One of the oldest tracks on the Cup circuit, Martinsville Speedway opened as a half-mile dirt track in 1947 with only 750 seats. The track hosted one of 8 races held in the 1949 "Strictly Stock" series which eventually became the NASCAR Cup series. Today, Martinsville seats 91,000 and has 25 corporate suites. The Virginia track, paved in 1955, is a flat paperclip shaped half-mile oval, which is tough on drivers, brakes and sheet metal. Most of the passing is done by shoving someone out of your way. This usually causes some payback, but that's racin' on a short track. Since it doesn't take long before the leaders catch the end of the field, they're coming up on some cars that don't want to go down a lap. That's when it really gets hairy. These guys at the rear are usually not handling very well already, but now they'll overdrive the cars to stay ahead of the leaders. Martinsville is a lot different from the half-mile Bristol Motor Speedway, which is high-banked and totally concrete. Martinsville is flatter, with longer 800-foot asphalt straights, and a concrete surface, added in 1976, throughout the turns. At .526 miles, it is also Sprint Cup's shortest track.September 25, 1949:
Curtis Turner, in his No. 41 Frank Christian-owned 1949 Oldsmobile, led a field of 15 cars to the green flag of the 1949 Strictly Stock race on the ½ mile dirt oval track. Turner led 18 laps and finished 9th. Red Byron started the No. 22 Parks Novelty Oldsmobile 3rd in the lineup, led 97 of the 200 lap race, and finished 3 laps ahead of 2nd place, Lee Petty. Byron earned $1,500 for the win. He won 2 races in the 8-race season and became the 1949 series champion.March 28, 2010:
The weather didn't cooperate for the start of the 2010 Goody's Fast Pain Relief 500. It was postponed until Monday, March 29th, due to rain. Kevin Harvick
, the pole-sitter, led 63 laps before having brake problems on the No. 29 Chevrolet. After repairs, he returned and finished 100 laps down in 35th place. His teammate, No. 31-Jeff Burton
, paced the field for 140 laps but had a tire go down while running 3rd. He hit the wall and finished 20th. Denny Hamlin
19th in the lineup, led a race-high 195 laps, and won his second consecutive race at Martinsville. This was the No. 11 Toyota driver's 3rd career win in his home state.October 24, 2010:
The 'players' in the 2010 Tums Fast Relief 500 were the same as in the March 2010 race. Kevin Harvick
(No. 29) led 97 laps and finished 3rd and teammate, Jeff Burton
(No. 31) led a race-high 134 laps and finished 9th. Denny Hamlin
led only 40 laps but the most important ones. He put the No. 11 Toyota on the pole and was there at the end for the victory. It was Hamlin's 3rd consecutive win at Martinsville and career 4th at the track. Your fantasy game won't allow you to pick all track favorites so Mid-Pack Attack is here to help. A mid-packer may not win the race but has as good a shot at a top 15 finish as track favorites Kyle Busch, Jeff Gordon, Denny Hamlin, Jimmie Johnson and Tony Stewart. There were 45 cars on the preliminary entry list for this weekend's Cup race. Here are our picks for Sunday's Goody's Fast Relief 500 in Ridgeway, Virginia.Mid-Pack picksPicking track favorites is tough enough at the unpredictable short track, but picking mid-packers should be done with a dart board and a blindfold. Now that the top 15 in points is starting to get a little more stable, Mid-Pack Attack returns to its practice of not picking track favorites or any drivers currently in the top 15 in driver points. All that being said, here are our best guesses for this weekend.Joey Logano
is ranked 1st in NASCAR Statistics 'Quality Passes' (passing while running in the top 15) category. Logano made 150 QP's in his four Sprint Cup starts at Martinsville. He has an average finish of 13.0 for those races (6.7 for the last three). Only track favorites Hamlin and Johnson have scored more championship points in the last three Martinsville races. In this race last year, Logano spent 95% of the time (483 laps) in the top 15, averaged an 11th place running position and finished 2nd to teammate Hamlin. This is great week to add Logano to your roster.
As noted above, in the last two starts at Martinsville, Jeff Burton
led a ton of laps (140 in March 2010 and 134 last October). His overall average finish is a 14.6 for 33 starts. Throw away his March 2010 race, where he blew a tire while running 3rd with only 8 laps to go, and his average finish is an 11th place for 7 out of the last 8 races held at this track. In the October 2010 race, not only did he lead 134 laps, he spent 484 laps running in the top 15 and finished 9th. We like the South Boston, Virginia driver's chances this week.Jamie McMurray
qualifies well at Martinsville Speedway. He has a 14.6 average in 16 Martinsville starts. His finishes are also pretty respectable at the half-mile oval. He picked up four top 11 finishes in the last six starts. NASCAR Statistics loop data shows McMurray as tied for the lead with Ryan Newman
(2nd in points) in their "Closers" (improving positions in the last 10 percent of the race) category. Over the last 12 races held at the speedway, he and Newman gained 27 spots each near the end of those races. McMurray is worth a gamble for your fourth or fifth driver.
We're going deep this week with a driver who has been almost invisible this season. Brad Keselowski
has a best finish so far of 15th at Phoenix but he did well last year in both Martinsville races. They were his first two Cup races here and he finished 12th and 10th. He has not led a lap yet but he ran 289 laps in the top 15 in those two events. Sitting 23rd in the driver standings, Keselowski is probably a reasonable buy in salary cap games. If you're looking for a sleeper to round out your roster, go with our 'dart board guess' of the week.