What more fitting of a facility than Martinsville Speedway to travel to on this Halloween weekend. Martinsville Speedway has been known to create some very wild and down-right ere finishes.
[media-credit name=”Barry Albert” align=”alignright” width=”225″][/media-credit]Known for their extraordinary culinary excellence in the field of Hot Dogs, Martinsville is a popular destination for 70,000+ NASCAR fans each spring and fall. I have not yet had the pleasure of visiting Martinsville Speedway, but it is one of those classic tracks that I would like to visit in the near future.
We go from the largest track on the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series schedule (Talladega at 2.66 miles), to the shortest (0.526) this weekend in Southern Virginia. Being built in 1947 by H. Clay Earles, the first NASCAR sanctioned event was held at Martinsville Speedway on Independence Day of 1948. NASCAR has continued to visit the half-mile paper clip ever since. It is the only racetrack that has remained on the NASCAR circuit since its beginning in 1948, so yes there is quite a bit of racing history in Henry County, Va.
Its slight 12-degrees of banking in the corners makes passing a bit difficult without the use of the front-bumper. Jumping off the bottom groove and into the top-lane could cost you two, three, and sometimes even four positions. It’s a one groove racetrack that is fun to watch, but could be a driver’s worst nightmare this Halloween weekend.
The 2011 Chase for the Sprint Cup is not being very kind to me as a sports guru that is supposed to know what he’s talking about. After the first 6 races of The Chase, my winner picks have a combined average finish of 19.6, I have two Top-5’s thrown in that mix as well. It’s not every day that a Long Shot finishes in front of the favorite…(unless you happen to be my Dark Horse of the week).
My Dark Horses have fared a bit better in the grand scheme of things, finishing on average 3.3 spots better than my winner picks. So, I may have this Dark Horse thing down, but may be the curse of many Championship hopefuls currently fighting for that Driver’s Championship.
Last week, I threw all my eggs in one team’s basket and came out a loser. I threw my eggs in the Richard Childress Racing basket last week, but happened to pick the wrong drafting tandem in the end. As we all know, picking the right team results in nothing but a “coulda, woulda, shoulda” outcome.
I was a curse to my Winner Pick last week in Alabama…
Kevin Harvick and his teammate Paul Menard were the two fastest cars last week in NASCAR’s EFI testing at Talladega Superspeedway. That fact didn’t help me out when it came down to the Good Sam Club 500 last Sunday.
The tandem were a dominating force for more than 100 laps, and on a number of occasions dropped back in the field to avoid the mess at the front of the field but quickly powered their way back to the front, showing the power of their Chevrolets. With help from Menard on his rear bumper, Harvick was able to lead the field on 6 occasions for a total of 13 laps.
On lap 104, disaster struck with my Winner Pick, Menard in tail of course, when a slue of cars started spinning and wrecking directly in front of the No. 29 Jimmy John’s Chevrolet. The wreck collected Harvick, running all chances for me to get a win. Harvick limped home 32nd, and left my Dark Horse Pick, Paul Menard without a dancing partner.
Menard’s help would come in the way of Australian native, Marcos Ambrose. The tango of Menard and Amrbose systematically picked their way through the field for 80 or so laps until the final restart. It was then when Menard paired with fellow Chevrolet driver, Tony Stewart to run the final 3 laps of the Good Sam Club 500 nose-to-tail. The two scrambled to finish strong, but Menard would be the 6th pusher of the field, coming home in 12th place.
There’s one guy I think of when I think Martinsville, and that’s Virginia-native, Denny Hamlin. Hamlin has finished outside the Top-10 just twice in the last 12 races at the paper clip, and that race being this April in the Goody’s Fast Pain Relief 500. Before his 12th place finish in April, Hamlin had won the prior three races at Martinsville, a track where he loves to race.
Hamlin is a bit of a forgotten Chase driver, but really could make a statement in his 13th visit to Martinsville Speedway. The driver of the No. 11 FedEx Toyota has a .333 win percentage at Martinsville, with all four victories coming in the Car of Tomorrow.
“It’s such a short race track that when you find a technique that works for you where you pick up a little time, that’s what you do,” Hamlin said Friday. “No matter what vehicle you’re running. Aero and horsepower don’t mean much – it’s more about how you technically drive around it and how good the car is. Rules changes don’t matter, whether it’s a wing, a spoiler, the Car of Tomorrow or the car of yesterday. Those same techniques work. That’s why you see the same guys running up front. It’s their technique and what works for them.”
Dark Horse Pick
Going out on a limb with this pick, I’m going with a guy that might be overlooked when it comes to Short Track racing.
Juan Montoya is a guy that might be overlooked on every track but Infineon and Watkins Glen. He started 27th in April, and drove his No. 42 Earnhardt Ganassi Racing Chevrolet to 4th when the checkered flag flew.
His average finish isn’t too shabby for a Short Track at 13.9, but with no practice sessions today in Southern Virginia, I have nothing but past stats to guide my picks. Both of Montoya’s career Top-5’s on Short Tracks have been at Martinsville Speedway, and I think he has the finesse (and front bumper) it takes to finish strong at the paper clip. He has also finished 97.6% of all the laps run at Martinsville since his first start in 2007.
The No. 42 Target Chevrolet team will bring Chassis #1110 to Martinsville, the same Chassis that aided Montoya to a 4th place finish, overcoming his 27th place starting spot. Chassis #1110 also started 31st in September at New Hampshire and finished in 9th. This chassis knows how to work through traffic.
That’s it for this week so until next time, You Stay Classy NASCAR NATION!!