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Tuesday September 26th, 2017 3:59PM

Kyle Busch: Parity in NASCAR racing is a good thing

By Reid Spencer-NASCAR Wire Service
  Contact Editor

MARTINSVILLE, Va. – Joe Gibbs Racing, which dominated the first half of the 2016 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season, is winless in five races to start the current season.

So is Hendrick Motorsports, the juggernaut that carried Jimmie Johnson to his record-tying seventh championship last year.

Instead, Kyle Larson delivered Chip Ganassi Racing its second victory in as many years last Sunday at Auto Club Speedway, and Ryan Newman broke a 127-race drought with his strategic win at Phoenix International Raceway.

But don’t think for a minute that Busch is worried heading into Sunday’s STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway.

“I don’t think it should be alarming,” Busch said on Friday at Martinsville, where he broke through with his first victory at the track in last year’s spring race. “I think it’s probably a good thing, to be honest with you. There needs to be more parity in our sport. There needs to be other teams that have the opportunity to get up there and run well and win races.

“You see RCR (Richard Childress Racing) has done that (with Newman). You see Ganassi has done that. Those would be two teams that probably haven’t won in the last couple years. I know Larson won a race last year, but not regularly, let’s say, like the JGR bunch or the HMS bunch. Our time is coming. We know that. We’ll turn our program around. We’ll get it up to speed to where we need to.”

Busch has acknowledged that JGR perhaps hasn’t kept up with other Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series teams in adapting to the new lower-downforce aerodynamic package introduced full-time this season.

“I think we’re playing a little bit of catch up right now, to be honest with you,” Busch said. “We do have great partners with the guys at Furniture Row that have been running really good. They’ve been strong and up front each week.

“They have been helping us as well, getting our program to where we believe we know it can be. They’ve shown us. They’ve had the potential each week. We just have to get there with ourselves.”

Sonoma Helps Allmendinger At Martinsville? Go Figure

At first glance, there’s nothing even remotely similar between Martinsville Speedway and Sonoma Raceway.

At .526 miles, Martinsville is the shortest of short tracks in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, a narrow, flat, paper-clip-shaped venue with tight turns and concrete corners.

Sonoma, on the other hand, is a 1.99-mile road course with 10 turns (some of them right-handers) and dramatic elevation changes.

Surprisingly, though, A.J. Allmendinger has translated the techniques that have made him a road-course ace into an excellent record at Martinsville, where he has posted a pair of second-place finishes, most recently in last year’s spring race.

“I think it’s a race track that, when I first started, I had no clue how to get around, and just over the years trying to learn the techniques,” Allmendinger said in explaining his grasp of Martinsville, the host track for Sunday’s STP 500. “It’s somewhat like a road course in the sense of the way you brake and some of the stuff you can do with the throttle and things like that.

“A driver can make a bit of a difference here, so more than anything, just trying to learn the techniques. You still have to have a great race car. The last couple of years we’ve had a good set-up and been able to use it to have some pretty good runs.”

Allmendinger ran 53 laps in Saturday morning’s first practice, posting the fifth fastest speed at 93.729 mph. On Sunday, he hopes to complete 500 circuits.

“It’s just a tough race,” Allmendinger said. “It’s one of those races that you can’t really let your guard down mentally for 500 laps. Anything can happen, usually get a late-race restart, so a race track that has been tough, but over the last couple of years has been really good for us, and hopefully can have another good run – because we definitely need it.”

Allmendinger currently is 30th in the series standings, and with qualifying rained out on Friday, he’ll start 30th on owner points on Sunday and will have to come through the field to achieve a strong finish.

Short Strokes

– Three drivers who already have won races this season were the three fastest in Saturday’s first practice. Atlanta winner Brad Keselowski topped the speed chart at 94.406 mph, followed by Phoenix winner Ryan Newman and Las Vegas winner Martin Truex, Jr.

– Sunoco Rookie of the Year contender Daniel Suarez, who backed his No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota into the turn 3 wall in Friday’s opening practice, had trouble getting his backup car up to speed on Saturday morning. Suarez ran 75 laps in Saturday’s first session and was 34th fastest at 92.056 mph.

