ThatsRacin

Raceday: Your Guide to Sunday’s race

Too soon to tell if changes coming for Stewart

Sprint Cup Series driver Tony Stewart has struggled this season with new crew chief Chad Johnston, but Stewart-Haas Racing officials are taking a different approach to evaluating Stewart’s No. 14 team.

“These guys have gone through a lot. Chad has come in, new engineer, they are trying to learn each other plus deal with the situations they have gone through,” said SHR’s director of competition, Greg Zipadelli.

“We are looking at that situation completely different right now and we haven’t quite got to the end of what we are doing there. If changes need to be done we are just really trying to get that group to bond to work together to figure out what Tony needs.”

Stewart missed nearly a third of last season after breaking two bones in his right leg in an accident at a sprint car race. He sat out three races this season after he was involved in an incident in a sprint car race in New York, which resulted in the death of another racer.

A grand jury declined to charge Stewart in the incident.


Notebook

Honoring Wendell Scott: David Ragan will run a special paint scheme in Sunday’s race at Martinsville to honor NASCAR Hall of Fame inductee Wendell Scott, who also drove the No. 34 car during his career.

“Personalities like Wendell Scott and the guys back in the day that made our sport what it is today is certainly why we’re here in front of all you,” Ragan said.

“It’s their commitment many years ago that allows us to come out and do what we’re doing today, but I think a little extra light can shine on what Wendell Scott and his family was challenged with in the 1950s, 60s and 70s.”

In 1963 Scott became the first African-American driver to win a race in what is now the Cup series. He will be inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame in January.

Johnson to continue with Knaus: Just because Jimmie Johnson and crew chief Chad Knaus made an early exit from title contention doesn’t mean the driver/crew chief pairing is in danger of ending anytime soon.

“As far as I’m concerned, we’ve made it 13 years in this thing. I want to see it go as long as it can,” Johnson said. “We’re honest with each other and know each other well enough to work through the bad times. It might not be pretty, and I’m sure you guys have heard things on the radio that got your attention.

“We’re like family, and we fight like family. It’s more of a time frame of when Chad says, ‘I’ve put in my time here as crew chief and I need to slow down a little bit.’ ”

Practice update: Despite a poor qualifying effort on Friday, Kevin Harvick appears to have a fast car for Sunday’s race. He was fastest in Saturday’s final practice session with an average lap speed of 97.322 mph. Jimmie Johnson was fastest in Saturday’s first practice.


Three things to watch

1 Hendrick Motorsports leads the Cup series in wins at Martinsville Speedway with 21. Jeff Gordon won this race a year ago.

2 Brad Keselowski has six wins this season but no career wins at the final four tracks on the schedule – Martinsville, Texas, Phoenix and Homestead.

3 Kevin Harvick has a fast car but qualified poorly. He’ll need quite a charge to the front to be in contention.


Observations

•  It was 10 years ago this week that a Hendrick Motorsports team plane crashed on its way to the Cup series race at Martinsville Speedway. All 10 people on board –which included team owner Rick Hendrick’s son, brother and two nieces – died in the accident. As tragic as the incident was and with how difficult it was for HMS to continue after the accident, the greatest tribute to those who were lost is the success the organization has enjoyed since. No one would have blamed Hendrick if he had elected to shut his doors. Instead, he soldiered on and NASCAR and those who work there are better off because he did.



•  So far, every Chase race has been won by a driver still eligible to win the series championship. If that changes during Round 3, it will make the journey to the season finale in Homestead, Fla., more like previous Chases, where consistency and points were king. Should the winning trend continue Sunday and next weekend at Texas, Phoenix has the potential to be just as important a race as Homestead.



•  Considering how this season started, with numerous rain delays and a handful of postponed races, it’s good to see fans rewarded with a championship battle decided in picture-prefect fall weather.




Best bets

Three picks for your fantasy team:

Jamie McMurray, Denny Hamlin, Brad Keselowski

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