3 THINGS WE LEARNED FROM MARTINSVILLE
1. About Brad
Sunday’s race winner, Brad Keselowski, is leading the Ford charge this season. The driver of the No. 2 Team Penske Ford became the season’s first two-time winner. He has 23 victories in his relatively short career. And this tell: “Kez” has five consecutive top-five finishes in 2017.
2. Ford’s drought
If it seems like it has been a long time since you’ve seen a Ford in Victory Lane at Martinsville, you are correct. Ford’s last win at the half-mile oval was in 2002 with Kurt Busch behind the wheel of a Roush Racing Ford. Ford has 651 all-time wins in Cup Series action.
3. Tires ain’t pretty
Kyle Busch said his last set of tires cost him the win Sunday at Martinsville. “Just needed a normal set of tires,” said Busch, who finished second. “We put on a set of tires there at the end that weren’t the same as the ones that we took off, and it just slowed the car down.”
3 THINGS TO WATCH
1. Remembering Carl
We don’t know exactly what Carl Edwards is up to these days after announcing his early exit from Joe Gibbs Racing in January. He has been spotted here and there, mostly coaching his replacement, Daniel Suarez, in the No. 19 Toyota. If Edwards does not return to the Cup Series, then his win at Texas in November will stand as the last of his career. Maybe Sunday’s Texas race winner can do a backflip in Carl’s honor.
2. Rare break ahead
The Cup Series circus heads to Texas this weekend before competitors enjoy the first of two off weeks. Rounding out April’s racing schedule are back-to-back stops at Bristol and Richmond, both short tracks. After the Easter break, NASCAR races each week through Aug. 19 before getting that second breather. Whew!
3. Playoff points
After six races, it seems like a good time to review NASCAR’s new points system. Right now the leader in the clubhouse with playoff points — which carry through the first nine races of the 10-race playoff — is Brad Keselowski with 10 followed by Martin Truex Jr., thanks to four stage wins, with nine. Kyle Larson, who leads the regular-season points standings, has six, while Kurt Busch and Ryan Newman each have five.
A couple of questions we had to ask- ourselves
Any conclusions from the first six races of 2017?
GODSPEAK: Ford has taken the tiger by the tail with three wins out of the chute.
KEN’S CALL: No conclusions, but plenty of questions about some of the so-called favorites.
Who’s the big question mark?
GODSPEAK: When is Chase Elliott going to seal the deal? We could find out Sunday.
KEN’S CALL: Junior, obviously, but Kevin Harvick isn’t hauling the mail either, and that’s just weird.
Which Hendrick driver will be the first to get a win?
GODSPEAK: I’ve got Chase Elliott’s name all over this page, so I’m going with the No. 24 car.
KEN’S CALL: Is Geoff Bodine back in uniform? If not, I guess I’ll go with Chase Elliott.
QUESTIONS & ATTITUDE
Compelling questions... and maybe a few actual answers
When do we start worrying about Jimmie?
Not sure we’ll ever need to “worry” about the seven-time champ, but we’re beginning to wonder. He finished 15th at Martinsville, and through six races has just one top-10 (and even then, it was just a ninth-place finish). Our research team tells us it’s easily the worst six-race start in Johnson's 16 full-time seasons. The past 15 years, he’s totaled 16 wins and 57 top-10s through the first six races. He has as many top-10s this year as Matt DiBenedetto.
It’s nearly impossible, mathematically, but Junior Earnhardt actually has fewer top-10s than Jimmie Johnson: zero. Junior recently indicated he feels good enough to get started on contract talks, but his bargaining position would be helped by some Sunday punch. If he’s going to find top gear, this week at Texas might be the time and place. In his past six starts in Fort Worth, he’s finished sixth or better five times.
FEUD OF THE WEEK
JAMIE MCMURRAY VS. JIMMIE JOHNSON: McMurray crashed out on Lap 107, and after exiting his mangled Chevrolet, he pointed the finger of blame at Johnson.
GODWIN KELLY’S TAKE: This is what McMurray said: “I think the No. 48 (Johnson) got into my left-rear and it got the body on the tire. We elected to stay out because if you pit here you lose two or three laps.”
1. Kyle Larson 268
2. Chase Elliott 264
3. Martin Truex Jr. 236
4. Brad Keselowski 234
5. Joey Logano 207
6. Kyle Busch 188
7. Ryan Blaney 179
8. Clint Bowyer 174
9. Jamie McMurray 163
10. Kevin Harvick 154
11. Ryan Newman 152
12. Kasey Kahne 146
13. Erik Jones 144
14. Jimmie Johnson 141
15. Trevor Bayne 140
16. Denny Hamlin 139
17. Aric Almirola 127
18. Austin Dillon 126
19. Kurt Busch 119
20. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. 113
WHAT'S ON TAP?
CUP SERIES: O'Reilly Auto Parts 500
SITE: Texas Motor Speedway (1.5-mile, quad-oval)
TV SCHEDULE: Friday, practice (Fox Sports 1, noon), qualifying (Fox Sports 1, 6 p.m.). Saturday, practice (Fox Sports 2, 9:30 a.m. and noon). Sunday, race (Fox, coverage begins at 1 p.m., green flag at 1:30 p.m.)
XFINITY: My Bariatric Solutions 300
SITE: Texas Motor Speedway
TV SCHEDULE: Friday, practice (Fox Sports 1, 2:30 p.m. and 5 p.m.). Saturday, qualifying (Fox Sports 1, 10:30 a.m.), race (Fox, 1:30 p.m.)
GODWIN'S PICKS FOR TEXAS
WINNER: Chase Elliott
REST OF TOP 5: Denny Hamlin, Joey Logano, Martin Truex Jr., Trevor Bayne
FIRST ONE OUT: Gray Gaulding
DARK HORSE: Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
DON’T BE SURPRISED IF: This is the week it happens for the son of “Awesome Bill from Dawsonville.”
The Daytona Beach News-Journal’s Godwin Kelly & Ken Willis have covered NASCAR for nearly 60 years combined.