News and notes from each week of NASCAR racing using a Las Vegas oddsmaking perspective
Thursday, October 29, 2015
No one better at Martinsville than Gordon.
NASCAR SPRINT CUP SERIES
Joey Checkers: Logano Takes Down Talladega For Third Straight Win
Joey Logano took the checkered flag at Talladega to sweep the Contender Round of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup with his third consecutive win. The No. 22 Team Penske driver now leads the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series with six wins and 26 top 10s – both career highs. He also ranks tied with Kevin Harvick for the most top fives with 20, also a career-best total.
In Sunday’s Goody’s Headache Relief 500 at Martinsville Speedway (1:15 p.m. ET on NBCSN), Logano will attempt to become the first driver to win four straight races since Jimmie Johnson achieved the feat in the 2007 Chase when he visited Victory Lane at Martinsville, Atlanta, Texas and Phoenix on his way to his second of six NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championships.
Logano has never won an NSCS race at Martinsville, but has finished in the top five in his last three starts at the Virginia short track.
The 25-year-old Connecticut native is the second driver to win three consecutive races this year after Kyle Busch pulled off the achievement by conquering Kentucky, New Hampshire and Indianapolis. The last time two different drivers won three straight races in a season was 1993 when Rusty Wallace and Mark Martin did it.
Father Time: Gordon Goes For Ninth Martinsville Clock
Jeff Gordon has to love his position in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup now.
He heads to Martinsville Speedway – arguably his best track – where a win automatically advances him to the Championship Round of the Chase at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Gordon is tied with Jimmie Johnson for the active wins lead at Martinsville with eight checkered flags – a total that is also his most at any track. The No. 24 Chevrolet driver boasts series bests in average finish (6.9), average running position (6.7) and average green flag speed (91.7 mph) at Martinsville.
Last season, Gordon finished second at Martinsville to Dale Earnhardt Jr., a race in which he led a race-high 130 laps.
Although he squeaked into the Chase on points and still doesn’t have a win, Gordon is building up some momentum in NASCAR’s playoffs. He placed in the top 10 of all three Contender Round races.
JGR Chasers Hope Organization Has Unlocked Secret To The Paperclip
Kyle Busch didn’t seem worried that he hasn’t performed up to his expectations at Martinsville heading into Sunday’s Eliminator Round opener.
"I wouldn’t have said that I felt comfortable at Martinsville based off how we ran there last year," said Busch, who has never won at the .526-mile track. "But the way the guys at Joe Gibbs Racing ran this spring, everybody ran in the top five, so it was really a good race. I’m looking forward to getting back and utilizing some of that in order to have a good race and maybe do what Denny (Hamlin) did and win one here."
JGR placed three drivers in the top five at Martinsville in the spring (Denny Hamlin, first; Matt Kenseth, fourth; David Ragan, fifth). Carl Edwards finished 17th, but led 13 laps and looked like a contender for the win before a late-race spin.
With wins in nine of the 12 races leading into the Contender Round of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, JGR had aspirations of advancing all four of its drivers to the Championship Round at Homestead. That can no longer happen; Busch and Edwards are JGR’s only drivers still in the Chase after Hamlin and Kenseth were knocked out at Talladega.
Busch and Edwards better hope that JGR figured out Martinsville this spring. Busch has been boom-or-bust at The Paperclip with eight top fives in 20 starts, but also has 11 finishes outside the top 10. In 22 Martinsville starts, Edwards has posted only one top five and five top 10s.
Stayin’ Alive: SHR’s Harvick And Busch Remain Standing In Chase
The two dominant drivers at the beginning of the year – Stewart-Haas Racing’s Kevin Harvick and Kurt Busch – remain alive in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.
Both Harvick and Busch are strong bets to win the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series title, too.
As the defending champion, Harvick knows how to handle the pressure of the Chase format. A win in the next three events gets a driver a free pass to the Championship Round race at Homestead, which is great news for Harvick. He is practically automatic at Phoenix where he has won the last four races.
Busch has won at all four of the remaining tracks and cannot be counted out either. He and Jeff Gordon are the only Chase drivers who have visited Victory Lane at the final four ovals (Martinsville, Texas Phoenix, Homestead).
Short Track Showdown
Martinsville Speedway serves as the only short track in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. If a Chase driver wins at Martinsville, he gains a distinct advantage over the field because his team can focus on preparing for the Championship Round at Homestead.
Here’s how the Chase-eligible drivers rank in winning percentage at short tracks:
Chase-eligible drivers aren’t the only competitors who can win at Martinsville on Sunday. Last season, Dale Earnhardt Jr. was the first "spoiler" in NASCAR’s playoffs when he won for the first time at the Southern Virginia track to block a transfer spot.
In fact, many of the favorites on Sunday are not in the Chase. Past Martinsville winners set to race on Sunday are Jimmie Johnson (8 wins, tied for the active lead), Denny Hamlin (5, spring winner), Tony Stewart (3), Earnhardt (1) and Ryan Newman (1).
The Chasers who have never won at Martinsville are Kyle Busch, Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano, Carl Edwards and Martin Truex Jr.