Back Seat Driver

Back Seat Driver: Martinsville

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*Editor’s Note* Every Monday, after every race weekend, contributing writer Jacob Mullins will recap the top story lines from the track in our weekly feature, Back Seat Driver.

GOOD NEWS FROM JOE GIBBS RACING, FINALLY

It has been a rough start to the season for Joe Gibbs Racing. After an accident in the NASCAR XFINITY Series opener in Daytona sidelined Kyle Busch for an undisclosed amount of time, news of JGR’s President, J.D. Gibbs, is battling a health issues. Add in the fact that JGR and Toyota Racing Development hasn’t been visited lane since last year’s Spring race at Talladega, times are trying for The Coach and his team.

Fast forward to Sunday at Martinsville and it seemed for one moment, all the struggles this past week and last year seemed to subside. Hamlin, who shared about his first interaction with J.D. Gibbs, still had the importance that relation has played in his career. Not only was the good news about him winning the race, but now Hamlin and the No. 11 team have secured a spot in the Chase for the Sprint Cup. Hamlin led four times for a total of 91 laps as he won his fifth Grandfather clock.

In addition to Hamlin’s win, teammate Matt Kenseth posted a top-five spot for another highlight to a team that needed one.

ROUSH FENWAY STRUGGLES

Roush Fenway Racing field three cars – Trevor Bayne, Greg Biffle, and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. – and with six races so far this year, RFR has had 18 chances to win a race. However, out of those 18 tries, they have only one top-10 finish – Biffle at Daytona. Roush Fenway, one of top teams that runs Ford’s are in a free fall and it doesn’t look like it will end anytime soon.

Sunday at Martinsville was no different. The highest finishing RFR car was Bayne in 18th followed by Biffle in 19th. Stenhouse finished a disappointing 40th. It is trying times at for Jack Roush. In the off season Carl Edwards, arguably the top driver at RFR, left for JGR. With the void of a leader, RFR just hasn’t found what some of the other Ford teams have found – success. In addition, all three of Roush Fenway’s entries are currently 21st or worst in the championship standings.

BRAD KESELOWSKI RACING

It has been a banner year so far for Brad Keselowski Racing. After winning the opening race of the year, the NextEra Energy Resources 250, with Tyler Reddick, BKR will have a new way to tell time around the shop.

Committed to run two teams for the whole season, team owner, Brad Keselowski, put his Penske teammate behind the wheel of the No. 29 Cooper Standard Ford F150, Joey Logano. Logano put the No. 29 on the pole and curing the first attempt at a green-white-checkered finish, he used the ‘ol bump-n-run to get past Matt Crafton and earn Brad Keselowski Racing their second win of the year.

Not to be outdone, the full-time entry for BKR’s No. 19 DrawTite F150 driven by Reddick posted a top-five finish and is only two points behind the championship points leader Matt Crafton.

JOEY LOGANO IS EN FUEGO

What can you say about JLo, other than WOW! In 2015 Logano has posted a win and won a pole in each of NASCAR’s top-three national touring series.

So far this season, Logano has raced in nine races and has three wins, six top-five’s, nine top-10’s and five poles. Everyone has talked about how hot Kevin Harvick has been this year, but is Logano just as impressive?

BUMP-N-RUN

We see it at all short track races – the bump-n-run. This move was made famous by Dale Earnhardt Sr. and when it works, it is a thing of beauty. However, it is doesn’t work, you will see yellow.

In Saturday’s Kroger 250, we saw Logano use the bump-n-run to his advantage and it was perfectly executed. However, in Sunday’s STP 500, Keselowski tried to the bump-n-run on Hamlin and it almost backfired. As he was coming off turn four on the last lap, Keselowski got to the back bumper of Hamlin and instead of doing the run, Hamlin got loose and almost spun. Instead, Hamlin corrected the racecar and sped to the victory.

CHASE ELLIOTT’S DEBUT

The biggest story heading into Martinsville was about Chase Elliott making his NASCAR Sprint Cup Debut. Already tabbed to replace Jeff Gordon in the No. 24 next year, Elliott hasn’t turned any official laps in a NSCS car. That changed Sunday.

After starting 27th and mid pack, Elliott was involved in an accident that sent him to the garage for a lengthy time. When he returned he was able to get some valuable seat time and learned a lot. Although it wasn’t the ending or finish Elliott or car owner Rick Hendrick wanted, in all, it was a decent day for despite a 38th place finish.

TOP-10 FOR PATRICK

Danica Patrick finished seventh in Sunday’s STP 500. Her finish was one spot short of a career best, 6th, that she earned last year at the Fall race at Atlanta. This is great for Patrick as she has been flat in the past. Hopefully this 7th place finish at one of the hardest tracks on the schedule gives her some momentum and a vote of confidence that she can be relevant in the Sprint Cup Series.

Patrick is kind of like Dale Earnhardt Jr. in the sense when Earnhardt Jr., does well, NASCAR does well.

By the way, Patrick was the highest finishing Stewart-Haas Racing team Sunday. KUDOS!

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About Jacob Mullins

Jacob Mullins serves as the managing editor and senior NASCAR writer covering all three national touring series's. You can find him on on Twitter at @JMulls15. An intercollegiate athletic administrator by trade, Mullins can be found at the big tracks as well as the local short tracks in the Delaware, New Jersey and Pennsylvania area. Mullins enjoys social media, photography and graphic design. A native of West Chester, Pennsylvania, Mullins follows all forms of racing, Major League Baseball (Baltimore Orioles) and college football (Virginia Tech Hokies).

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