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NASCAR: STP 500 preview in 3 minutes

Kurt Busch stands in the garage area during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway on March 20, 2015 in Fontana, Calif.
Kurt Busch stands in the garage area during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway on March 20, 2015 in Fontana, Calif. GETTY

Everything you need to know about Sunday’s STP 500 at Martinsville, in three minutes:

Three things to watch

1. Kevin Harvick has finished first or second in eight consecutive races dating back to last season. He didn’t qualify great but was fast in Saturday’s practices.

2. Reigning Xfinity Series champion Chase Elliott makes his Sprint Cup Series debut on Sunday driving the No. 25 Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports. He’ll start 27th.

3. Kurt Busch has a pair of top-five finishes in his first two races back from a NASCAR suspension. He was fastest in final practice on Saturday.

Observations

▪  Whether any Cup teams are actually attempting to bleed tires, NASCAR has a duty to investigate the claims since they have become so widespread in the sport. Even the appearance of impropriety can be a bad thing and it’s NASCAR job to ensure the rules are enforced fairly for all involved.

▪  Nothing stands out more about the improvement of Furniture Row Racing and driver Martin Truex Jr. than their performance so far this weekend. At a track on which Truex has never felt comfortable, Truex’s No. 78 Chevrolet is once again among the fastest of the weekend. He already has five consecutive top-10 finishes to start the year.

▪  Hendrick Motorsports’ 22 wins at Martinsville not only rank first in track history, they mark the most victories by any owner at one track in NASCAR history. This weekend, team owner Rick Hendrick will have five chances to pick up with No. 23 with Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kasey Kahne and Elliott.

Notes

Larson taken to hospital: Sprint Cup Series driver Kyle Larson remains at Charlotte’s Carolinas Medical Center Saturday night awaiting test results following a visit with a neurologist. Larson suffered a fainting spell Saturday afternoon during an autograph session at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway.

Larson’s Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates team hoped to receive the results Saturday night. Larson, 22, was scheduled to start seventh in Sunday’s STP 500.

John Olguin, the team’s vice president of communications, told The Observer that Larson fainted and was taken to the track’s infield care center. Doctors at the care center suggested Larson go to a local hospital for further evaluation, Olguin said.

Doctors at Martinsville Memorial Hospital thought Larson should see a neurologist but the hospital did not have one available so he was taken to CMC.

Stewart sees progress: Three-time Cup champion Tony Stewart qualified sixth for Sunday’s STP 500 and believes his No. 14 team has been making significant progress in recent weeks.

“I think we made gains at Phoenix. We made bigger gains at California,” Stewart said. “We got a great start to the weekend here. I mean this place is so tough. Qualifying is half the battle here if you can just get a good pit spot and get a decent starting spot to where you do not have to beat the thing to death trying to get to the front.”

Stewart finished a season-best 14th last weekend and is 32nd in the series standings.

Best bets

Three picks for your fantasy team:

Kurt Busch: Busch has top-five finishes in his first two races back in the No. 41 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet and he won this race one year ago.

Jeff Gordon: With eight wins at Martinsville, Gordon is always a threat to win here and another grandfather clock would be a nice final-season parting gift.

Joey Logano: The pole-winner would like to join Kevin Harvick as the only two-time winners so far this season.

He said it

“You win anything at Martinsville it’s a big deal.” – pole-winner Joey Logano.

N@SCAR

Getting there

Race facts

STP 500

Where: Martinsville (Va.) Speedway.

Track type: .526-mile paved, flat oval.

Race distance: 500 laps, or 263 miles

Green flag: 1:16 p.m.

Weather: Sunny with high in the low 50s.

TV: Fox Sports 1.

Radio: Motor Racing Network.

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