Race: Tums Fast Relief 500
Date: Sunday October 28, 2012
Track: Martinsville Speedway
Time: 1pm ET
By Virginia Vroom, NASCAR Handicapper, Predictem.com
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Exciting news! Jr. is back this weekend as we head into Martinsville for the Tums Fast Relief 500 and for one of the final races of the Chase! This is great news for NASCAR and for the fans. As you may be aware, Jr. missed the last 2 races due to complications from multiple concussions. One of them occurred during a tire test at Kansas and the other occurred at Talladega. Because of that, Regan Smith has been driving the number 88 for Jr. and doing his best to get as many points as possible. Although Smith is truly a talent, he still needs a significant amount of seat time to race up front with the veterans. That being said, Jr. is seated in 12th place now and is more than likely just going to race to win regardless of the Chase.
Last weekend, we saw Kenseth take home the win at Kansas in a race that had a total of 14 cautions. The drivers described the track as “stupid fast” if that gives you any idea how fast they were rolling around the newly resurfaced speedway. This track is a stark contrast from where we are headed this weekend. Martinsville is the epitome of short track racing. It is the track many say will be the game changer of the Chase. Martinsville is a place where boys will be boys and if you come home without any donuts on your doors, then you were doing something wrong.
Martinsville Speedway is a 0.526-mile oval track with 12 degrees in the turns and 0 degrees on the straights. It has an even 800 feet on both the frontstretch and backstretch. This track is flat and fast. We definitely aren’t going to be seeing these guys going 180 mph, but just imagine driving around a 0.526-mile track at over 100 mph. Those 800 feet go by really fast.
When those laps are being put down so fast, the most important thing here is to get in and get out of pit road. That needs to be done without hitting any other drivers, any other crew members, and also without making any mistakes in the box. It is very easy to get lapped here. That’s not to say that drivers can’t get those laps back pretty quickly, but they need to understand that there are going to be many lap cars and staying on the lead lap is easier said than done. If the crews are smooth, the drivers have a much better chance of staying out front.
There are quite a few drivers that are awesome at this track. When we look at Martinsville, we have to throw Tony Stewart, Jeff Gordon, Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch, and Jimmie Johnson. Those are the ones to watch. I would count on Hamlin taking the win this weekend though. He’s got 4 wins here. Not to overshadow Johnson’s 6 wins, but Hamlin seems to be a little more driven right now. Although Johnson is 2nd in points, he hasn’t really been the dominating Jimmie from years past. I think that Hamlin is going to push a little harder this weekend and come out with the win. That’s not to say that Johnson won’t give him a run for his money. Definitely don’t count him out, but I think that overall, Hamlin will edge out to get the checkers. Here’s a rundown of your potential winners for the weekend:
My Pick to Win the Tums Fast Relief 500: Denny Hamlin
Middle of the Road Pick: Jeff Burton
Dark Horse Pick: A.J. Allmendinger
Burton is from Emporia, which is just a couple of hours from his home track here at Martinsville. He’s going to have a lot of support if nothing else. Allmendinger had a very strong run going at Kansas with a great car, driving for James Finch before having tire problems and eventually wrecking the ride. It looks like he’s back with the #51 for Martinsville, and I expect him to have another strong run here also.
Let’s take a look at the current top 12 in points coming out of Kansas:
1. Brad Keselowski
2. Jimmie Johnson
3. Denny Hamlin
4. Clint Bowyer
5. Kasey Kahne
6. Martin Truex Jr.
7. Tony Stewart
8. Jeff Gordon
9. Matt Kenseth
10. Kevin Harvick
11. Greg Biffle
12. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Johnson is a mere 7 points behind Keselowski and I think that Martinsville will give him a good shot at taking over the lead this weekend. Hamlin is still in the running just 20 points behind Keselowski, and he’s definitely expected to have a great shot this weekend. Outside of the top 5, we really can’t count on anyone making big moves towards the top. There are not enough races for them to make up ground now. Stay tuned for an exciting day of short track racing where the points will surely move around as much as these guys will on the track!
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