Bowyer, Gordon return to Martinsville 1 year after big contact

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A year ago at the Martinsville Speedway spring race, Clint Bowyer and Jeff Gordon collided on a late-race restart, with the contact also taking Jimmie Johnson out in the process.

It was a double-hit; it cost them all a shot at winning, and in particular, it cost Gordon and Johnson the chance to deliver Hendrick Motorsports their 200th victory in NASCAR Sprint Cup Series competition.

A win at Martinsville for that milestone would have been poignant for Hendrick after a plane crash outside the track in October 2004 killed ten people, including Rick Hendrick’s son Ricky, team president John Hendrick and his two twin daughters.

The chaos happened because of a late caution when David Reutimann stopped on track, unable to get his stricken car into a safe area.

“He was running around slow; you got a problem, you really … get down and get on pit road,” Dale Earnhardt Jr. said of Reutimann after the race. “I don’t believe he had any trouble getting down. When we went by him the first time, he was low. I would like to hear a good excuse, to be honest with you, because I’m sure it would be laughable.”

Bowyer and Gordon famously got together once again in last November’s penultimate race of the season at Phoenix, when Gordon retaliated against Bowyer and triggered a fight between the two drivers’ crews.

Ryan Newman wound up beating AJ Allmendinger for the win. Newman hasn’t won since and has instead made headlines this weekend for blocking comments, while Allmendinger won’t be back at Martinsville to equal or better his best career finish. He’ll be in the IZOD IndyCar Series race at Barber, with an IZOD-backed entry for Team Penske, for his first open-wheel start in seven years.

Regan Smith takes over the No. 51 Phoenix Racing Chevrolet this week, which currently resides in the top 10 in owner points despite a rotating driver lineup and a lack of major sponsorship.

Newgarden fastest as Castroneves returns in weather-shortened Barber test

Photo: IndyCar
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The Verizon IndyCar Series took to Barber Motorsports Park on Tuesday for an open test, with 24 entries tackling the 2.38-mile road course.

Weather intervened in the afternoon, preventing nearly the entire field from going out, but the weather held off during the morning enough for one session to be run in its entirety.

Team Penske’s Josef Newgarden led the way, with a quick lap of 1:07.979, ahead of Team Penske teammates Will Power and Helio Castroneves. For Castroneves, this marked his first IndyCar outing of 2018.

Helio Castroneves was back in an IndyCar on Tuesday at Barber Motorsports Park. Photo: IndyCar

Sporting the Pennzoil “yellow submarine” paint scheme, Castroneves turned 41 laps around Barber in the morning session, with a quick lap of 1:08.315. He was also the only driver to venture out on track in the afternoon, completing eight laps.

The Dale Coyne Racing duo of Sebastien Bourdais and Zachary Claman De Melo completed the top five.

Results are below.