The NASCAR Sprint Cup series moves to Martinsville Speedway for the sixth race of the 2012 season, the Goody’s Fast Relief 500. Brian Brown took a look at past performances, season trends, and spoke with NASCAR contacts to predict how the field should finish on Sunday.
When: Sunday, April 1, 2012; 1:13 p.m./et.
Weather: Mostly sunny with a high around 76; wind out of the NNW at 4 mph. There is a 20% chance of precipitation.
The Track: The Half Mile Paperclip
Martinsville Speedway is a half mile paperclip shaped track with intermediate 12 degree banking on the turns. It is a smaller version of New Hampshire Motor Speedway so teams often use the same car and a similar setup at both tracks. Drivers that are successful at NHMS often run well at Martinsville.
Key to Race: LOOK OUT FOR THE HENDRICK BOYS
Hendrick Motorsports and Denny Hamlin have dominated Martinsville lately. Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson Tony Stewart, and Denny Hamlin have combined to win 12 of the last 15 races at the track. If it isn't a member of this foursome taking the checkers we will be surprised.
45 cars will attempt to qualify for 43 spots. Cars not in the top 35 in the current 2012 owner point standings will have to qualify based on speed. Starting positions 1-43 will be determined by qualifying on Saturday, March 31 at 11:35 pm/et.
Fantasy Cheat Sheet:
No. 11 Denny Hamlin: Hamlin has 11 top 10 finishes in 14 career starts at Martinsville. He won three of the past five races at the track and is our favorite to the Hendrick Boys for the win.
No. 48 Jimmie Johnson: Johnson has won five of the past 11 races at Martinsville. We expect the No. 48 team could be headed back to Victory Lane to claim yet another of Martinsville’s Grandfather Clocks.
No. 14 Tony Stewart: Stewart, Kevin Harvick, and Denny Hamlin are the only drivers not named Jimmie Johnson or Jeff Gordon to win a race at Martinsville since 2004. Smoke will eat a ton of the track’s famous red hot dogs and have the No. 14 near the front most of this weekend.
No. 24 Jeff Gordon: Gordon has seven career wins atMartinsville. He will crack the top five and could win with a little luck.
No. 29 Kevin Harvick: Harvick has managed to avoid trouble atMartinsvilleduring his career. He should continue to avoid the frequent accidents and crack the top five.
6 to 10
No. 99 Carl Edwards: Edwards cracked the top 10 in five of the last seven races at Martinsville. He should be the top Roush-Fenway driver this weekend.
No. 18 Kyle Busch: Busch has had plenty of past success at short-tracks, but his lack of patience makes him the riskiest pick in our top 10.
No. 88 Dale Earnhardt Jr.: Junior has finished in the top seven in 12 of his 24 career starts at Martinsville. He should have no trouble cracking the top 10 on Sunday.
No. 2 Brad Keselowski: Keselowski has averaged a 14th place finish at M’ville during his career. We like his chances this trip to Virginia.
No. 15 Clint Bowyer: Bowyer has cracked the top 11 in seven of his last 10 starts at Martinsville. We like the latest ‘Dega winner’s chances on Sunday.
11 to 20
No. 39 Ryan Newman: Newman has qualified inside the top 10 in 14 of his 19 Cup starts at Martinsville. His strong qualifying skills will help Newman start in the front and stay there.
No. 31 Jeff Burton: Burtonhas averaged a 15th place finish atMartinsville during his career. He should finish a little better than his average this weekend.
No. 20 Joey Logano: Logano has been awesome at M’ville during his career. He is worth using in all leagues.
No. 55 Brian Vickers: Vickers has been a top 20 driver at Martinsville during his career. He is a nice play to round-out your roster.
No. 42 Juan Pablo Montoya: Montoya has finished inside the top 16 in seven of his 10 career starts at Martinsville. This is a rare weekend that we recommend the No. 42 car.
No. 1 Jamie McMurray: McMurray has finished in the top 10 in 11 of his 18 career
Martinsville starts. This is a good weekend to use the No. 1 car.
No. 5 Kasey Kahne: Kahne has led just 18 laps in 15 career starts at Martinsville he isn't a great choice this weekend.
No. 17 Matt Kenseth: Kenseth has just two top five finishes in 24 Cup starts at Martinsville. He isn’t a great option this weekend.
No. 16 Greg Biffle: Biffle has just two top 10 finishes in 18 career starts at Martinsville. There are far better weekends to use The Biff.
No. 51 Kurt Busch: Busch has really struggled at Martinsville lately. There are much better weekends to use the No. 51 driver.
21 to 30
No. 22 AJ Allmendinger: Allmendinger has only five top 30 finishes in nine career starts at Martinsville. This isn’t the best weekend to use him.
No. 9 Marcos Ambrose: Ambrose has been great on short-tracks during his career. This is a good opportunity to use the Terrific Tasmanian.
No. 56 Martin Truex Jr.: Truex Jr. ran well at Martinsville in two of the last four races. He is a decent third driver and a great fourth driver in most leagues.
No. 27 Paul Menard: Menard has averaged a 23rd place finish at Martinsville during his career. He is definitely worth using in the deepest leagues.
No. 10 David Reutimann: Reutimann has never cracked the top 14 at Martinsville. This isn’t a race to use him.
No. 34 David Ragan: Ragan has cracked the top 27 in nine of his 10 career starts at Martinsville. He will do it again this weekend.
No. 13 Casey Mears: Mears has averaged a 20th place finish at Martinsville during his career. We love him as a sleeper this week.
No. 78 Regan Smith: Smith is a bit of a short-track stallion. He could surprise with a top 25 finish this weekend.
No. 47 Bobby Labonte: Labonte is always a threat at Martinsville. Plug him into the No. 5 spot in your roster.
No. 43 Aric Almirola: A-Dub isn’t an option unless you in a super-deep league.
No. 33 Hermie Sadler
No. 93 Travis Kvapil
No. 38 David Gilliland
No. 83 Landon Cassill
No. 32 Ken Schrader
No. 87 Joe Nemechek
No. 36 Dave Blaney
No. 98 Michael McDowell
No. 23 Scott Riggs
No. 19 Mike Bliss
No. 30 David Stremme
No. 74 Reed Sorenson
No. 49 JJ Yeley
No. 26 Josh Wise
No. 37 Timmy Hill
1. Denny Hamlin
2. Jimmie Johnson
3. Jeff Gordon
4. Kevin Harvick
1. Juan Pablo Montoya
2. Regan Smith
Bust of the Week: