Race: STP 500
Date: Sunday March 30, 2014
Track: Martinsville Speedway
Time: 1 pm ET
by Virginia Vroom, NASCAR Handicapper, Predictem.com
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This, my friends, is my favorite race of the year! I am a bit partial, as it’s a track in my home state, but Martinsville is just an awesome race. Coming off a great finish at Auto Club, a short track is sure to keep the racing close and the tempers hot. Kyle Busch is coming into this weekend after his win, hoping to make it 2 in a row for the first time out of any driver so far this season. Martinsville is our 6th race of the season and will not disappoint.
Auto Club is a huge track with speeds upward of 200 mph. This weekend, we are slowing it way down as we go into the paperclip track of Martinsville Speedway. This is some of the best short track racing, if not the best, in my humble opinion. While Bristol is always a great race, it seems like there’s a little more action at Martinsville these days. I’m not sure if it’s because the configuration has changed at Bristol or what, but Martinsville just brings out some fantastic driving. It’s a track where tires are important and brakes are optimal! We saw huge issues with tires last weekend at Auto Club, which was a change from the previous years. It seems like the compounds in the tires are being made so that the racing is a bit more competitive. It’s going to be a chore again this weekend to keep those tires clean along with the fenders.
This track is a 0.526 mile oval, or more accurately, shaped like a paperclip. There is 12 degree banking through the turns with no banking on the straights. Both the front stretch and backstretch boast 800 feet. The track is overall pretty flat when it comes down to it. It’s not as flat as Richmond, but it’s certainly not as banked as Bristol. Our short tracks on this circuit are all pretty cool because they are unique. There’s not any short track the same, unlike a lot of the intermediates that are frequently “cookie-cutter” tracks.
Let’s take a look at our potential winners this weekend. I’m pretty solid on this pick. Jeff Gordon is going to be the one to beat this weekend. He’s top dog at Martinsville. If there’s any track that he is going to win, this is it. He is coming off a heartbreaking loss last weekend, where he was so close to a win and a spot in the Chase but lost it due to a late race caution that cost him too many spots. That’s the place where Gordon has a lot of work to do. He will be the first one to tell anyone that restarts are his weakest point. We will have to see if he’s really improved this weekend. Here’s the full rundown for your potential winners this weekend at Martinsville Speedway:
My Pick to Win the STP 500: Jeff Gordon
Middle of the Road Pick: Jamie McMurray
Dark Horse Prediction: Kyle Larson
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If you watched the race last Sunday, you saw a the next big star having his breakout moment. Kyle Larson just may have a win this year in his rookie season. He probably could have come out with the win by pitting Kyle Busch, but he was too smart to take that risk just yet. He ran an awesome race and ended end clean, which is a tough thing to do when a victory is within reach. Look for him to really be at the top of his game coming into this weekend’s race. Jamie McMurray is also another one to watch here at Martinsville. He finished both races last year in the top 10 and runs really well at Martinsville virtually every time he shows up. His team has produced good speed so far in almost all races this season too. When we take a look at his move in the points, he jumped 4 positions to 12th place after his finish at Auto Club Speedway.
Here are your current top 16 after last week’s race:
1. Carl Edwards
2. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
3. Jeff Gordon
4. Brad Keselowski
5. Matt Kenseth
6. Jimmie Johnson
7. Kyle Busch
8. Ryan Newman
9. Austin Dillon
10. Joey Logano
11. Denny Hamlin
12. Jamie McMurray
13. Brian Vickers
14. Paul Menard
15. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
16. Kyle Larson
Kyle Larson made his way into the top 16, moving 6 positions after his runner-up finish at Auto Club. That was the biggest move in the top 16 this week. As with Bristol, look for Martinsville to really test the abilities of these rookies. Short tracks, in general, tend to be a challenge for the rookies. There are too many personalities and tempers on the track at one time for anyone to come out with clean door panels or fenders, let alone rookies with untouched cars. Look for Martinsville to be a challenge for the veterans and rookies alike. Also, look for Martinsville to be an overall awesome race for the fans! It never disappoints!