The NASCAR notebook …
MARTINSVILLE, Va. ó Tony Stewart bubbles with enthusiasm when he discusses the new team he’s building, even while acknowledging that it is exhausting doing that and racing.
He’s also bracing for an emotional time ahead, especially at Homestead in the final race of the season, which will also be his last with Greg Zipadelli as his crew chief. The tandem has been together at Joe Gibbs Racing for 10 years and has won two series championships.
“We’ve been thinking about it ever since we said we were going to make a change,” Stewart said. “Every week that it gets closer, the reality sets in more that it is coming to an end, but the great thing is, we don’t talk about it, we don’t think about it. When we come to the race track, we do our job and do it the way that we’ve always done it for 10 years.
“I think Homestead is where it’s really going to be obviously huge for all of us.”
JGR president J.D. Gibbs expects the finale to be emotional, too.
“I think there’ll be a lot,” he said. “I think with Tony, it’s 10 years in Cup, but he was here two years before that, so we knew him. We were about the same age when he first got here and got to hang out and kind of walk him through when he was nervous going to his Nationwide stuff and his first Cup race. All that stuff was kind of nerve wracking, and it was kind of fun to watch all the success that he’s had, on the track and off. It’ll be sad.”
BURTON’S BLUNDER: Jeff Burton was running 12th when a caution came out on lap 458, and what happened on pit road cost him his second-place point standing before the day was over.
He finished 17th.
KYLE’S TRIALS: Kyle Busch’s Chase troubles continued on Sunday.
The driver who dominated the first 26 races and has faltered badly since hit the wall on lap 161 and drew a two-lap penalty from NASCAR for intentionally causing a caution. He did that by stopping his car on the track to bring out the yellow, then driving away.
Busch has won a series-high eight races this year, but is winless in the last 10. He had more trouble with about 150 laps to go, hitting the wall in Turn 4, and finished 29th.
He’s now last in points among the 12 drivers in the Chase.
“We just can’t seem to catch a break,” Busch said.
SPONSORSHIPS: The track announced that it has secured sponsorship for each of its races in the next two years, with Goody’s sponsoring the spring events and Tums the fall events.
Goody’s has sponsored 20 Cup races at Martinsville since the 1983 season.
The announcement was especially big for Martinsville, coming at a time when many Sprint Cup Series teams are struggling to find full sponsors for this season, and for next year.
On Saturday, Johnny Benson won the truck race without a primary sponsor on his truck.
PIT STOPS: Staff Sgt. Robert Hankins, 27 and a Martinsville native, won an essay contest and was the grand marshal for Sunday’s race. Hankins is serving his third tour of duty in Iraq, but was able to attend the race while on leave before returning to Iraq. … Johnson has led the most laps in five of the last six races and has led at least one lap in eight races in a row. … Sam Hornish Jr. was the top finishing rookie. He ran 34th.