his championship year.)

The Chase is still not meeting those standards when we've seen competitors in all three series lose the chance to compete for the big trophy due to bad timing, which has nothing to do with weekly performance or the ability to collect a checkered flag. Keselowski and Truex are just the latest victims of the random selection process that decides who gets the most commercial airtime for 2017.

Next up, let's see who can be eliminated in Martinsville thanks to an errant hot dog wrapper.


Once again, Motor Racing Outreach hosted their annual Trick or Treat night at Talladega Speedway. It's a wonderful opportunity for racing families to enjoy some spooky fun during this hectic part of their year. Slugger Labbe and Kyle Larson's girlfriend Katelyn Sweet shared some fun pics on Twitter. 

Enjoy the cuteness!

S.D. Grady is a Senior Writer for Frontstretch and runs a NASCAR blog called the S-Curves. She can be reached via email at sonya.grady@frontstretch.com. Follow her on Twitter at @laregna and on her Facebook page (she's an author, too!) at https://www.facebook.com/Author.SDGrady.
Numbers Game: Hellmann's 500
by Tom Bowles

Wins so far this Chase for Joe Gibbs Racing's four-car program. Each of those four cars qualified Sunday into the Chase Round of 8.

Lap led for Kurt Busch so far during the first six Chase races. Busch, third at Talladega advanced into the Chase Round of 8.

Position that made the difference between Austin Dillon making and missing the Chase Round of 8. At Talladega, it was a matter of feet as Dillon came up just short behind eighth-place finisher Aric Almirola.

Straight wins in the fall Talladega race for Joey Logano. 

Top-10 finishes for Richard Petty Motorsports this season. Both of them were earned at Talladega (Brian Scott, second; Almirola, eighth).

Straight top-20 results for Danica Patrick (20th at Talladega). Despite that she remains the only driver inside the top 25 in Sprint Cup points who has yet to earn a top-10 finish.

Top-5 performances for Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. this year (fifth at Talladega). He had three total in his first three full Sprint Cup seasons entering 2016.

Laps led by Michael Annett at Talladega due to pit strategy for his HScott Motorsports Chevrolet. That's easily a career best for him but it didn't work out (fell to 32nd in the final running order).

Straight years in which the Talladega fall race has either had a green-white-checkered finish or seen the race go yellow due to a wreck in the final lap.

Best finish for Brian Scott in 48 Sprint Cup races before Sunday. Scott was second at Talladega, a career best.

Finishing position for Martin Truex, Jr. after a blown engine. Truex, who won two of the first three Chase races failed to advance to the Round of 8.

Laps led for Brad Keselowski this Chase including a race-high 90 at Talladega. Keselowski, after his blown engine Sunday failed to advance to the Round of 8.

Tom Bowles is the Editor-In-Chief of Frontstretch.com. He can be reached at tom.bowles@frontstretch.com and found on Twitter @NASCARBowles.


by Danny Peters

by Matt McLaughlin

by Jeff Wolfe

by Phil Allaway

Q: The 1990 Goody's 500 at Martinsville is best known for a Hendrick Motorsports brouhaha.  What happened?

Check back Tuesday for the answer, here in the Frontstretch Newsletter!

Monday's Answer:

Q:  Here's an easy one. Which of the three current car manufacturers has never won at Martinsville in the history of the Chase format (2004-present)?

A: That would be Ford.  It's been 14 years since Ford won at Martinsville.  Back then, Kurt Busch held off Johnny Benson to win the 2002 Old Dominion 500 to take what is Ford's most recent victory at the paperclip.  Here's the finish.

In The Frontstretch Newsletter:
We'll have the latest NASCAR news along with a weekly commentary from our Professor of Speed on the state of the sport.

On Frontstretch.com:
Find out where your favorite driver ranks after Kansas when our experts from across the web weigh in for The 10.
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