The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series heads to Martinsville Speedway this weekend for the first race in the Round of 8. The track has been a part of the Playoffs since its inception in 2004. Five times the driver who won this race has gone on to claim the championship trophy.
But did you know there’s only a 15.38 percent chance that a non-Playoff driver will win on Sunday? It’s only happened twice, with victories by Jeff Gordon in 2005 and Dale Earnhardt Jr. in 2014.
Martin Truex Jr. continues to dominate the Playoffs with his victory at Talladega, his sixth on 1.5-mile tracks and the most in NASCAR history. However, his performance at Martinsville tells another story.
Did you know that Truex has only two top-five finishes at Martinsville in 23 starts? Only one other driver (Ryan Blaney) in the Playoffs has a worse driver rating at the half-mile track. Truex’s 75.1 rating ranks him at only 17th-best in the series. The good news is that the next stop in the Round of 8 is Texas Motor Speedway, another 1.5-mile track. Martinsville could be a track where those 69 Playoff points will come in handy.
At the other end of the spectrum is defending race winner Jimmie Johnson. The Hendrick Motorsports driver has the series-best driver rating of 116.9 at “The Paperclip.” Did you know that out of the 13 Playoff events held at Martinsville, Johnson has won six of them? He leads all active drivers with nine Martinsville victories and has three poles, 19 top fives and 24 top 10s. After barely making it through to the Round of 8, this could be his best chance at redemption and his ticket to the finale at Homestead-Miami.
Denny Hamlin is currently sixth in the championship standings but he may be hitting his stride at the perfect time and place. In the last three races, he has three top six results including a fourth at Charlotte, sixth at Talladega and a fifth-place finish at Kansas. But, did you know he has captured the checkered flag five times at Martinsville, second only to Johnson, among active drivers? Hamlin travels to his home track with the second-best driver rating (106.6), 12 top fives, 17 top 10s and three poles.
Kyle Busch is second in the standings despite a disappointing showing in the previous round with finishes of 29th, 27th and 10th. With the third-best driver rating (101.3) at Martinsville, one victory, 12 top fives and one pole he should be able to get his season back on track and contend for more wins. Did you know that in his past four starts at the short track, he has finished fifth or better?
Brad Keselowski won the spring race at Martinsville in his No. 2 Team Penske Ford. He has five top fives, nine top 10s, a 12.9 average finish and the fifth-best driver rating at the track. With a season sweep, he can secure his spot in the Championship 4. But he may have his work cut out for him. Did you know that only two manufacturers have won Playoff races at Martinsville? Chevrolet has captured 11 wins while Toyota entries have won twice.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. will be making his last start at Martinsville as he nears the end of his full-time Cup career. The No.88 Chevrolet will feature one of his favorite paint schemes, the Grey Ghost. His season has been unremarkable so far with only seven top 10s but did you know that three of those top 10s have come in the last four races? While he’s undoubtedly a long shot at best, he heads to the Virginia track with the fourth-best driver rating. In the last 12 races at Martinsville, he has one win, five top-five finishes and seven top 10s. Earnhardt has nothing to lose as he attempts to add another grandfather clock to his collection.
Tune in to all the action at Martinsville Speedway as the Playoffs resume Sunday at 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN. In the meantime, check out the video below, ‘The history of NASCAR at Martinsville Speedway.’