Denny Hamlin has a doubly good Friday at Martinsville

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Time will tell if Denny Hamlin will indeed play the spoiler for the Chase contenders this weekend at Martinsville Speedway, but the Virginia native is definitely looking good so far.

Hamlin, a four-time Sprint Cup winner at the shortest track in series competition, locked up the pole this afternoon for Sunday’s Goody’s Headache Relief Shot 500 powered by Kroger after logging a record-breaking lap of 19.013 seconds (99.595 miles per hour) in the No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota.

“If we could get a win this weekend, by no means will it fix or make us feel good about our year, but it will definitely give us something to smile about in the offseason,” Hamlin said according to The Associated Press, referring to his tough 2013 season that has seen him miss multiple races to injury and suffer through an extended streak of poor results.

It wasn’t the only pole Hamlin earned today. He also picked up the top spot for tomorrow’s Camping World Truck Series event at Martinsville with a speed of 96.489 miles per hour in the No. 51 Kyle Busch Motorsports Toyota, which sports a rather striking design complete with the famous “Jumpman” logo of basketball icon Michael Jordan.

For Sunday’s main event, Hamlin will be joined on the front row by Chase leader Jimmie Johnson, who has won eight times at Martinsville. Johnson turned in a lap at 99.344 mph around the .526-mile oval.

Two of Johnson’s main rivals in the championship will be right behind him. Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Kyle Busch (third in points, 26 behind Johnson) and Matt Kenseth (second in points, four behind Johnson) start third and fourth respectively.

Another pair of Chasers, Clint Bowyer and Joey Logano, make up Row 3, with last week’s winner Jamie McMurray, David Ragan, Jeff Gordon and Kevin Harvick rounding out the Top 10 for Sunday’s grid.

Toyota No. 8 car wins the 24 Hours of Le Mans for third consecutive year

24 Hours of Le Mans
JEAN-FRANCOIS MONIER/AFP via Getty Images
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LE MANS, France — Toyota Gazoo’s No. 8 car comfortably won the 24 Hours of Le Mans by five laps Sunday to secure a third straight victory in the prestigious endurance race.

It was also a third consecutive win for Swiss driver Sebastien Buemi and Japan’s Kazuki Nakajima driving. Brendon Hartley was the other driver, having replaced two-time Formula One champion Fernando Alonso.

Buemi and Hartley sat on the side of the car as Nakajima drove toward the podium. Hartley won for a second time after tasting success with the Porsche LMP Team in 2017 before an unhappy season in Formula One.

The Swiss team’s Rebellion No. 1 featured American driver Gustavo Menezes and Brazilian Bruno Senna – the nephew of late F1 great Ayrton Senna.

It finished one lap ahead of Toyota Gazoo’s No. 7, with Rebellion’s No. 3 finishing in fourth place.

For much of the race it looked like Toyota’s No. 7 would win after leading comfortably from pole position. But late into the night the car encountered an engine problem and the 30-minute stop in the stands proved costly.

The race was first held in 1923. A total of 252,500 spectators attended in 2019, but there were none this year when the race started three months late because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

“We miss the fans,” New Zealander Hartley said. “I look forward to seeing all the fans again.”

In other divisions:

United Autosports won the LMP2 division with the entry of Filipe Albuquerque, Paul Di Resta and Phil Hanson.

–In LMGTE Pro, the victory was claimed by Aston Martin Vantage AMR of Maxime Martin, Alex Lynn and Harry Tincknell (who drives for Mazda in the DPi division of IMSA).

–TF Sport won the LMGTE Am class.

The Toyota No. 7 took pole after former F1 driver Kamui Kobayashi narrowly edged out the Rebellion No. 1 team in qualifying.

In damp and humid conditions Mike Conway got away cleanly from the start, while Senna held off Buemi.

After nearly seven hours, Toyota’s No. 8 fell back after a 10-minute stop in the stands to fix a brake-cooling problem on Kazuki Nakajima’s car. Rebellion’s No. 1, driven by Frenchman Norman Nato, took advantage to move into second place behind Toyota’s No. 7.

Then came the decisive moment at 2:40 a.m. as the No. 7 – also featuring Argentine Jose Maria Lopez – encountered a turbo problem. When the car came back out it was back in fourth.

“We had a few problems early in the race,” Nakajima said. “Later they had a bigger issue than us.”

Rebellion’s No. 1 encountered a problem on the hood at around 9 a.m. and the change took six minutes, allowing the Rebellion No. 3 (Nathanael Berthon-Louis Deletraz-Romain Dumas) to close the gap.

It was becoming a tight battle between the two Rebellion cars behind Toyota’s No. 8.

At 12 p.m. Rebellion No. 3 with Dumas behind the wheel was only one second ahead of No. 1 driven by Menezes. Then both cars came in for a driver change with Deletraz swapping for Dumas on a lengthy stop, and Nato for Menezes as Rebellion No. 1 suddenly moved ahead of its team rival.

Dumas, a winner in 2016 with Porsche, appeared unhappy at the strategy decision to bring his car in first and the length of the stop. There were tense explanations in the team garage.

Colombian Tatiana Calderon, an F1 test driver with Alfa Romeo, was in the Richard Mille Racing Team in the LMP2 category. She was joined by German Sophia Florsch – an F3 driver – and Dutchwoman Beitske Visser. They placed ninth out of 24 in their category.