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News from the track: Tums 500 at Martinsville Speedway

From The Marbles

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The Sprint Cup Series heads back to Martinsville, where everyone will be chasing Denny Hamlin and Jimmie Johnson. Why? Because they're really, really, really, really good there. Stick with us right here and we'll keep you in the know of everything that's happening on and off the track, including what Kasey Kahne has to say about his new ride. Here are a few notes to get us started:

• First Cup practice begins at 11:30 ET
• Qualifying is at 3 p.m. ET

Kahne talks about moving to Red Bull:

Here are some details Kasey Kahne offered up Friday about what went down to facilitate his abrupt move from Richard Petty Motorsports to Red Bull...

• Talks between Kahne, Richard Petty Motorsports and Red Bull began Monday, two days after a frustrated Kahne left Charlotte Motor Speedway before the Bank of America 500 was over.

"I was leaving, going on starting next year. It made sense for RPM to start working on their things for next year, and for us," Kahne said.

• Kahne said he is not aware of the financial issues facing RPM, which reportedly may not have the finances to finish the season. However, he did say that he has been paid in full by RPM

• Crew chief Kenny Francis is staying with RPM for the rest of the year; Francis will join Kahne next season at Red Bull.

• There have been some inside the garage who have questioned Kahne's commitment. Here's what he had to say about that: "Anyone who questions my commitment doesn't know me or how much I put into racing. I feel like I do everything I need to do to be the best I can be. We had an issue [at Charlotte], I was sick to my stomach, that's that."

Scott Speed's future:

• Red Bull Racing general manager Jay Frye said the team will field just two cars next season. With Kahne now in the mix, it appears Scott Speed's future with Red Bull depends on the health of Brian Vickers. Vickers, sitting out since May due to a medical condition pertaining to blood clots, says he will be healthy enough to race in 2011.

"We're still monitoring Brian's health," Frye said. "Everything seems pretty good. The plan is to have two cars. We'll know more on [our driver line up], soon. A lot of that is dependent upon Brian and his health."

Burton is disappointed:

Jeff Burton thought he had a shot at the championship. After five races, he's 239 points out. Now, he's calling this Chase a "disappointment."

"Our season, I don't care what anybody says, is defined by the numbers. When it was time to get it done, we didn't get it done. And I am shocked about that. I thought we were poised to make a solid run."

Burton says he's "confused" why it didn't happen.

Johnson hanging loose:

Jimmie Johnson says he's more relaxed racing for this championship than he was in the previous four, saying experience plays a big part in that.

Shakeup for Harvick's pit crew:

Kevin Harvick has made no secret about his frustration with his pit crew, which has made several mistakes during the Chase. As a response, Clint Bowyer's pit crew has been shipped over to Harvick's No. 29.

Bowyer said his crew is probably the best at Richard Childress Racing, since they've been together the longest.

Quote of the Day:

Clint Bowyer says he really likes Jimmie Johnson, says he is a good guy, fun to be around, but ...

"By no means do I want him to win this championship," Bowyer said. "I think it's bad for everybody."

Sprint Cup Practice No. 1

Juan Pablo Montoya is leading the way in the early going of the first practice, with Jeff Gordon right behind him. Jimmie Johnson is 12th, while Kevin Harvick is 32nd, Denny Hamlin 33rd.

• Hamlin has picked it up, moving to fifth on the speed chart. Harvick, meanwhile, is down to 37th.

• First practice is over, and Tony Stewart was the fastest. Here is the top 10:

1. Tony Stewart
2. Denny Hamlin
3. Juan Pablo Montoya
4. Greg Biffle
5. David Reutimann
6. Clint Bowyer
7. David Ragan
8. AJ Allmendinger
9. Jeff Gordon
10. Joey Logano

Other notables: Jimmie Johnson (12th) and Kevin Harvick (28th)

Is Jeff Gordon out of the championship hunt?

• He doesn't think so, and neither does Greg Biffle. Biffle said that with Talladega still looming, Gordon, 156 points back right now, could jump right back in it if Johnson, Hamlin and Harvick all have issues.

That's a big if, and it also assumes that Gordon would out-run those three the rest of the way.

Hamlin's relaxed, too

• Denny Hamlin says he was way more nervous prior to Race No. 1 of the Chase at New Hampshire than he is now. He said he is relaxed, probably because he's comfortable with the five tracks that remain on the schedule. The first five he was worried about messing up. Now, he says he can go out and race with "no pressure."

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