We are now down to the last four races of the season and eight drivers who have a chance to win the Sprint Cup Championship this year. Just to show how nerve wracking this can be for the drivers, Denny Hamlin and Austin Dillon were tied in points at the end of the second round and Hamlin advanced on a tie breaker. At the same time, Martin Truex Jr. got knocked out because of a blown engine along with Brad Keselowski who had the dominant car in the race until he lost his engine and both were eliminated from the Chase.
GOODY’S FAST RELIEF 500
The first race of the third round will be held at Martinsville Speedway. This is the shortest track on the Chase schedule and the shortest track on the entire Sprint Cup schedule. This .526 mile oval also is the only track with asphalt on the straightaways and concrete through the turns. The concrete can be tough on tires and because the track is very flat it can be tough on brakes. If your car isn’t handling well you will find yourself getting lapped in a hurry here.
Another big concern is qualifying for this race. You need to qualify well here or you will find yourself almost a half of a lap down at the start of the race. Add to that, drivers and teams get to pick their pit stalls based on where they qualify and that makes a huge difference at this small track. Pit road is tight and you want to be able to select a pit that has an opening in front of it so you can get your car out quickly once service is completed.
Jimmie Johnson: With eight wins here and this team running much better during the Chase, I am going to pick Jimmie to win here once again and be the first driver to be qualified for the Championship race. He also has eighteen top five and twenty-three top ten finishes in his twenty-nine starts at this track which tells you he knows how to get around this track and how to deal with traffic here.
Denny Hamlin: Not to be outdone by much, Denny has five wins, eleven top five, and sixteen top ten finishes here in twenty-one races himself. Once again this team had a speeding penalty on pit road last weekend that could have cost him a chance at winning the championship this year. A speeding penalty under green at Martinsville means almost certain doom for any team, so they are going to have to be clean in the pits this weekend.
Jeff Gordon: Jeff is back subbing for Dale Earnhardt Jr. for the last time this season. Jeff leads all drivers with nine wins at this track. He also has twenty-nine top five and thirty-seven top ten finishes in forty-six starts at Martinsville. Even though he hasn’t run the best while he was subbing for Dale this year, Jeff is way to good at this track to leave off of your team this weekend.
Joey Logano: Joey won the race last week at Talladega to take any chance that he might get knocked out on points out of the equation. He has finished in the top five in three of his last five starts at Martinsville and has a little momentum on his side. Another top five finish this week will go a long way towards getting him qualified for the Championship race at Homestead.
Kevin Harvick: Kevin has one win at this track and has finished in the top ten here in four of his last six starts. This team looks like they are at the top of their game once again and seems to be getting better in the pits. Just before the Chase started their biggest concern was mistakes on pit road by the crew. If they have those things all straightened out they are going to be in contention for getting their title back.
Matt Kenseth: Matt is another driver that runs pretty well here on a consistent basis. He has finished in the top six in four of his last six starts here. He is one of the drivers who doesn’t need to win a race to advance most of the time because he is so calm during races and does what he needs to do to move on to the next round. I look for Matt to have another good run this weekend.
Kyle Busch: Kyle also has won a race at this track during his career and has ten top five finishes in only twenty-two starts. He has also led 374 laps here in his last four races which tells me he qualifies well and knows how to get to the front. He needs to be a bit patient here and not get on anyone’s bad side early in the race so they don’t give him payback towards the end when he is in contention to win the race.
Brad Keselowski: After being disappointed by getting knocked out of the Chase when he blew his engine at Talladega last week after being the dominant car in the race, Brad will look to win a few more races before the end of the season. He is still looking for his first win at this track where his best finish is second. He has finished in the top ten in seven of his thirteen starts here and should run well once again this weekend.
Carl Edwards: Carl is another driver looking for his first win at this track. However, Carl rarely has a car capable of winning at this track. With only one top five and six top ten finishes in his twenty-four starts, Carl needs to figure out how to run better here. He has led laps in only three of those twenty-four starts also. This is a race he needs to run well at or he will find himself in a hole as this round progresses.
Kurt Busch: Despite having won two races at this track, Kurt normally struggles here. He has only three top five and five top ten finishes in thirty-two starts here and that won’t win you a championship in the current format. He along with Carl need to figure something out in a hurry if they don’t want to find themselves in a hole points wise after the race at Martinsville.
YAHOO! FANTASY NASCAR PICKS FOR MARTINSVILLE SPEEDWAY
Yahoo Driver Group A
- Jimmie Johnson
- Denny Hamlin
Yahoo Driver Group B
- Ryan Newman
- Jamie McMurray
- Tony Stewart
- A.J. Allmendinger
Yahoo Driver Group C
- Jeff Gordon
- Chase Elliott
MY TOP-5 OVERALL AT MARTINSVILLE SPEEDWAY
- Jimmie Johnson
- Denny Hamlin
- Jeff Gordon
- Matt Kenseth
- Kyle Busch
Dark Horse: Jamie McMurray
Stay Away From: Kurt Busch
Big 18: Denny Hamlin