MARTINSVILLE, Va. (October 11, 2010) – Four races into the Chase for the Sprint Cup there are still at least a half-dozen drivers with a legitimate chance at winning the championship. And for at least four of them, Martinsville Speedway and the TUMS Fast Relief 500 on October 24 could be where they make their big move.
When the checkered flag waved at Auto Club Speedway Sunday, Tony Stewart had the victory and made a big jump in the Chase standings to fifth, Jimmie Johnson had retained his Chase lead and Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick and Jeff Gordon had remained solidly in the hunt.
With just one race to go before the TUMS Fast Relief 500, Hamlin is just 36 points behind Johnson. Harvick is 54 points back and Gordon trails the leader by 85 points. Stewart moved from 10th to fifth with the win and is 107 points in arrears.
And while Johnson has been dominant at Martinsville Speedway the past few years, Hamlin, Harvick, Gordon and Stewart all have to be excited about the only short-track stop in the Chase.
Hamlin is the defending champion of the TUMS Fast Relief 500 and also captured the Goody’s Fast Pain Relief 500 on the half-mile oval last spring. He ended a three-race win streak by Johnson in the spring of 2008 and has won three of the last five Martinsville Cup races.
While it has been a few years since Gordon won at Martinsville, he leads all active drivers with seven Martinsville victories. He was third here in the spring and fifth last fall.
Stewart has a couple of Martinsville wins to his credit and has momentum on his side after winning in California Sunday. Even though he is more than 100 points behind with five races remaining in the Chase, he thinks he’s got a good shot at picking up a third Sprint Cup championship.
“We’re doing everything we can do,” said Stewart, who disliked Martinsville’s tight layout early in his career, but since has developed quite a fondness for it. “We’re going to need some help, but we’re doing everything we can do. I’m proud of these guys, and just so thankful … they refuse to give up, they refuse to back down. We’ll just keep doing what we’re doing here.”
Then there’s Harvick who sits 54 points behind Johnson. He was reared in California, but these days he calls Martinsville Speedway his home track, living just over a half-hour away. He hasn’t won a Cup race at Martinsville, but has a couple of NASCAR Camping World Truck Series wins here along with a Nationwide Series victory.
“I love racing at Martinsville. I get to sleep in my own bed and just have to go a few miles up the road. That makes life a lot easier, ” Harvick said recently. “There’s something about the place I’ve always liked. It’s a place like where we all got started, a short track. There’s always a lot of beating and banging there. And though we haven’t won, I think we’ve gotten better and better there.”
Tickets for the TUMS Fast Relief 500 begin at $25 and range to $77.
Tickets to the Kroger 200 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race on October 23 are $30 in advance, with children 12 and under admitted free.
Tickets for Farm Bureau Insurance Pole Day, which features practice and qualifying for both the Kroger 200 and the TUMS Fast Relief 500, are $15, children 12 and under admitted free.
Tickets for all events may be purchased by calling 1.877.RACE.TIX or by visiting www.martinsvillespeedway.com online.