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NASCAR Martinsville Update: Friday Sprint Cup Notes

The Goody's Fast Relief 500 race weekend opens today with two Sprint Cup practice sessions as teams try to dial their cars in, both for the race and for tomorrow's Coors Light Pole Qualifying session.

The practices will provide good indication as to whether or not Denny Hamlin can continue his recent string of success at one of his home tracks. The Virginia native has three-straight Martinsville wins coming into the weekend, but he has had a less than stellar start to the 2011 season.

In addition, there are ten teams not currently in the top-35 in owner points who will be trying to make their cars handle around the claustrophobic .526-mile track as they chase the eight available starting positions in tomorrow's qualifying. For the first time this year, the 2011 owner points count towards a qualifying session.

For the No. 09 Phoenix Racing and No. 13 Germain Racing teams and their drivers, Landon Cassill and Casey Mears, that means that for the first time this season, they are locked into the field. Conversely, TRG Motorsports' No. 71 Chevrolet, usually driven by rookie contender Andy Lally but piloted this weekend by Hermie Sadler, and the No. 38 Front Row Motorsports Ford of Travis Kvapil are forced to qualify on time. Kvapil made the Daytona 500 on speed before his car moved into the top-35 in owner points a week later.

Both practices can be seen live today on SPEED, at 12:30 and 3:30 Eastern. In between, the Camping World Truck Series teams practice for their third event of the 2011 season, starting at 2 p.m.

Photographs by coka_koehler used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.