2-for-1: Jamie McMurray wins Martinsville pole, sets track record

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If racing at Martinsville Speedway was like buying an ice cream cone, Jamie McMurray double-dipped during Friday’s Sprint Cup qualifying.

Not only did McMurray earn his second pole of the season, he also set a new track speed record (99.905 mph) in the process.

“It was a good start to our weekend,” McMurray said to Fox Sports 1 about his 11th career Sprint Cup pole. “The first pit stall here is a really big deal. I had it before and it’s critical in being able to win the race.”

McMurray shattered Matt Kenseth’s track record, which lasted for maybe 15 minutes, as Kenseth broke the old half-mile bullring’s speed mark in the first round of qualifying at 99.816 mph.

“You never know with me at Martinsville,” Kenseth quipped. “You never know if I’m going to be last or what it’s going to be.

“It was a spectacular lap on that first run. I couldn’t believe how fast it was. … The second run, we just didn’t quite have it. I probably could have done a better job.

“Overall, it was a good day for us. I really wanted to be on the pole after the first run, but it’s a good run for our team and gives us a good place to start on Sunday.”

Joey Logano qualified second at 99.605 mph, followed by Kenseth (99.318 mph), Tony Stewart (99.297) and Denny Hamlin (99.266).

“Overall, the Shell Pennzoil Ford is fast, we have speed in it, we’re starting towards the front, which is very important,” Logano said. “Now all I have to do is convince Jamie to take the outside.

“I think that’s the fastest way around here. Either way, it’s a good spot for us, we get a good pit stall, hopefully stay out of trouble and go and win this thing.”

Last week’s winner at Talladega, Brad Keselowski, was sixth-fastest in qualifying at 99.240 mph, followed by Jimmie Johnson (99.230), Kyle Busch (99.209), Ryan Newman (98.836) and Kurt Busch (98.620), who won this year’s spring race at Martinsville.

“If we qualify well, it’s usually a good sign for us in the race,” Keselowski said. “The sixth place starting spot is good, not great, but certainly a position we can win from.”

Having the worst qualifying effort of the eight remaining drivers in the Eliminator Round of the Chase for the Sprint Cup is Kevin Harvick, who failed to qualify no higher than 33rd position after getting into the wall twice during his qualifying effort.

Here’s the starting lineup for Sunday’s Goody’s Headache Relief Shot 500:

Row 1: Jamie McMurray, Joey Logano
Row 2: Matt Kenseth, Tony Stewart
Row 3: Denny Hamlin, Brad Keselowski
Row 4: Jimmie Johnson, Kyle Busch
Row 5: Ryan Newman, Kurt Busch
Row 6: Carl Edwards, Clint Bowyer
Row 7: Jeff Gordon, Paul Menard
Row 8: AJ Allmendinger, Kyle Larson
Row 9: Brian Vickers, Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
Row 10: Austin Dillon, Casey Mears
Row 11: Greg Biffle, Justin Allgaier
Row 12: Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kasey Kahne
Row 13: Marcos Ambrose, Martin Truex Jr.
Row 14: Aric Almirola, Landon Cassill
Row 15: David Ragan, Danica Patrick
Row 16: Reed Sorenson, Alex Bowman
Row 17: Kevin Harvick, David Gilliland
Row 18: Josh Wise, Cole Whitt
Row 19: Michael Annett, Clay Rogers
Row 20: Travis Kvapil, JJ Yeley
Row 21: Timmy Hill, Kyle Fowler
Row 22: Mike Wallace

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Zach Veach splits with Andretti Autosport for rest of IndyCar season

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Zach Veach will be leaving his Andretti Autosport ride with three races remaining in the season, choosing to explore options after the decision was made he wouldn’t return for 2021.

In a Wednesday release, Andretti Autosport said a replacement driver for the No. 26 Dallara-Honda would be named in the coming days. The NTT IndyCar Series will race Oct. 2-3 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course and then conclude the season Oct. 25 on the streets of St. Petersburg, Florida.

Veach was ranked 11th in the points standings through 11 races of his third season with Andretti. Since a fourth in the June 6 season opener at Texas Motor Speedway, he hadn’t finished higher than 14th.

“The decision was made that I will not be returning in 2021 with Andretti Autosport in the No. 26 Gainbridge car,” Veach said in the Andretti release. “This, along with knowing that limited testing exists for teams due to COVID, have led me to the decision to step out of the car for the remainder of the 2020 IndyCar season. I am doing this to allow the team to have time with other drivers as they prepare for 2021, and so that I can also explore my own 2021 options.

“This is the hardest decision I have ever made, but to me, racing is about family, and it is my belief that you take care of your family. Andretti Autosport is my family and I feel this is what is best to help us all reach the next step. I will forever be grateful to Michael and the team for all of their support over the years. I would not be where I am today if it wasn’t for a relationship that started many years ago with Road to Indy. I will also be forever grateful to Dan Towriss for his friendship and for the opportunity he and Gainbridge have given me.

“My love for this sport and the people involved is unmeasurable, and I look forward to continuing to be amongst the racing world and fans in 2021.”

Said team owner Michael Andretti: “We first welcomed Zach to the Andretti team back in his USF2000 days and have enjoyed watching him grow and evolve as a racer, and a person. His decision to allow us to use the last few races to explore our 2021 options shows the measure of his character.

“Zach has always placed team and family first, and we’re very happy to have had him as part of ours for so many years. We wish him the best in whatever 2021 may bring and will always consider him a friend.”

Andretti fields five full-time cars for Veach, Alexander Rossi, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Marco Andretti and Colton Herta.

It also has fielded James Hinchcliffe in three races this season.