Auto Racing: NASCAR Sprint Cup resumes; Indycar series moves to Phoenix

By The Sports Xchange
Denny Hamlin, who defends the 135th Sprint Cup race at Martinsville Speedway on Sunday, does a donut in the grass after winning the Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway on Feb. 21 in Daytona, Fla. File photo by Edwin Locke/UPI
Denny Hamlin, who defends the 135th Sprint Cup race at Martinsville Speedway on Sunday, does a donut in the grass after winning the Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway on Feb. 21 in Daytona, Fla. File photo by Edwin Locke/UPI | License Photo

NASCAR SPRINT CUP SERIES: STP 500 (500 laps, 263 miles), Martinsville Speedway; Martinsville, Va.

TV: Sunday, April 3, 1 p.m. ET -- Fox Sports 1 (Radio: Motor Racing Network/SiriusXM Channel 90).


THEN AND NOW: The Sprint Cup resumes after having the Easter weekend off. ... Martinsville Speedway is the oldest and longest-serving racetrack in NASCAR, holding its first race there back in 1948. ... This will be the 135th Sprint Cup race at the half-mile bullring. ... Denny Hamlin is the defending champion of this race, while the now-retired Jeff Gordon won last fall's Chase for the Sprint Cup race there. Until he retired, Gordon had been the winningest active driver there with nine wins. Richard Petty holds the all-time record with 15 wins at Martinsville. ... Jimmie Johnson won the most recent Cup race, two weeks ago, the Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif. It was Johnson's sixth Sprint Cup win there (tops among all Cup drivers), along with 13 top-five and 19 top-10 finishes in 22 starts. ... It was also Johnson's 77th career Sprint Cup victory, moving him past Dale Earnhardt Sr. into sole possession of seventh place on NASCAR's all-time Sprint Cup wins list. Johnson is now six wins behind sixth-ranked Cale Yarborough and seven wins behind fourth-ranked (tie) Bobby Allison and Darrell Waltrip. ... Winners thus far this season have been Denny Hamlin (Daytona), Jimmie Johnson (Atlanta and Fontana), Brad Keselowski (Las Vegas), Kevin Harvick (Phoenix) and Johnson (Fontana). ... The Sprint Cup standings remain tight after the first five races of the 36-race season. Kevin Harvick is back in sole possession of first place with 195 points. Jimmie Johnson moved up to second and is 11 points behind Harvick. Carl Edwards is third (-24). Kyle Busch fell from being tied for first prior to Fontana to a tie for fourth with Denny Hamlin (-25 each). Sixth through 10th are Joey Logano (-30), Kurt Busch (-47), Dale Earnhardt Jr. (-50), Brad Keselowski (-53) and Austin Dillon (-56).


NASCAR XFINITY SERIES: The Xfinity Series is off for a second consecutive weekend. The series resumes racing Friday night, April 8, under the lights at Texas Motor Speedway.

THEN AND NOW: Austin Dillon led just one lap in the Xfinity Series' most recent race, two weeks ago at Fontana, Calif., but it was the most important lap -- the final one -- as he captured the 300 at Auto Club Speedway. It was one of the most exciting and also oddest race finishes in recent memory. Erik Jones ran out of fuel with three laps to go. Then, Daniel Suarez ran out of fuel with one lap to go, missing his bid to win his first career Xfinity Series race. Then, Kyle Busch blew a tire on the final lap, yet managed to keep racing. It appeared Busch might be able to win on three tires, but Dillon got past him in the final turn and went on to victory. Dillon's win also snapped Kyle Busch's three-race winning streak. ... Winners of the first four Xfinity Series races this season have been Chase Elliott (Daytona) and Kyle Busch (Atlanta, Las Vegas and Phoenix) and Dillon (Fontana). ... Daniel Suarez remains in the lead in the Xfinity Series point standings after Fontana, with 182 points. Elliott Sadler is in second place, 10 points behind Suarez. Justin Allgaier moved up to third place (-19 points), followed by Brandon Jones (-21), Ty Dillon (-23), Brendan Gaughan (-28), Erik Jones (-30), Darrell Wallace Jr. (-48), Ryan Reed (-49) and Brennan Poole (-52).


NASCAR CAMPING WORLD TRUCK SERIES: Alpha Energy Solutions 250 (250 laps, 131.5 miles), Martinsville Speedway; Martinsville, Va.

TV: Saturday, April 2, 2:30 p.m. ET -- Fox Sports 1 (Radio: Motor Racing Network/SiriusXM Channel 90).

