STP Gas Booster 500 Picks

Race: STP Gas Booster 500
Date: Sunday April 7th, 2013
Track: Martinsville Speedway
Time: 1 pm ET
by Virginia Vroom, NASCAR Handicapper,

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I hope everyone had a great Easter weekend! I know I sure did, but I am ready to get back to racing already. It seems like this season just started and we are already taking breaks!

California proved to be more exciting than usual in my opinion. We had the Stewart-Logano feud following into the Auto Club race. It only got better from there. Logano threw a block on Stewart late in the race, causing Stewart to lose the position. We have other drivers like Ryan Newman publicly calling it a “chicken” move. Newman may be a little biased being that he is a Stewart-Haas driver. In my opinion, Stewart is one of the kings of blocking. And dare you call Kyle Busch a chicken for blocking, as he’s one of the sports best. Blocking is all part of the game. Unfortunately, when it doesn’t work in someone’s favor, tempers seem to flare. NASCAR made the right call by not penalizing the drivers for their harsh words and tempers after the race. Bill France said that they are going to let drivers handle their business how they see fit, short of actually causing physical harm.

We are heading to Martinsville this Sunday. This is a personal favorite, as it is in my home state. While we also have Richmond, Martinsville is an even smaller track with more challenges. We tend to see more green flag racing and more space between the drivers at RIR. At Martinsville, these guys are door to door and fender to fender throughout the entire track.

The track is just over a half-mile. It’s known as a “paper-clip” shaped oval track. The frontstretch and backstretch are 800 feet while the turns boast 588 feet. There is 11 degree banking in all turns with no banking on the stretches. It makes this track particularly tough on momentum and speed. Drivers have to brake hard into the turns and nail the gas coming out of the corners to get around this place.


When we take a look at potential winners this weekend, there are a couple of drivers that absolutely have to be mentioned. I am risking getting stoned for continuing to mention his win record, but Jimmie Johnson is of course the best active driver out of the field. He averages a 5.55 finish here with 7 total wins and 19 top 10 finishes. Teammate Jeff Gordon is also a contender with 7 wins here, although his average finish is slightly worse at 7.08. For driver Denny Hamlin, he’s not far behind Gordon with an average finish of 7.69.

This is the track he also considers his home track; however, Hamlin suffered a pretty hard wreck at California involving Joey Logano. He ended up fracturing his lower back and is looking to miss out on at least 5 races this season if not more. That being said, the Hendrick team is strongest here. I am going with Jimmie Johnson this weekend with Kyle Busch tagging along in a close second. He is a fireball when it comes to short tracks. Pending equipment failures and temper problems, Busch should have a strong performance. Here’s the breakdown for your winners this weekend:

Winner: Jimmie Johnson
Middle of the Road Pick: Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Dark Horse Pick: Jamie McMurray

Dale Jr. surprisingly has a great record here at Martinsville. He may not be who you think would be at the top, but in all short tracks, this is definitely his best one. Additionally, he’s a Hendrick driver and that team connection really helps with knowledge and setup when you’re here at Martinsville. Jamie McMurray is a driver to watch here. He seems to be pretty strong here while maintaining a solid top 10 run in most Martinsville races. He generally runs up front at some point. Look for him to sneak up towards the front of the pack during the race.

Here’s a complete rundown of your top 12 after the race at Auto Club:

1. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
2. Brad Keselowski
3. Jimmie Johnson
4. Carl Edwards
5. Greg Biffle
6. Kyle Busch
7. Kasey Kahne
8. Paul Menard
9. Joey Logano
10. Denny Hamlin
11. Matt Kenseth
12. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

Stay tuned this weekend for a great short track race. If you are lucky enough to be at Martinsville, eat a famous hot dog or two for me! They are famous for a reason, trust me! Sit back and enjoy the thrill of some good ‘ole Virginia short track racing.