Monday, March 26, 2012

2012 Martinsville Goody's Fast Relief 500 Storylines

Stewart won his second career Martinsville race last fall
None of what Tony Stewart has accomplished recently makes sense.

For one, he never wins this early in a season. Of his 46 career victories, only six came before June. And only four came prior to race No. 10. Yet, he’s 2-for-5 in this young season.

Two, with seven wins in the last 15 races, Stewart’s on a rare run. Jimmie Johnson ripped off a similar clip in 2009-10, winning four Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup races in 2009 and then three of the first five in 2010. But this has seemingly come out of nowhere for Stewart. Remember, he entered last year’s Chase winless.

Now, the three time – and defending – series champion has catapulted to fourth in the points. Impressive, especially considering Stewart has an average finish of 17.3 in his non-wins this season.

Why stop now? Martinsville Speedway’s on deck, site of Stewart’s thrilling pass – and eventual win – during last year’s Chase. Race No. 6 – the Goody’s Fast Relief 500 – is Sunday at 1 p.m. on FOX.

With much anticipation, the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series returns to action this week for its second race, the Kroger 250, on Saturday at 1:30 p.m. on SPEED.


Who’s The King Of Martinsville?
Hamlin and Johnson have won 10 of last 18 at Martisnville
Here are the contenders for the crown: Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson and Denny Hamlin.

Oddly, neither won a Martinsville race last year (Kevin Harvick and Tony Stewart did), but that was a rarity.

Every year since 2003, at least one of those three drivers has won a Martinsville race. And even though Martinsville’s history goes all the way back to 1949, the three already reside near the top of the track’s wins list. Gordon has seven wins (tied for third-most); Johnson has six wins (tied for fifth); and Hamlin has four wins (tied for ninth).

Gordon needs the usual Martinsville success most – he currently sits 25th (the lowest points position through five races of his career), 51 points outside the top 10.

If a Gordon victory occurs (or a Johnson, Kasey Kahne or Dale Earnhardt Jr. win), it’ll be Hendrick Motorsports’ 200th win. That scene would be fitting – Martinsville was the site of Hendrick’s first win in 1984. Hendrick would also tie Petty Enterprises from most wins all time at the Virginia short track.

Junior A Fine Pick At Martinsville
Teammates Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson will likely attract much of the "favorites" attention this weekend. But Dale Earnhardt Jr. best not be counted out.

Owning a Driver Rating of 99.0, Martinsville is Earnhardt’s top track in terms of the Loop Data statistic.

Earnhardt has finished in the top 10 in each of the last three Martinsville races, and was runner up to Kevin Harvick in this race last year.

Harvick Milestone Weekend At Track With ‘Happy’ Memories
Kevin Harvick, defending winner of this weekend’s race, will start his 400th career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race on Sunday.

Harvick, currently second in the points, has enjoyed a prolific first 399 races. The Bakersfield, Calif., native has 18 career wins including the 2007 Daytona 500. Harvick will also race in Saturday’s NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race.

This Year’s Owner Points Now Determine Guaranteed Status
Last season’s top 35 cars in owner points were locked into each of the first five races of 2012. Now, that luxury is gone.

From now until the end of the season, the 2012 owner points determine guaranteed status. That means a tougher challenge for Landon Cassill and the No. 83 BK Racing Toyota. Owner of guaranteed spot in the first five races, Cassill and his team will now have to qualify their way into this weekend’s event at Martinsville.

- NASCAR Media Services

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