It's Martinsville's turn to provide some NASCAR drama

Mar 24, 2009 4:04 PM
Finish Line by Micah Roberts |

This week’s NASCAR race takes us to Martinsville, Virginia for the first of two events there this season.

This will also be the second straight short track race. The short track circuit also includes two Bristol races and two more at Richmond, Virginia’s three-quarter mile facility. Last week we saw racing at the new and supposedly improved Bristol Motor Speedway’s half mile high banked track.

Bristol still remains the fastest half-mile track in the world. The major difference between Martinsville’s half-mile is the banking, which is relatively flat. This causes the brakes to get abused and slower speeds.

Generally in short track racing we get to see drivers mix it up, bang around, and see them get upset during and after the races. Last week we didn’t get to witness a traditional "Bristol" type of racing because of the multiple grooves. However, Martinsville still remains the same with the coveted inside groove that drivers attempt to ride.

If someone is slower and doesn’t move, the faster driver will give a little reminder bump to help them see reality and show they aren’t really that fast at the moment. The drama of drivers creating rivalries that we missed at Bristol, we’ll hopefully see in Martinsville.

The candidates to win this week begin with the Hendrick Motorsports duo of Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon. The two have dominated the last six seasons. Each has finished in the Top 10 over the last 12 races there, combining to win nine times.

Johnson’s success should come as no surprise because he has dominated on all tracks over that period of time winning three straight driving championships. However, Gordon’s consistency is kind of surprising because his team has struggled at different stages.

Martinsville is the one track that Gordon has always been able to rely on and get him going in a positive direction regardless of how bad the team is running. Gordon currently is the Cup Series points leader which should make him feel good about where the team is going.

Gordon has run well in each of the five races up to this point, but hasn’t gotten to that dominant tier like Kyle Busch is currently in. It’s been since October 2007 that Gordon has won a race and it’s a pretty solid bet he knows this is a track where he can get back into victory lane.

The odds makers have apparently noticed Gordon knocking on the door as well, despite his drought. Gordon is still respected with odds of 10-1 or less. This week don’t expect anything higher than 8-1.

Johnson is the favorite in the 5-1 range, which could be considered a great price only because of he’s won four of the last five at Martinsville. It’s odd that Johnson could be so good at Martinsville, yet not have won at Bristol. The tracks aren’t really comparable, but Johnson also does well at Richmond.

A new entry into the Hendrick factor could be Mark Martin, who had his first impressive run of the season last week at Bristol. As good as Johnson and Gordon have been, the back end of the team led by Dale Earnhardt Jr and Martin have been equally as bad.

True, the No. 24 and No. 48 teams may not share information as much as they should, but they have been terrible. Junior hasn’t even been close to competing in a race yet. A few years ago while Martin was driving Roush, they used to call the track Mark Martinsville because he was so consistently good there.

Martin could be a nice driver to look at in the 20-1 range as a small backup to some of the favorites who can’t be overlooked. Casey Mears had two top 10 finishes in the No. 5 car last season.

Denny Hamlin leads the charge this week for the Gibbs team. Hamlin, who hails from Virginia, will be the car to watch out of that stable this week. Kyle Busch has been good at Martinsville, but has yet to win. Prior to last season Hamlin had a couple a second place results and a third before breaking through with a victory last season.

Of all the tracks on the circuit, Martinsville suits Hamlin the best. Consider yourself lucky if you’re able to find 10-1 on him.

As for Kyle, you can’t ever count him out. The Las Vegas native continues to put up solid results even if the rest of NASCAR Nation throws bottles and cans at him after each win. Kyle definitely gives off a cocky vibe that most fans just aren’t feeling.

Maybe Junior, the fan’s prince, will do well and attempt to knock that Duracell off Kyle’s shoulder. If Junior could get better, this could be the rivalry the new era of NASCAR needs. Right now it’s the story of the hammer and the nail, not much of a rivalry.

After that cream puff Bristol race, I definitely need some action.

Longshots that have a chance if Gordon, Hamlin, and Johnson all have engine failures include Martin, Virginian Jeff Burton, Kurt Busch, and maybe, just maybe Junior. They all should be good plays in driver vs. driver matchups anyway.

Copyright 2009 GamingToday
#24 Jeff Gordon
#11 Denny Hamlin 
#48 Jimmie Johnson
#18 Kyle Busch
#5 Mark Martin


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