Race: Goody’s Fast Relief 500
Date: Sunday April 3rd, 2011
Track: Martinsville Speedway
Time: 1 pm ET
by Virginia Vroom, NASCAR Handicapper, Predictem.com
Ah, Martinsville! My favorite track, being that it is in my home state and all. That being said, we are headed into Martinsville after one heck of a wild finish at Fontana. That was one of the greatest finishes I’ve seen in a long time, with 3rd place Harvick rolling around Kyle Busch and Jimmie Johnson to get the job done.
Martinsville is a 0.526-mile oval. The banking is 12 degrees in the turns and 0 degrees on the straights. It’s a very flat track. It’s a very fast track. It’s, quite frankly, one of the most exciting races of the season. It differs from the other short tracks because of its configuration and the degree of flatness that it has compared to both Richmond and Bristol.
There have been a few dominating names in the last few years, namely Jimmie Johnson and Denny Hamlin, who has won the last 3 races here. Overall, Hamlin has 4 wins here with Johnson having a total of 6 wins. Those guys have dominated this track since 2006, with Tony Stewart being the last driver to win other than those two in 2005.
Based on what we’ve seen thus far this year, it’s pretty interesting to choose a winner here. We’ve seen Jimmie Johnson do very well at the end of the race last weekend, almost coming home with the win. Then we’ve seen him have extremely poor handling cars. We’ve seen the same with Hamlin. There’s been an inconsistency within the garage and the engine departments. The drivers aren’t necessarily to blame, so we have to consider who’s going to have the best equipment.
That being said, I think that we are going to see Johnson and Harvick contending for the win this weekend. Harvick has been consistently better on the short tracks and came from a long shot 3rd place to win last weekend. He’s proven that he a true contender for the Cup. Johnson is also going to be a contender this weekend barring any crazy circumstances. If there’s anywhere that we can see Johnson dominate and do well, it’s going to be at this track. That’s not to say that Hamlin won’t do well this weekend, but he’s got a few forces against him this time around with his equipment and the strength of the other teams starting to come out.
Other notables this weekend include Jeff Gordon, who you can never count out here, but who also needs to get his stride this year. You also always have to watch for Kyle Busch, but I think that the short track demons will get him one way or another this weekend, knocking him out of contention for the win. Another one to watch is Carl Edwards. His overall driving package is extending to success at all types of tracks, even the short ones. Edwards, albeit probably sarcastically, said that Martinsville is his favorite track last weekend in his post-race interview. We shall see how that turns out.
So, after all consideration, your winner is going to be Johnson, with Harvick, Hamlin, Gordon, and probably Kyle Busch in your top 10, if not top 5.
Here’s a look at your current top 12 in the points after Fontana:
1. Carl Edwards
2. Ryan Newman
3. Kurt Busch
4. Kyle Busch
5. Jimmie Johnson
6. Tony Stewart
7. Paul Menard
8. Juan Montoya
9. Kevin Harvick
10. Matt Kenseth
11. Kasey Kahne
12. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Another one you can never count out of the top 10 in Martinsville is Tony Stewart. He’s bound to have another solid finish here.
This race is going to be an edge-of-your-seat short track kind of race. Sit back, grab a Martinsville hotdog, and enjoy the crazy racing Sunday afternoon at Martinsville Speedway.
Virginia’s Pick to Win: Jimmie Johnson.