Track history: 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 1/2 mile dirt oval track. Turner led 18 laps and finished ninth. Red Byron started the No. 22 Parks Novelty Oldsmobile third in the lineup, led 97 of the 200 lap race, and finished three laps ahead of second place, Lee Petty. Byron earned $1,500 for the win. He won two races in the eight-race season and became the 1949 series champion.
October 28, 2012: Jimmie Johnson (48 Chevrolet) won the Tums Fast Relief 500 from the pole. It was his fourth victory in 2012 and his seventh in 22 races at Martinsville Speedway. Drivers leading 10 or more of the 500 laps: No. 11 Denny Hamlin 12 laps, finished 33rd; No. 5 Kasey Kahne 12 laps, finished third; No. 55 Brian Vickers 27 laps, finished eighth; No. 24 Jeff Gordon 92 laps, finished seventh; No. 15 Clint Bowyer 154 laps, finished fifth; and Race-winner Johnson led the most laps (193).
April 7, 2013: Jimmie Johnson (48 Chevrolet) won the STP Gas Booster 500 from the pole. This was his second victory in 2013 and his eighth in 23 races at Martinsville Speedway. Drivers leading 10 or more of the 500 laps: No. 18 Kyle Busch 56 laps, finished fifth; No. 20 Matt Kenseth 96 laps, finished 14th and Race-winner Johnson led the most laps (346).
Track Quick Facts (courtesy NASCAR Media):
Last five winners: Jimmie Johnson 4/7/13, Jimmie Johnson 10/28/12, Ryan Newman 4/1/12, Tony Stewart 10/30/11 and Kevin Harvick 4/3/11.
First Cup start here (Active drivers): Mike Skinner 4/27/86, Stacy Compton 4/21/96, Mike Bliss 9/27/98, Travis Kvapil 10/24/04, Michael McDowell 3/30/08 and Scott Speed 10/19/08.
First Cup pole: Kenny Wallace 4/20/97, Tony Stewart 4/18/99 and Scott Riggs 4/10/05.
First Cup win: Morgan Shepherd 4/26/81 and Geoff Bodine 4/29/84.
Fantasy games 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 20 finish as track favorites Kyle Busch, Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson and Kasey Kahne. There were 43 cars on the preliminary entry list for Sunday’s Goody’s Headache Relief Shot 500 in Martinsville, Virginia.
Denny Hamlin is a four-time Cup winner at the short-track in his home state. He also won the 2011 and 2012 Camping World Truck Series races at Martinsville. Hamlin is looking to make that a three-peat with an entry in Saturday's truck race. Those results should put him in the track favorite group but his 2013 season results make him a questionable pick. The April race at Martinsville was one of the four he sat out while recouping from the injury sustained at Fontana. We don't expect Hamlin to come away a five-time winner but look for the No. 11 Toyota to be mixing it up near the front on Sunday.
After struggling in his first six starts at Martinsville, Aric Almirola looks like he has figured a way around the track. He logged eighth and fourth place finishes in 2012 and a 20th at the 'paperclip' this past April. Almirola piloted a Camping World Truck entry around the short track in five races earning an 11.4 average finish. This week he switches numbers for one race from his regular No. 43 to the No. 41. The No. 41 Ford will be Petty Blue and feature the likeness of 2014 NASCAR Hall of Fame inductee Maurice Petty (The King's brother), who raced the number during his driving career. Find a spot for Almirola on you fantasy roster.
Martin Truex Jr. said about Martinsville this week:“I really didn’t like going there in the beginning. I actually hated the place. We definitely have figured it out as a team and it’s now turned into one of my favorite short tracks." In 15 Sprint Cup Series starts at the track, he owns two top-five and four top-10 finishes. Two of his last four races resulted in eighth and fifth place finishes. In April, Truex was running in ninth place when he got caught up in 'someone else's wreck' (11-car pileup). After repairs, he finished 115 laps down in 40th place. Before joining MWR, he usually had an average running position in the 20's. Now, he can be found running in the top-10 to low teens for most of the race. Give the No. 56 Toyota some consideration this weekend.
Kyle Larson made his Cup debut at Charlotte two weeks ago and was running top-20 for 370 of the 500 mile event. Then, while running 16th, the engine let go on the No. 51 Chevrolet and he was done for the night. This will be his second Cup career start. He tested at Martinsville on Oct. 8 – 9 but he has never raced in any series at the track. Larson has a knack for adapting quickly to a venue he visits for the first time. He is currently ninth in the Nationwide Series points and has 15 top-10 finishes in 30 starts. He also has two Camping World Truck Series starts this season. He won at Rockingham Speedway and took second-place in the inaugural dirt-track race at Eldora Speedway. We like his chances for another good run this weekend in the No. 51.