Hendrick Motortsports Previews The First Data 500 At Martinsville

MARTINSVILLE SPEEDWAY (0.526-MILE OVAL)

LOCATION: RIDGEWAY, VIRGINIA
EVENT: NASCAR CUP SERIES (RACE 33 OF 36)
TUNE IN: 3 P.M. ET, SUNDAY, OCT. 29 (NBCSN/MRN/SIRIUSXM)

No. 5 UniFirst Chevrolet SS / Kasey Kahne

Driver Kasey Kahne   Hometown Enumclaw, Washington
Age 37                        Resides Mooresville, North Carolina

2017 Season

  • 12th in standings
  • 32 starts
  • 1 race win
  • 0 stage wins
  • 0 pole positions
  • 3 top-five finishes
  • 6 top-10 finishes
  • 38 laps led

Career

  • 500 starts
  • 18 wins
  • 27 pole positions
  • 92 top-five finishes
  • 175 top-10 finishes
  • 4,645 laps led

Track Career 

  • 27 starts
  • 0 wins
  • 1 pole position
  • 3 top-five finishes
  • 5 top-10 finishes
  • 60 laps led
UNIFIRST: The green-and-white colors of UniFirst return to Kasey Kahne’s No. 5 Chevrolet SS for the second consecutive weekend at Martinsville Speedway. UniFirst signed an eight-year agreement with Hendrick Motorsports in 2016 to be the organization’s official workwear provider. Martinsville marks the workwear and textile service company’s final primary race of this season.

KAHNE AT MARTINSVILLE: Kahne has one pole award at Martinsville in his first start at the 0.526-mile track for Hendrick Motorsports. In 2012, he edged Kevin Harvick to earn the top starting position after posting a 19.496-second lap. In April 2016, the 37-year-old started on the outside pole with a lap time of 19.515 seconds, just 0.002 shy of the pole-winning time. In Kahne’s 11 starts with Hendrick Motorsports at the paperclip-shaped track, he has earned three top-10s and a pair of 11th-place finishes. Throughout his Cup Series career, Kahne has led 60 laps at the Ridgeway, Virginia, track, which ranks him 14th among active drivers.

SHORT-TRACK STATS: In Kahne’s 83 starts at tracks less than one mile in length, he has 13 top-five finishes and 25 top-10s, earning an average starting position of 15.0 and an average finishing position of 18.2. The Chevy driver has also led 853 laps in his NASCAR Cup Series career at short tracks.

MARTINSVILLE LOOP DATA: According to NASCAR’s loop data since 2005, Kahne is fourth in the closers category with 22 positions gained over the last 10 percent of the race. The Enumclaw, Washington, native is ninth in fastest laps run with 283 and green-flag passes with 1,167.

GOING HOME: No. 5 team crew chief Darian Grubb returns to his home state of Virginia this weekend. Grubb is a native of Floyd, Virginia, which is located approximately one hour northwest of Martinsville Speedway. The 42-year-old is a graduate of Virginia Tech with an engineering degree. Grubb has been Kahne’s crew chief since September’s New Hampshire race and has accumulated 23 wins in the NASCAR Cup Series, which ties for third-most among active crew chiefs.

No. 24 NAPA AUTO PARTS Chevrolet SS / Chase Elliott

Driver Chase Elliott   Hometown Dawsonville, Georgia
Age 21                      Resides Dawsonville, Georgia

2017 Season

  • 8th in standings
  • 32 starts
  • 0 race wins
  • 3 stage wins
  • 1 pole position
  • 10 top-five finishes
  • 18 top-10 finishes
  • 402 laps led

Career

  • 73 starts
  • 0 wins
  • 3 pole positions
  • 20 top-five finishes
  • 35 top-10 finishes
  • 760 laps led

Track Career 

  • 4 starts
  • 0 wins
  • 0 pole positions
  • 1 top-five finish
  • 1 top-10 finish
  • 20 laps led
NAPA AUTO PARTS CHEVROLET: This weekend at Martinsville Speedway, the familiar blue-and-yellow colors will once again grace the hood of the No. 24 NAPA AUTO PARTS Chevrolet SS. The Atlanta-based company serves as majority sponsor for Chase Elliott during the 2017 NASCAR Cup Series season. Most recently, Elliott piloted the NAPA AUTO PARTS Chevy to a fourth-place finish at Kansas Speedway.

MARTINSVILLE STATS: Elliott is set to make his fifth start at the 0.526-mile speedway on Sunday. In his four previous starts at the Virginia track, Elliott averages a starting position of 11.0 and finishing position of 18.2. At Martinsville in March, the second-year driver collected a stage win and led 20 laps en route to a third-place result — his best career finish at the track. The same weekend, Elliott also earned his second career NASCAR Camping World Truck Series victory after starting from the pole and leading 92 laps.

