The Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup hit the halfway point last Saturday night and now heads to Martinsville Speedway for Sunday’s TUMS Fast Relief 500. Martinsville, which was on the very first Strictly Stock (what is now the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series) schedule in 1949, has had its share of dramatic events. This weekend should be no different. Call this event, “Wild Card Race No. 1.” The tight confines of Martinsville often lead to unpredictable – and heated – outcomes.
The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series returns to action, also at Martinsville, with the Kroger 200. After four consecutive open weeks, the truck season hits its stretch-run with five consecutive races.
The NASCAR Nationwide Series heads Gateway International Raceway for its final standalone of the season, the Five-Hour Energy 250. Nabbing his fifth win of the season last weekend, Brad Keselowski closes in on his first national series title.
Storylines for the weekend follow.
NASCAR SPRINT CUP SERIES
Chase At The Halfway Point – Martinsville Implications
A big-time shootout has developed at the top of the NASCAR Sprint Cup standings between four-time defending champion Jimmie Johnson and two drivers trying to win the title for first time – second-place Denny Hamlin and third-place Kevin Harvick. The site of this week’s event, .526-mile Martinsville Speedway, seriously favors Johnson and Hamlin. Between them they’ve won the last eight races there and Hamlin is going for his third consecutive victory there. Harvick? He has never won a NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Martinsville, but does have two wins in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series.
Gordon May Be A Long Shot, But Don’t Count Him Out
Four-time series champion Jeff Gordon has fallen 156 points behind Johnson, in fourth place. That may not be encouraging, but there’s precedent for a comeback. In 2006, Johnson was 146 points out of first with five races to go – and came back to win the title for the first time.
Gordon has a long history of success at Martinsville, winning seven career races there, which trails only Richard Petty (15) and Darrell Waltrip (11) for most all-time.
Martinsville = Unpredictability
When you get right down to it, there’s really no telling how the Chase standings will look coming out of Martinsville. With its short distance and tight, paperclip-shaped layout, mishaps are a given. On every lap, drivers are a miscue away from a multi-car pileup – and extended pit stop.
First McMurray, Then…Who?
McMurray played the part of spoiler brilliantly last Saturday night at Charlotte Motor Speedway, sealing his reputation as a big-stage performer. A non-Chase driver has won a Chase race 13 times, the last two instances by McMurray (Talladega last year, and Charlotte).
Will the rare phenomenon occur again this weekend? Maybe. The two most likely candidates: Joey Logano and Ryan Newman.
Logano finished second at Martinsville last March, and is coming of a strong seventh-place run at Charlotte. Newman owns one of the top Driver Ratings at Martinsville among non-Chasers, at 87.8.
Thursday, May 26 10:30 AM NSCS HAULERS ENTER 10:30 AM-7:00 PM NSCS REGISTRATION OPEN 11:00 AM-8:30 PM NSCS GARAGE OPEN 1:00 PM NSCS ROOKIE MEETING, SPOTTER MEETING, & RANDOM DRAWING 2:00 PM-3:25 PM NSCS 1ST PRACTICE 7:15 PM NSCS QUALIFYING (MULTI-VEHICLE / THREE ROUNDS)
Friday, May 27 No on-track activity
Saturday, May 28 8:00 AM-4:30 PM NSCS REGISTRATION OPEN 8:00 AM-4:30 PM NSCS GARAGE OPEN 10:00 AM-10:55 AM NSCS 2ND PRACTICE 1:00 PM-1:50 PM NSCS FINAL PRACTICE
Greg Biffle (No. 16 Roush Fenway Racing Ford Fusion) · Six top fives, nine top 10s; one pole · Average finish of 16.045, 11th-best · Average Running Position of 15.560, 11th-best · Driver Rating of 88.0, eighth-best · 313 Fastest Laps Run, third-best · Average Green Flag Speed of 176.285, 10th-fastest · 4327 Laps in the Top 15 (54.7), 12th-most · 759 Quality Passes, ninth-most
Kyle Busch (No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota Camry) · Ten top fives, 14 top 10s; two poles · Average finish of 13.500, sixth-best · Average Running Position of 9.732, second-best · Driver Rating of 106.1, second-best · 499 Fastest Laps Run, eighth-best · Average Green Flag Speed of 177.151, second-fastest · 6202 Laps in the Top 15 (78.4), second-most · 1094 Quality Passes, second-most
