AUTO RACING: Martinsville next in NASCAR’s short track spree

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Blu-Emu Maximum Pain Relief 400

Site: Martinsville, Virginia.

Schedule: Friday, practice, 4:30 p.m., and qualifying, 5:05 p.m.; Saturday, race, 7:30 p.m. (FS1)

Track: Martinsville Speedway.

Race distance: 400 laps, 210 miles.

Last year: Martin Truex Jr. won after starting seventh.

Last race: Denny Hamlin passed William Byron with five laps to go at Richmond and became the seventh different driver to win through seven races.

Fast facts: Hamlin also ended a 12-race winning streak for drivers under age 30. … The victory was the sixth in the last eight races for Joe Gibbs Racing on the 0.75-mile oval and the third in a row at the track in which all four JGR drivers finished in the top 10. … None of the top three in the point standings (Ryan Blaney and Chase Elliott, tied for first), and Truex have won a race yet this year. … The point standings range of winners goes from Byron (fourth) to Hamlin (20th).

Next race: April 17, Bristol, Tennessee.



Call 811 Before You Dig 250 powered by Call

Site: Martinsville, Virginia.

Schedule: Thursday, practice, 5:30 p.m., and qualifying, 6 p.m.; Friday, race, 7:30 p.m. (FS1)

Track: Martinsville, Virginia.

Race distance: 250 laps, 131.5 miles.

Last year: Josh Berry won after starting 29th, the deepest starting spot of any race winner in the series all season.

Last race: Ty Gibbs bumped Joe Gibbs Racing teammate John Hunter Nemechek off the lead on the final lap for his third victory through seven races.

Fast facts: Dale Earnhardt Jr., the series champion in 1998 and 1999, will make his return to the series. … Nemechek (135) and Gibbs (114) combined to lead all but one lap at Richmond; Berry led the other. … Gibbs led a total of seven laps in his first two victories of the season. … Sam Mayer won the $100,000 Dash4Cash bonus. He, Gibbs, A.J. Allmendinger and Riley Herbst will be eligible for the bonus at Martinsville.

Next race: April 23, Talladega, Alabama.



Blu-Emu Maximum Pain Relief 200

Site: Martinsville, Virginia.

Schedule: Thursday, practice, 3 p.m., qualifying, 3:30 p.m., and race, 8 p.m. (FS1)

Track: Martinsville Speedway.

Race distance: 200 laps, 105 miles.

Last year: Zane Smith won the penultimate race of the season, the only series stop at Martinsville last year, after starting ninth.

Last race: Corey Heim passed Kyle Busch Motorsports teammate Chandler Smith on the last lap and won at Atlanta, his first career victory in just his fifth career start.

Fast facts: Zane Smith became the series’ first two-time winner through just four races, but he’s just fourth in points behind Chandler Smith, Ben Rhodes and Stewart Friesen. … Chander Smith, Rhodes and Zane Smith each have three top-five finishes. … Nemechek has led a series-high 85 laps, but has only one top-five finish and is eighth in points.

Next race: April 16, Bristol, Tennessee.



Australian Grand Prix

Site: Melbourne, Australia.

Schedule: Thursday, practice, 11 p.m.; Friday, practice, 2 p.m. and 11 p.m.; Saturday, qualifying, 2 p.m.; Sunday, race, 1 p.m. (ESPN)

Track: Melbourne Grand Prix Circuit.

Race distance: 58 laps, 190.1 miles.

Last year: Did not race (pandemic).

Last race: Defending series champion Max Verstappen passed Charles Leclerc after a wheel-to-wheel duel on lap 47 of 50 to win in Saudi Arabia.

Fast Facts: The race is back on the schedule after a two-year hiatus because of the coronavirus pandemic. … Verstappen’s victory was the 21st of his career. … Leclerc and third-place Carlos Sainz are 1-2 in the point standings after giving Ferrari two spots on the podium for the second race in a row. … Aston Martin says Sebastian Vettel will make his season debut after recovering from COVID-19.

Next race: April 24, Imola, Italy.



Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach

Site: Long Beach, California.

Schedule: Friday, practice, 6:15 p.m.; Saturday, practice, 11:45 a.m., and qualifying, 3:05 p.m.-3:55 p.m.; Sunday, race, 3:30 p.m. (NBC)

Track: Long Beach street circuit.

Race distance: 85 laps, 167.28 miles.

Last year: Colton Herta won after starting 14th in the final race of the season.

Last race: Josef Newgarden passed teammate Scott McLaughlin in the final turn at Texas to give Team Penske victories in the season’s first two races.

Fast facts: Scott McLaughlin is the points leader with a victory, a runner-up finish and a pole through two races. Will Power and Alex Palou are next in points, followed by Newgarden. … The other pole winner, Felix Rosenqvist, is 19th in points. … The series will take the next two weeks off after the race.

Next race: May 1, Birmingham, Alabama.



Last event: Brittany Force won in Top Fuel and Ron Capps won in Funny Car at Las Vegas.

Next event: April 24, Baytown, Texas.



Next events: Friday, Osborn, Missouri, and Saturday, Eldon, Missouri.



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