NASCAR's quintessential lovable goofball Clint Bowyer showed the way through 250 of the 500 laps in today's Tums Fast Relief 500 at the Martinsville Speedway. The gregarious Kansan took the lead from Jimmie Johnson after the most-recent restart and has his No. 15 Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota out front.
If Bowyer is the engineer, then Rick Hendrick's quartet of Chevrolets make up the train he's pulling around the venerable old paperclip. Jeff Gordon runs second, Kasey Kahne third, Johnson is back to fourth, and Dale Earnhardt Jr. holds down the fifth spot at the midpoint of today's race.
Denny Hamlin, who cut his teeth in late model races across Virginia (including Martinsville) and has won four times at NASCAR's oldest track, has been ticketed for speeding twice in the opening half of Sunday's race. The first time, Hamlin dropped to 30th and channeled his impressive drive a few weeks ago in Loudon, taking just 78 laps to crack the top-five again. His crew had gotten him off pit road first during a cycle of stops on lap 200, only to get their second ticket. Hamlin has climbed back into the top-10 once again and still has plenty of time to get back out front - so long as he avoids another penalty.