Kurt Busch (No. 41 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet SS) · One win, seven top fives, nine top 10s · Average finish of 18.909, 12th-best · Average Running Position of 15.798, 12th-best · Driver Rating of 87.2, 11th-best · 280 Fastest Laps Run, second-best · Average Green Flag Speed of 176.146, 13th-fastest · 4552 Laps in the Top 15 (57.6), 10th-most · 784 Quality Passes, eighth-most
Austin Dillon (No. 3 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet SS) · One top 10 · Average finish of 13.000, fifth-best · Average Running Position of 13.474, sixth-best · Driver Rating of 85.3, 12th-best · 21 Fastest Laps Run, ninth-best · Average Green Flag Speed of 176.500, fifth-fastest · 978 Laps in the Top 15 (66.6), fourth-most · 167 Quality Passes, 13th-most
Carl Edwards (No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota Camry) · One win, seven top fives, 15 top 10s · Average finish of 10.545, second-best · Average Running Position of 14.126, ninth-best · Driver Rating of 90.8, seventh-best · 147 Fastest Laps Run, 12th-best · Average Green Flag Speed of 176.270, 11th-fastest · 5130 Laps in the Top 15 (64.9), sixth-most · 961 Quality Passes, third-most
Denny Hamlin (No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota Camry) · Five top fives, 13 top 10s; one pole · Average finish of 12.762, fourth-best · Average Running Position of 11.920, third-best · Driver Rating of 94.9, fifth-best · 288 Fastest Laps Run, 10th-best · Average Green Flag Speed of 176.472, sixth-fastest · 5547 Laps in the Top 15 (73.9), third-most · 873 Quality Passes, sixth-most
Kevin Harvick (No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet SS) · Three wins, six top fives, 13 top 10s · Average finish of 13.864, seventh-best · Average Running Position of 15.398, 10th-best · Driver Rating of 87.7, 10th-best · 270 Fastest Laps Run, seventh-best · Average Green Flag Speed of 176.295, ninth-fastest · 4975 Laps in the Top 15 (62.9), eighth-most · 842 Quality Passes, seventh-most
Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet SS) · Seven wins, 13 top fives, 17 top 10s; four poles · Average finish of 14.909, ninth-best · Average Running Position of 8.563, series-best · Driver Rating of 109.0, series-best · 699 Fastest Laps Run, fifth-best · Average Green Flag Speed of 177.226, series-fastest · 6718 Laps in the Top 15 (85.0), series-most · 1102 Quality Passes, series-most
Kasey Kahne (No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet SS) · Four wins, nine top fives, 13 top 10s · Average finish of 11.955, third-best · Average Running Position of 13.267, fifth-best · Driver Rating of 97.4, third-best · 689 Fastest Laps Run, 11th-best · Average Green Flag Speed of 176.647, third-fastest · 4944 Laps in the Top 15 (62.5), ninth-most · 922 Quality Passes, fifth-most
Matt Kenseth (No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota Camry) · Two wins, ten top fives, 17 top 10s; two poles · Average finish of 14.955, 10th-best · Average Running Position of 13.906, seventh-best · Driver Rating of 95.5, fourth-best · 428 Fastest Laps Run, fourth-best · Average Green Flag Speed of 176.537, fourth-fastest · 5187 Laps in the Top 15 (65.6), fifth-most · 939 Quality Passes, fourth-most
Brad Keselowski (No. 2 Team Penske Ford Fusion) · One win, two top fives, five top 10s; one pole · Average finish of 14.538, eighth-best · Average Running Position of 14.069, eighth-best · Driver Rating of 87.8, ninth-best · 169 Fastest Laps Run, sixth-best · Average Green Flag Speed of 176.402, eighth-fastest · 2687 Laps in the Top 15 (56.7), 11th-most · 545 Quality Passes, 11th-most
Joey Logano (No. 22 Team Penske Ford Fusion) · One win, five top fives, eight top 10s · Average finish of 9.571, series-best · Average Running Position of 12.658, fourth-best · Driver Rating of 93.6, sixth-best · 120 Fastest Laps Run, 13th-best · Average Green Flag Speed of 176.435, seventh-fastest · 3216 Laps in the Top 15 (64.7), seventh-most · 711 Quality Passes, 10th-most
All this junk posted is simply stuff I use weekly to accumulate a pre-practice driver rating. It's an easy weekly process. How those ratings work won't be shared, but all the data needed for handicapping should be posted somewhere here. Good luck week-to-week in any betting endeavor. Hope the info helps. - MR