Larson Spoils Stewart-Haas’ Party at Martinsville
By Dave Hascall
MARTINSVILLE, VA Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) looked to dominate Sunday’s NOCO 400 at the historic Martinsville Speedway. One of the oldest tracks on the NASCAR Cup Schedule, the half-mile paperclip saw SHR driver Ryan Preece take his first career pole. In fact, all SHR Ford drivers started within the top ten. But an old axiom, “It’s not where you start, it’s where you finish,” rang true as 2021 Cup Champion Kyle Larson zipped by 2022 Cup champ Joey Logano to win the Grandfather Clock, which is given to winners at the Virginia oval. Logano amazingly claimed second after starting the race from the rear due to a mechanical issue. He had even been lapped at one point but gained track position on a contrary pit strategy. Joe Gibbs Racing’s Martin Truex, Jr. and Denny Hamlin took third and fourth, with SHR drivers Chase Briscoe and Aric Almirola grabbing fifth and sixth.
For Preece, a lap 133 caution for a Harrison Burton spin put everyone into the pits. Preece sped leaving the pits and was sent to the tail for a pit road speed violation that he never recovered from. Fellow SHR driver Kevin Harvick led briefly but had to return to the pits due to a loose wheel. Preece and Harvick finished 15th and 20th, respectively.
Larson’s win was his second of the year and the fourth for Hendrick Motorsports. Preece and Harvick split the first two stages.
John Hunter Nemechek won Saturday’s Xfinity Series Race (he was on fire…, literally, as his Toyota caught fire due to a celebratory burnout), while Corey Heim won the Camping World Truck Series race. That race was very problematic as NASCAR ran the race in wet conditions with Wet Weather Tires. A first.