NASCAR Martinsville Preview
It's the second seasonal appearance at the Martinsville Speedway in Virginia. It's 43 NASCAR stock cars stacked up on a half mile race track with a surface that is half asphalt and half concrete. It's a racing environment that calls for a unique blend of driver patience and aggression while, at the same time, saving the brakes on the car. It's an energy draining 500 miles on a short track where the laps go by very quickly. There's no laying in the back of the pack watching and waiting for the perfect time to mount a winning charge to the front. It's going to be go time the moment the initial green flag waves in the air.
Sunday's Tums Fast Relief 500 is a major part of NASCAR's version of "the final four." It's the first of four final races before we learn who the 2011 champion will be. The race could easily have a huge impact on the Chase standings by the time it's over. Just like Talladega last weekend, Sunday in Martinsville could turn out to become a Chase maker or a Chase breaker.
THE LAS VEGAS BREAKDOWN
For decades now the Martinsville Speedway has observed a tradition of presenting their race winners with a beautiful, custom, grandfather clock. To determine which driver is going to take home the time of day in grand style, or who's going to be swallowing Tums after the race, we once again turn to the professionals from the Las Vegas based World Sports Exchange, (WSE), who has crunched some very interesting numbers for us this week.
Topping the WSE rankings this week are Jimmie Johnson, Denny Hamlin and Kevin Harvick at 6 to 1 odds. Johnson is seventh in the Chase standings, 50 points away from first, and it appears that his crash at the Charlotte race combined with a poor finish at Talladega last week has put his drive for a sixth, consecutive, title in jeopardy. Making up 50 points in four races is not impossible but it's not likely either. Johnson needs a major launching pad for his championship hopes and Martinsville may be the track. His numbers are terrific there and include six wins, 13 top five finishes, 17 top ten finishes and an outstanding average finish ratio, (AFR), of 5.6. This is the guy to watch next Sunday and to bet your money on.
Denny Hamlin, 11th in the Chase 84 points away, has pretty much endured a very frustrating season. Despite his Chase numbers, he still deserves his 6 to 1 rating from the WSE. He's a four time winner at Martinsville, including winning last year's race from the pole. He also has eight top fives, ten top tens and a very healthy AFR of 6.6 at a facility he calls his home track. There's some added momentum for Hamlin this Sunday: he's only two points from tenth in the Chase standings. The top ten drivers get stage and television time at the awards banquet in Las Vegas. It's a golden opportunity to acknowledge their sponsors during a high profile evening.
Kevin Harvick completes the 6 to 1 trio this week. After getting caught up in a multi car crash at Talladega, Harvick fell from second to fifth in the standings, 26 points away. Harvick got his first win at Martinsville last April, but it's not one of his stronger tracks. He only has two top fives and a 16.5 AFR there. However, this will be a driver on a mission this Sunday and someone worthy of a wager consideration.
Ranked at 7 to 1 by the WSE are drivers Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart. A surprise 27th place finish at Talladega has left Gordon tenth in the Chase standings and 82 points away. His drive for five championship run is now over but that doesn't mean he can't play the role of Chase spoiler and elevate his status. Gordon has outstanding numbers at Martinsville and leads the modern era drivers with seven wins there. He also has 24 top fives, 30 top tens and a great AFR of 7.0. At a facility where track position is very important, Gordon has won the pole position at Martinsville seven times. He's definitely worthy of your consideration.
Tony Stewart is a two time Martinsville winner with eight top fives and a 13.9 AFR. He will also be a man on a mission this Sunday. He's currently fourth in the Chase standings, 19 points away, and he knows very well that it's go time if he's going to win his next NASCAR title this year.
Kyle Busch is ranked 8 to 1 by the WSE for the Martinsville race. That's likely because he capable of winning any race he enters. Busch is sixth in the Chase standings, 40 points away, and he knows it's go time if he's going to be involved in a final championship profile. The problem here is the fact that his Martinsville numbers doesn't support the theory. He's still looking for his first win there and has a 15.6 AFR. There's also the matter of the so called "Chase jinx". Busch has made 46 starts, during NASCAR's Chase format, and is still looking for that first win. However, at 8 to 1, he may make an interesting long shot wager. That jinx has to end sooner or later.
At 16 to 1 odds are drivers Clint Bowyer and Carl Edwards. Bowyer will be working from the momentum of last weekend's last lap win at Talladega. But his Martinsville numbers aren't that strong. He's winless there with only one top five and a 14.7 AFR. However things could get a little interesting if Bowyer lends some form of help to Chase contender, and team mate, Kevin Harvick. This will be, of course, entirely up to him because, as we all learned this past Tuesday, "there are no team orders in NASCAR."
Series points leader Carl Edwards took a rather conservative approach to last weekend's race at Talladega and went home with his lead padded to 14 points. He may want to consider that approach again at Martinsville. He's winless there, with one top five, and a 16.9 AFR.
The WSE has drivers Dale Earnhardt Jr and Brad Keselowski ranked at 18 to 1 this week. Earnhardt's Chase status, ninth at 74 points away, may be over and done with but, if his car is handling good, he could become a possible race spoiler. He missed a win at Martinsville last April by just one lap.
Meanwhile Brad Keselowski just continues to amaze everyone. Not only did he surprise us by making the Chase line up, via the wild card system, he continues to slowly climb up the Chase ladder where he's now third and 18 points away. He has one top ten at Martinsville and a 13.7 AFR but don't be too surprised if you see him near the front on Sunday.
Looking at the WSE's lower tier for the Martinsville race Ryan Newman, 12th in the Chase standings and 88 points away, is rated at 25 to 1. Fellow Chase member Kurt Busch, eighth and 52 points away, is rated at 28 to 1. He's a former Martinsville winner but also has a 21.1 AFR.
Jeff Burton is ranked at 30 to 1 and his coming off of a strong, second place, performance at Talladega last Sunday. Matt Kenseth, second in the Chase and 14 away, is also ranked at 30 to 1. Kasey Kahne, and Red Bull Racing, comes in at 35 to 1. At 40 to 1 you will find the quartet of Greg Biffle, Mark Martin, Joey Logano and Jamie McMurray while Martin Truex Jr closes out the WSE rankings this week at 45 to 1. Any driver not listed has been ranked at 15 to 1 odds.
Now for the disclaimer: NASCAR wants us to remind you that these posted numbers should be used for information and entertainment purposes. They neither encourage nor condone the placing of wagers on their events.
(Now that was team orders !)
THE RACE BREAKDOWN
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