Race: Goody’s Headache Relief Shot 500 Powered by Kroger
Date: Sunday October 27, 2013
Track: Martinsville Speedway
Time: 1:30 pm ET
by Virginia Vroom, NASCAR Handicapper, Predictem.com
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It took us until 2 laps to go to see the “big one” happen at Talladega. That meant the race ended under caution with Jamie McMurray taking the checkers much to the dismay of a very choked-up Dale Jr. Earnhardt had set himself up to try and take the lead with 1 lap to go. Unfortunately, it was too late. McMurray powered through to the end and took it from Jr. It looked like Austin Dillon, who was driving the #14 for Tony Stewart and running behind Jr., tried to dive out of line in hopes of getting someone to go with him and power past McMurray. When he realized that no one was ready to go, Dillon tried to get back in line, getting himself loose and losing control of his #14 ride and sending him airborne after colliding with Casey Mears. Luckily, everyone involved was okay, but that certainly was not the finish that drivers or fans were looking for.
It’s disappointing to watch the entire race and have it concluded essentially 2 laps short over a late-race accident. At a track like Talladega, we always want to see the race finished under green. Maybe this is something that NASCAR can look into. If the race is 3 laps to go or under, NASCAR will call the race should a caution fly. That leaves many drivers disappointed with a missed opportunity of a classic late-race pass like what Jr. was going for in order to win. It takes away some of the strategy of driving at these restrictor plate tracks.
Regardless, we are heading from the biggest track to the ultimate of the short tracks in my home state of Virginia this weekend. Martinsville Speedway is an awesome short-track that is beloved by both drivers and fans alike. It’s a challenge for drivers, yet still provides opportunities for wins despite big setbacks. If you will remember, Jeff Gordon went 3 laps down after hitting a pothole at Martinsville, causing him to have to pit for repairs. Gordon made up all 3 laps and won that race. That just goes to show that regardless of the potential hazards, Martinsville is a track of redemption. That being said, this can also be a nightmare in terms of traffic and shear force on equipment. Brakes and tires take a beating at tracks like this. Fenders take an even bigger hit. That tends to be because Martinsville is a 0.526-mile true oval with an 800 foot front and backstretch. There is 12 degree banking in the corners, but the straights are flat. This is quite a fun track to watch. Drivers have to be cautious of tire strategy here because these short tracks tend to cause some heavy wear into and out of the corners on the Goodyears. Heavy braking into the corners doesn’t help the cause either.
When we take a look at historical winners at Martinsville, there should be one team in particular that comes to mind. From that team, there are 2 drivers that dominate. Between these 2 guys, there have been a total of 14 wins. Seven of those go to Jimmie Johnson and seven of those go to Jeff Gordon. The race from this year in the spring goes to Johnson. He lead a whopping 346 of the 500 laps and won from the pole. I am thinking that we are going to see a similar domination this Sunday. Although Jeff Gordon is strong, it’s just so hard to bet against Johnson. Gordon hasn’t been the most consistent this year, and Johnson seems to be the strongest in recent history here at Martinsville. Don’t count Gordon out, though. He still has to the potential to dominate as well, but, in my opinion, I think that Johnson will trump him on Sunday. Here’s the rundown for your potential winners this weekend:
My Pick to Win: Jimmie Johnson
Middle of the Road Pick: Kyle Busch
Dark Horse Prediction: Danica Patrick
Although not typically the best stock car driver out there, Patrick finished 12th here in the spring race. For some reason, this track seems to be good for the open wheel drivers like Montoya and Patrick. I’d go with Stenhouse Jr. just because he’s overall a better stock car driver, but he doesn’t seem to perform quite as well here as Patrick does, albeit a rare feat. Kyle Busch is always another solid pick here at Martinsville. He’s an aggressive driver, which is what this type of track requires. He’s also sitting pretty, 3rd place in the points standings. Look for Busch to try to become a factor in the 2 man Championship battle.
This weekend is also looking to shake up the points a bit. This is a track where Matt Kenseth isn’t necessarily as strong as he usually is. He finished 14th in the spring and the short tracks aren’t his best. Kenseth thrives more on the intermediates than anything. I think that he will put together a solid run, but I wouldn’t look for him to be contending for the lead for much of the race.
Here are your current top 13 after last week’s race:
1. Jimmie Johnson
2. Matt Kenseth
3. Kyle Busch
4. Kevin Harvick
5. Jeff Gordon
6. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
7. Greg Biffle
8. Clint Bowyer
9. Kurt Busch
10. Carl Edwards
11. Ryan Newman
12. Joey Logano
13. Kasey Kahne
This weekend will be interesting. Although the Championship battle seems to be between Kenseth and Johnson, this could be the place where Gordon and Busch can make up some serious points. He’s awesome while Kenseth tends to struggle somewhat, relative to his usual consistency on the bigger tracks. While Busch is 26 points behind and Gordon a total of 34 points back now, they can look at this weekend to try and close the gap. The Championship race is getting close and closer and these drivers are running out of time. Stay tuned to see if Gordon, Harvick, and Busch can make this a 5 man battle by the end of this weekend here at Martinsville Speedway!