THEN AND NOW: 18-year-old John Hunter Nemechek won the most recent Truck Series race, nearly a month ago at Atlanta. ... Parker Kligerman is the surprising leader in the Truck series points standings. He leads Daniel Hemric by one point, followed by Nemechek (-3), Timothy Peters (-6), Tyler Young (-8), Ryan Truex (-10), Brandon Brown (-12), Ben Rhodes (-12), Grant Enfinger (-13) and Daytona winner Johnny Sauter in 10th place (-14).

VERIZON INDYCAR SERIES: Desert Diamond West Valley Phoenix Grand Prix (250 laps, 255.5 miles), Phoenix International Raceway; Avondale, Ariz.

TV: Saturday, April 2, 8:30 p.m. ET -- NBCSN (Radio: IndyCar Radio Network/Sirius Radio Channel 212/XM Radio Channel 209).

THEN AND NOW: The Verizon IndyCar Series returns to the Valley of the Sun and Phoenix International Raceway for the first time since 2005. The last winner of an IndyCar race at PIR was Sam Hornish Jr. ... Prior to its hiatus, IndyCar or some form of open-wheel racing had been a mainstay at PIR, dating back to 1964 when the legendary A.J. Foyt won the first open-wheel race there (under USAC sanctioning). ... Juan Pablo Montoya won the season-opening race at St. Petersburg, Fla., two weeks ago. It was the second consecutive year that Montoya has won the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. ... Montoya comes into Phoenix as the points leader in the IndyCar Series. Montoya led the series standings through the first 15 races of last season, only to lose the championship to Scott Dixon in the season finale at Sonoma, Calif. ... Following Montoya (51 points) in the standings is teammate Simon Pagenaud (43 points), Ryan Hunter-Reay (36), Helio Castroneves (32), Mikhail Aleshin (30), Takuma Sato (28), defending series champion Scott Dixon (26), Carlos Munoz (24), Tony Kanaan (22) and Charlie Kimball (20).


NATIONAL HOT ROD ASSOCIATION MELLO YELLO DRAG RACING SERIES: DENSO Iridium U Spark Plus NHRA Nationals, The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway; Las Vegas, Nev.

TV: Qualifying, Friday, April 1, 11 p.m.-12 a.m. ET; Qualifying, Saturday, April 2, 9-10 p.m. ET; Final eliminations, Sunday, April 3, 5-8 p.m. ET. All telecasts on Fox Sports 1.

THEN AND NOW: In the most recent race two weeks ago, the Amalie Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals in Gainesville, Fla., Brittany Force captured her first career Top Fuel win, defeating Terry McMillen, who made his first final-round appearance of his career. It was Force's first win in eight career final round appearances. ... Brittany Force is the daughter of 16-time NHRA Funny Car champion John Force. ... Other Gainesville winners were Force's teammate, Robert Hight, in Funny Car; Greg Anderson won his second Pro Stock race of the season, and Eddie Krawiec won the first Pro Stock Motorcycle race of the season. ... With her win at Gainesville, Brittany Force took over the lead in the Top Fuel points standings for the first time in her career. Force has 251 points, followed by Millican (210 points), followed by former points leader Doug Kalitta (205), Steve Torrence (199), Terry McMillan (178), Leah Pritchett (166), J.R. Todd (157), Tony Schumacher (155), Richie Crampton (153) and defending series champion Antron Brown (149). ... With his win at Gainesville, Robert Hight took over the top spot in the Funny Car standings (280 points), followed by former points leader Ron Capps (279), John Force (221), Jack Beckman (205), Courtney Force (201), defending series champ Del Worsham (189), Tim Wilkerson (183), Chad Head (162), Alexis De Joria (119) and Matt Hagan (118). ... Jason Line remains atop the Pro Stock point standings (337 points), followed closely by Greg Anderson (331), and then Bo Butner (233), Drew Skillman (205), Chris McGaha (161), Jeg Coughlin (160), Allen Johnson (160), Vincent Nobile (138), Alex Laughlin (121) and defending series champ Erica Enders finally cracked the top 10, moving into 10th place (97 points). ... Lastly, by winning Sunday, Krawiec leads the Pro Stock Motorcycle ranks (129 points), followed by Hector Arana (99), defending series champ Andrew Hines (79), LE Tonglet IV (74), Chip Ellis (62), Michael Ray Jr. (52), Gerald Savoie (52), James Underdahl (52), Angelle Sampey (35) and Scott Pollacheck (33).


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