NASCAR Martinsville Sprint Cup Preview
Now add the patience draining element of 36 full sized NASCAR stock cars running 500 laps on this paper clip and you've got the makings of a full afternoon of racing is rubbing. With Martinsville playing such a pivotal role in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Chase for the Championship, the question remains: will a Chase contender get paper clipped this Sunday?
THE LAS VEGAS BREAKDOWN
Since 1964, the Martinsville Speedway has observed the tradition of presenting its race winners with one of the most unique trophies of all: a custom made grandfather clock. To get an accurate idea regarding which driver will take home the time of day this Sunday, we again turn to the number crunching professionals from the Las Vegas based World Sports Exchange, (WSE).
To no real surprise, the WSE has listed drivers Denny Hamlin and Jimmie Johnson at the top of their Martinsville rankings and they're backing that with 4 to 1 odds. Ranked third in the championship standings, and only 20 points out of first, Denny Hamlin has some very strong numbers at Martinsville that includes four wins, nine top five finishes and 12 top ten finishes along with a very healthy 6.4 average finish ratio, (AFR), in 14 starts. There's also a personal sense of momentum here. Hamlin's family home is just a few miles away and he would love to collect another grandfather clock from his home track.
Johnson has 21 starts on the paper clip and will be bringing some driver stats to Sunday's race that are simply too strong to be ignored. The five time NASCAR champion has six wins, 14 top fives, 18 top tens and a series high 5.8 AFR. Johnson is ranked second in the championship standings just a mere seven points out of first. It's clearly evident that Johnson and his team are in the championship mode both on and off the track. They are displaying the same confidence and performance levels that led them to their five, consecutive, championships. Make no mistake about it: Jimmie Five Time is looking to become Jimmie Six Pack.
Four time NASCAR champion Jeff Gordon is ranked by the WSE at 7 to 1. That's a good call that makes this driver a solid wager consideration. Gordon also has strong numbers at Martinsville that includes a series high seven wins, 25 top fives, 31 top tens and a very strong 7.1 AFR.
At 9 to 1 odds you will find Tony Stewart who also is worthy of a wager consideration at Martinsville where he has three wins, nine top fives, 15 top tens and a decent 13.2 AFR. Stewart, by the way, is the defending race champion. He also holds the track qualifying record, 98,083 MPH, set back in October of 2005.
At 10 to 1 is the duo of Brad Keselowski and Kyle Busch. Keselowski is the current points leader but may need to consider the concept of points racing this Sunday. That's because his Martinsville numbers really aren't that strong. He only has a pair of top tens at the paper clip along with a 13.4 AFR. His mission on Sunday will likely be do whatever's necessary to remain the points leader when the race is over.
Meanwhile Kyle Busch could very well play the role of Chase spoiler at Martinsville even though his numbers there doesn't support the theory. He's still seeking his first win at the track but does have six top fives and seven top tens. However his Martinsville AFR, at 17.7, is a little on the high side. There's also the matter of some hard feelings with driver Ryan Newman that emerged during last week's race at Kansas. It seems that both drivers feels like they owe each other a little payback and Martinsville is a very good place to settle debts.
It's the WSE's 11 to 1 ranking that's going to make NASCAR fans cheer the loudest. After sitting out the last two races to recuperate from dual concussions, Dale Earnhardt Jr is back behind the wheel of his #88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet. NASCAR's most popular driver is still seeking his first win at Martinsville but does have ten top fives, 14 top tens and a decent 12.6 AFR. He's also reputed to very good at short track racing and could make an interesting long shot wager.
Turning to the WSE middle tier rankings, the 12 to 1 slot certainly garners a great deal of interest. That's where you will find drivers Clint Bowyer and Kasey Kahne. In his first year with Michael Waltrip Racing, Clint Bowyer has been having a dream debut season. He's currently fourth in the standings and, despite being 25 points away, is still regarded as a championship contender. In previous efforts he has one top five, seven top tens and a 14.7 AFR at Martinsville. If Bowyer is going to gain some ground on the three drivers ahead of him in the points, he going to need some help from them, as in the top three experiencing some form of unexpected difficulty during Sunday's race.