KANSAS RECAP: Elliott started 14th in Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series Round of 12 cut-off race at Kansas Speedway and picked up crucial points by finishing seventh in Stage 1 and ninth in Stage 2. The Dawsonville, Georgia, native took the checkered flag in fourth for his 10th top-five finish of the season, advancing the No. 24 team to the Round of 8 in the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs.

PLAYOFF STANDINGS: With the fourth-place finish at Kansas Speedway propelling the No. 24 NAPA AUTO PARTS team forward in the playoffs, Elliott enters the Round of 8 just 11 points behind fourth place, which will be the final position that advances to Homestead-Miami Speedway.

TESTING: Before Talladega race weekend, Elliott and the No. 24 team represented Hendrick Motorsports at a Martinsville tire test on Oct. 10-11. Elliott, who clocked laps on both Tuesday and Wednesday afternoon, said the test was very beneficial to the No. 24 NAPA AUTO PARTS team.

No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet SS / Jimmie Johnson

Driver Jimmie Johnson   Hometown El Cajon, California
Age 42                             Resides Charlotte, North Carolina

2017 Season

  • 5th in standings
  • 32 starts
  • 3 race wins
  • 1 stage win
  • 0 pole positions
  • 4 top-five finishes
  • 11 top-10 finishes
  • 193 laps led

Career

  • 575 starts
  • 83 wins
  • 35 pole positions
  • 222 top-five finishes
  • 341 top-10 finishes
  • 18,639 laps led

Track Career 

  • 31 starts
  • 9 wins
  • 3 pole positions
  • 19 top-five finishes
  • 24 top-10 finishes
  • 2,838 laps led
PLAYOFF PICTURE: Last weekend’s race at Kansas Speedway came down to the wire from a points perspective and despite spinning out twice during the race, Jimmie Johnson was able to advance to the Round of 8. Johnson has a combined 20 wins at Martinsville, Texas and Phoenix, the three race venues in the Round of 8. He was also a winner one year ago at Martinsville — where he clinched his position in the 2016 Championship 4 — and won the Texas event earlier this season.

MARTINSVILLE STATS: According to NASCAR’s loop data since 2005, Johnson has the series-best driver rating at Martinsville Speedway with a score of 116.9. The driver rating is a formula that combines wins, top-15 finishes, average running position while on the lead lap, average speed under green, fastest lap, most laps led and lead-lap finishes. The maximum a driver can earn in each race is 150 points. The driver rating number is used pre-race as a prediction tool and post-race as a performance evaluator.

LAP LEADER: Johnson’s 2,838 laps led at Martinsville Speedway are the most among active drivers. The number ranks him fifth all-time at the paperclip-shaped oval.

ONE YEAR AGO: Johnson punched his ticket into the championship round of the 2016 NASCAR playoffs on Oct. 30 when he won for the ninth time at Martinsville. Johnson led 92 laps that day and went on to win his seventh NASCAR Cup Series championship three weeks later at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

MASTERING ‘THE PAPERCLIP’: Richard Petty leads all drivers with 15 career victories at the paperclip-shaped track. Johnson has the most wins among active drivers with nine victories. Former teammate Jeff Gordon also has nine wins. Additionally, Johnson is the most recent driver to win consecutive races (fall 2012 and spring 2013) at Martinsville. He has won the fall race at the track in four of his seven championship seasons.

HOMESTEAD TESTING: Johnson and the No. 48 team are representing the Hendrick Motorsports organization at Homestead-Miami Speedway for the test session on Oct. 25-26 in preparation for next month’s season finale.

PINK HAT FOR OCTOBER: Johnson has helped bring awareness and recognition of those who are fighting breast cancer by wearing a gray hat with pink accents for the month of October. He will don it for the final time in 2017 this weekend at Martinsville. The hat can be purchased here.

No. 88 Nationwide Chevrolet SS / Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Driver Dale Earnhardt Jr.   Hometown Kannapolis, North Carolina
Age 43                                Resides Mooresville, North Carolina

2017 Season

  • 22nd in standings
  • 32 starts
  • 0 race wins
  • 0 stage wins
  • 2 pole positions
  • 1 top-five finish
  • 7 top-10 finishes
  • 44 laps led

Career

  • 627 starts
  • 26 wins
  • 15 pole positions
  • 149 top-five finishes
  • 259 top-10 finishes
  • 8,231 laps led

Track Career 

  • 34 starts
  • 1 win
  • 0 pole positions
  • 13 top-five finishes
  • 18 top-10 finishes
  • 972 laps led
Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the No. 88 Nationwide Chevrolet SS, will be available to members of the media on Saturday, Oct. 28, at 10:30 a.m. local time in the Martinsville Speedway media center.

ANOTHER CLOCK: Dale Earnhardt Jr. earned his first victory at the historic 0.526-mile Martinsville Speedway on Oct. 26, 2014. He held off former teammate and nine-time Martinsville winner Jeff Gordon to score the win, taking home the iconic grandfather clock that the speedway gives as its trophy. In the last 12 races at the paperclip-shaped oval, Earnhardt has earned five top-five finishes and seven top-10 results, which bodes well for the 43-year-old veteran’s chances to capture his second grandfather clock this weekend.