– In warmer conditions during final practice, Keselowski was fourth fastest behind Clint Bowyer, who led the session at 93.863 mph, Kyle Busch (93.567 mph) and Jamie McMurray (93.530 mph). Suraez improved to 25th in Happy Hour with a top lap at 92.312 mph.

WDUN will have live MRN Radio coverage of Sunday's Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series STP 500 from Martinsville Speedway beginning at 1 pm on 102.9 FM and AM 550.

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series
Martinsville Speedway – Martinsville, VA
STP 500 – April 2, 2017

Sunday’s Starting Lineup

1. (42) Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, Charter Team – 2017 Owner Points 1st.
2. (24) Chase Elliott, Chevrolet, Charter Team – 2017 Owner Points 2nd.
3. (78) Martin Truex, Jr., Toyota, Charter Team – 2017 Owner Points 3rd.
4. (2) Brad Keselowski, Ford, Charter Team – 2017 Owner Points 4th.
5. (22) Joey Logano, Ford, Charter Team – 2017 Owner Points 5th.
6. (1) Jamie McMurray, Chevrolet, Charter Team – 2017 Owner Points 6th.
7. (21) Ryan Blaney, Ford, Charter Team – 2017 Owner Points 7th.
8. (14) Clint Bowyer, Ford, Charter Team – 2017 Owner Points 8th.
9. (4) Kevin Harvick, Ford, Charter Team – 2017 Owner Points 9th.
10. (18) Kyle Busch, Toyota, Charter Team – 2017 Owner Points 10th.
11. (31) Ryan Newman, Chevrolet, Charter Team – 2017 Owner Points 11th.
12. (11) Denny Hamlin, Toyota, Charter Team – 2017 Owner Points 12th.
13. (5) Kasey Kahne, Chevrolet, Charter Team – 2017 Owner Points 13th.
14. (41) Kurt Busch, Ford, Charter Team – 2017 Owner Points 14th.
15. (77) Erik Jones #, Toyota, Charter Team – 2017 Owner Points 15th.
16. (6) Trevor Bayne, Ford, Charter Team – 2017 Owner Points 16th.
17. (48) Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, Charter Team – 2017 Owner Points 17th.
18. (43) Aric Almirola, Ford, Charter Team – 2017 Owner Points 18th.
19. (19) Daniel Suarez #, Toyota, Charter Team – 2017 Owner Points 19th.
20. (3) Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, Charter Team – 2017 Owner Points 20th.
21. (88) Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Chevrolet, Charter Team – 2017 Owner Points 21st.
22. (27) Paul Menard, Chevrolet, Charter Team – 2017 Owner Points 22nd.
23. (13) Ty Dillon #, Chevrolet, Charter Team – 2017 Owner Points 23rd.
24. (17) Ricky Stenhouse, Jr., Ford, Charter Team – 2017 Owner Points 24th.
25. (20) Matt Kenseth, Toyota, Charter Team – 2017 Owner Points 25th.
26. (95) Michael McDowell, Chevrolet, Charter Team – 2017 Owner Points 26th.
27. (34) Landon Cassill, Ford, Charter Team – 2017 Owner Points 27th.
28. (32) Matt DiBenedetto, Ford, Charter Team – 2017 Owner Points 28th.
29. (10) Danica Patrick, Ford, Charter Team – 2017 Owner Points 29th.
30. (47) A.J. Allmendinger, Chevrolet, Charter Team – 2017 Owner Points 30th.
31. (72) Cole Whitt, Chevrolet, Charter Team – 2017 Owner Points 31st.
32. (15) Reed Sorenson, Chevrolet, Charter Team – 2017 Owner Points 32nd.
33. (37) Chris Buescher, Chevrolet, Charter Team – 2017 Owner Points 33rd.
34. (38) David Ragan, Ford, Charter Team – 2017 Owner Points 34th.
35. (83) * Corey LaJoie #, Toyota, Open Team – 2017 Owner Points 36th.
36. (33) Jeffrey Earnhardt, Chevrolet, Charter Team – 2017 Owner Points 37th.
37. (23) Gray Gaulding #, Toyota, Charter Team – 2017 Owner Points 38th.
38. (51) * Timmy Hill(i), Chevrolet, Open Team – 2017 Owner Points 40th.

  • Associated Categories: Sports, NASCAR News, Monster Cup
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