NASCAR: Stewart Prevails at Martinsville
Two-time and defending Nextel Cup Series champ Tony Stewart picked up his first victory of the season on Sunday at Martinsville Speedway, holding off Jeff Gordon through a three-lap sprint at the end of the race following a red flag.
Stewart and polesitter Jimmie Johnson swapped the lead back and forth all day, with Stewart making what turned out to be the race-winning pass on Lap 476. Johnson’s handling began to go away, and he had to cede second to his teammate Gordon, who fought back through the field after a flat tire on Lap 90.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. endured two crashes and significant body damage to salvage a hard-earned fourth-place finish in a car that looked more suited to demolition derby than Nextel Cup. Kyle Busch finished fifth, making it three Hendrick Motorsports Chevys in the top five. Elliott Sadler, Kevin Harvick, Brian Vickers, Jamie McMurray and Scott Riggs rounded out the top 10.
As usual at Martinsville, attrition took its toll. Matt Kenseth and Kasey Kahne, who were 1-2 in points going into the race, both failed to finish and fell to third and fourth in the championship, while Johnson reclaimed the points lead and Mark Martin moved into second thanks to a 13th-place finish with a beat-up car.
The series moves on to Texas Motor Speedway next week.
NASCAR Nextel Cup Top Five:
1) Tony Stewart, No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Chevrolet Monte Carlo SS, 500 laps
2) Jeff Gordon, No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet Monte Carlo SS, -1.083sec
3) Jimmie Johnson, No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet Monte Carlo SS, -1.713sec
4) Dale Earnhardt Jr., No. 8 Dale Earnhardt Inc. Chevrolet Monte Carlo SS, -2.078sec
5) Kyle Busch, No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet Monte Carlo SS, -2.199sec
Driver’s Championship: 1) Jimmie Johnson, 933; 2) Mark Martin, 874; 3) Matt Kenseth, 873; 4) Kasey Kahne, 832; 5) Kyle Busch, 832.
NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series: Starr Shines at Martinsville
David Starr scored his fourth career Craftsman Truck Series victory at Martinsville Speedway on Saturday, making one tank of fuel and a set of tires last through the final 185 laps. He was helped by a track- and-series-record 16 cautions, which accounted for 87 of the 250 laps around the half-mile paper clip. The win was Starr’s first since November 2004 at Phoenix.
Ted Musgrave finished second, his fourth top-five finish in four races, which propelled him to second in the championship standings. Matt Crafton was third, with points leader Mark Martin and Mike Bliss rounding out the top five. Brendan Gaughan, Clint Bowyer, Mike Skinner, Dennis Setzer and polesitter Bobby Hamilton Jr. completed the top 10.
The series now has two weeks off before returning to action at Martinsville Raceway on April 1.
NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Top Five:
1) David Starr, No. 11 Red Horse Racing Toyota Tundra, 250 laps
2) Ted Musgrave, No. 9 Germain Racing Toyota Tundra, 250 laps
3) Matt Crafton, No. 88 ThorSport Chevrolet Silverado, 250 laps
4) Mark Martin, No. 6 Roush Racing Ford F-150, 250 laps
5) Mike Bliss, No. 16 Xpress Motorsports Chevrolet Silverado, 250 laps
Driver’s Championship: 1) Mark Martin, 720; 2) Ted Musgrave, 665; 3) Todd Bodine, 662; 4) David Reutimann, 576; 5) David Starr, 556.
IRL: Castroneves Wins at St. Petersburg
Helio Castroneves grew up on road courses, but failed to finish all three of the Indy Racing League’s road races last year as it expanded its portfolio beyond oval tracks for the first time. He made up that on Sunday on the street/airport circuit at St. Petersburg, claiming his first victory of the year.
The 100-lap race boiled down to the pit-stop battle between Castroneves’ Team Penske crew and that of Scott Dixon’s Chip Ganassi Racing squad. Polesitter Dario Franchitti led early and strongly, but fell out with a broken upper ball joint bearing after 14 laps and left the battle to Dixon and Castroneves.