Kasey Kahne is also going to need some help to improve on his status as a Chase title contender. He's currently fifth in the points and, at 30 points away, his title hopes are also treading a little water. Unfortunately, his Martinsville numbers are not that strong. He has one top five, a pair of top tens along with a rather high 21.7 AFR.
Looking now at the lower tier of the WSE's rankings, Kevin Harvick is ranked at 15 to 1 and is a previous winner at Martinsville. He also has three top fives, ten top tens and a decent 16.0 AFR at the paper clip.
At 20 to 1 you will find the tandem of Martin Truex Jr and Ryan Newman. Truex has a pair of top fives and a rather high 21.4 at Martinsville. Newman scored his first win at the track this past April and has also accumulated seven top fives, 11 top tens along with a decent 13.7 AFR.
Roush Fenway team mates Matt Kenseth and Carl Edwards are rated at 30 to 1 while the third Roush driver, Greg Biffle, comes in at 40 to 1 this week. Closing the WSE Martinsville rankings, also at 40 to 1, are drivers Joey Logano and Brian Vickers. If you do not see the name of your favorite drivers on the list that means they are ranked under the category of "all others" at 8 to 1 odds.
Now for the disclaimer: NASCAR wants to remind you that these numbers should be viewed for informational and entertainment purposes only. They neither encourage or condone the placing of wagers on their events. However for you fans who are thinking about placing a bet, and some of you probably already have, you're going to need the help of the professional number crunchers from the WSE because with 43 cars racing on a half mile asphalt/concrete oval that's shaped like a paper clip, literally anything can happen.
THE RACE BREAKDOWN
Sunday's Tums Fast Relief 500 is 500 laps/263 miles around the Martinsville Speedway's 0.526 mile oval.
The race has 45 entries vying for the 43 starting positions. Ten of those entries are on the go or go home list meaning they are not guaranteed an automatic starting berth in the race because they are currently outside of NASCAR's top 35 in owner's points. These ten teams will have to rely on qualifying speeds to earn a starting berth in the race.
The Martinsville Speedway has a storied history that began with its official opening back in 1947 as a dirt track. It's now regarded as one of the oldest, continually operated, race tracks in the nation. The track was paved in 1955. The four corners of the speedway were covered in concrete in 1976. The Martinsville Speedway currently has grandstand seating for 61,000 fans.
While the Martinsville Speedway is widely regarded as one of the most challenging race tracks in the country, so is the speedway's pit road. The pit road stalls are very narrow measuring 14 feet wide by 28 feet long. Pit road speed is a very slow 30 MPH.
The first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race was held at Martinsville in September of 1949 and was won by the legendary Red Byron. Since that time there has been 127 NASCAR Sprint Cup events at Martinsville that has sent 47 different winners to victory lane. NASCAR Hall of Fame member Richard Petty tops the Martinsville win list and owns 15 of those beautiful grandfather clocks. Jeff Gordon tops the win list for active drivers with seven wins. Petty Enterprises tops the Martinsville team win list with 19, but Hendrick Motorsports is right behind them with 18 trips to victory lane.
The weather could become a factor this weekend. Saturday's forecast calls for cloudy skies, 71 degrees, and a 30% chance of showers. The forecast for Sunday, race day, is a much cooler 60 degrees under cloudy skies and a 30% chance of rain. If needed, the Martinsville Speedway has a fleet of four jet dryers that can dry the one half mile oval in approximately 90 minutes.
The Tums Fast Relief 500 will be broadcast live by the ESPN network beginning at 1 pm eastern time. Race replays will be Monday morning, 12 am eastern, on ESPN2 and on Wednesday, October 31st, at 12 pm on SPEED.
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