Saturday, October 27, 2012

Martinsville Practice Notes: Vickers and Earnhardt Jr. Look Strong

Vickers has the look of a winner this week (Getty)
By Micah Roberts
The Linemakers on Sporting News

Martinsville Speedway has been dominated by the same four drivers over the past decade. Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, Denny Hamlin and Tony Stewart have won multiple times, combining for 16 wins in the past 19 races. One of the drivers to crash the party over that stretch — Rusty Wallace in 2004 — has retired and the other two — Kevin Harvick and Ryan Newman — did so in two of the past three races.

Based on what happened during Friday and Saturday’s three practice sessions in preparation for Sunday’s Tums Fast Relief 500, we may have another party crasher. Brian Vickers has never had a top-5 finish at Martinsville in 14 career starts, but that should change Sunday because he was fastest in all three sessions.

Vickers not only had the fastest single lap speeds, but he was also strong in average lap times, including having the best 10-consecutive lap average in the second session.

Being fastest in practice doesn’t necessarily equate to winning the race, but at Martinsville’s flat half-mile paper clip of a track, it’s usually a good indication that he’ll be able to get up front and lead for quite a few laps. Gordon, Johnson and Hamlin have all been top practice performers during their dominant race wins and now Vickers falls into that category.

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