MAKING PASSES: Earnhardt is one of the best drivers in the NASCAR Cup Series at Martinsville, and NASCAR’s loop data since 2005 backs up that claim. He ranks first among active drivers in green-flag passes (1,450) and second to teammate Jimmie Johnson – by just six passes – in quality passes (864 to Johnson’s 870). Earnhardt ranks fourth among all active competitors with an average driver rating of 97.8 at the track. The driver rating is a formula that combines wins, top-15 finishes, average running position while on the lead lap, average speed under green, fastest lap, most laps led and lead-lap finishes. The maximum a driver can earn in each race is 150 points. The driver of the No. 88 Nationwide Chevrolet SS ranks fourth in several categories, including average running position (12.050), fastest laps run (586), laps in the top 15 (8,769) and green-flag speed (91.210 mph).

GREY GHOST RETURNS: Fitting with the JR Nation Appreci88ion Tour theme, Nationwide gave fans the chance to pick Earnhardt’s paint scheme for this weekend’s race at Martinsville. When the votes were tallied, fans selected the “Grey Ghost” as the No. 88’s scheme – fitting for Halloween weekend considering the orange and black colors. In 2016, Earnhardt was scheduled to run the sleek, silver scheme on his No. 88 Nationwide Chevrolet for the throwback race at Darlington Raceway, but Jeff Gordon ended up filling in as Earnhardt missed the final half of the season due to a concussion. It’s only fitting that Earnhardt will get to race one of his all-time favorite schemes before he retires from full-time Cup Series racing.

AMY PACING THE FIELD: Earnhardt will be making his final Cup start at Martinsville while his wife, Amy, will lead the field to the green. She will serve as the Honorary Pace Car Driver for Martinsville Speedway on Sunday, which will be her first time behind the wheel of the pace car.

DEW AD SPOTS: After releasing a poignant ad spot last week, Mountain Dew’s newest promo takes a humorous approach to Earnhardt’s pending retirement as the driver of the No. 88 Chevrolet SS for Hendrick Motorsports. Follow @DaleJron Twitter to see the release of the spot this Thursday, which is also scheduled to run on television during Sunday’s race at Martinsville as well as during Game 5 of the MLB World Series.

Hendrick Motorsports

HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS AT MARTINSVILLE: At Martinsville, Hendrick Motorsports has team records for wins (24), top-five finishes (78), top-10s (122) and laps led (9,094) at a track and has earned at least one win there in each of the past five years.The combined 17 poles at the Virginia track are tied with Charlotte, Daytona and Richmond for the organization’s most at a track.

FIVE MAKE 24: The organization’s 24 wins at Martinsville have come courtesy of five different drivers: Jimmie Johnson (nine), Jeff Gordon (nine), Darrell Waltrip (four), Geoff Bodine and Dale Earnhardt Jr.

ORGANIZATION STATS: To date, Hendrick Motorsports has totals of 12 championships, 249 race victories, 213 pole positions, 1,027 top-five finishes and 1,736 top-10 finishes in points-paying NASCAR Cup Series competition. Its teams have led 67,051 laps since 1984.

QUOTABLE / 

“To win at Martinsville would be such a challenge. To be able to put 500 laps together and win the race there – to me, it’s one of our most difficult races of the year because so much can go on between restarts, pitting and just having a car that handles the proper way to get to the finish and to be fast enough to win. There are guys who have been so strong at that track and others who aren’t and I’m somewhere in the middle. It would be really, really neat to win the race there and get the clock and figure out where to put it because it’s so big.”

Kasey Kahne on racing at Martinsville

“I hope this past time wasn’t just a lucky weekend. Martinsville has been a disaster for me, so this past time was really good. Needed a little bit to run with the No. 18 and No. 2, but way improved from where I have been there in the past. I feel like I learned a couple of things. The tire did change, so I hope it wasn’t just the tire changing that made me kind of luck into running well. So, we will see.”

Chase Elliott on improving at Martinsville

“It’s not back to zero with all those stage points. For us to advance moving forward, we’ve got to win. Martinsville is not a bad track for us. So, hopefully we can repeat last year’s performance there. It’s pretty simple from here on out, we’ve got to get some speed in our cars and we’ve got to win a race.”

Jimmie Johnson on progressing in the Round of 8

“Martinsville this weekend should be a lot of fun. We’ve got the Grey Ghost – I appreciate everybody voting for that paint scheme so I can run it. I didn’t get to drive that car last year and I love that car, so I may have swayed the vote because I went on social media and said, ‘That’s the one I’d love to run.’ I’m excited to get the opportunity to drive that car this weekend. Martinsville is a great track for us. I love the short tracks and short-track racing.”

Dale Earnhardt Jr. on racing the Grey Ghost scheme at Martinsville

 TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!

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