Wednesday, October 26, 2016

NASCAR Sprint Cup Notes: Martinsville Goody's Fast Relief 500

Denny Hamlin is a 5/1 co-favorite to win at Martinsville Sunday.
NASCAR Sprint Cup Series
Next Race: Goody’s Fast Relief 500
The Place: Martinsville Speedway
The Date: Sunday, Oct. 30
The Time: 1 p.m. ET
TV: NBCSN, 12:30 p.m. ET
Radio: MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
Distance: 263 miles (500 laps)

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series

Six-Time Can Change Nickname To Seven-Time

Known as “Six-time” for his six NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championships, Jimmie Johnson is four races away from potentially tying NASCAR Hall of Famers Dale Earnhardt and Richard Petty with a record seventh premier series title.

Johnson continues his quest for crown No. 7 in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Round of 8 opener – Sunday’s Goody’s Fast Relief 500 at Martinsville Speedway.

Johnson leads all full-time active drivers with eight wins at Martinsville. Jeff Gordon, who is racing in Sunday’s event boasts nine.

In 29 career starts at Martinsville, Johnson owns eight wins, 18 top fives, 23 top 10s and an average finish of 7.5. His average running position (8.0) and driver rating 117.8 rank second among active drivers at the .526-mile track.

The Californian is the last driver to win consecutive races at Martinsville (fall 2012/spring 2013).

Busch Goes For Martinsville Sweep

Kyle Busch will attempt to clock the competition at Martinsville when he goes for a season sweep of “The Paperclip.”

The No. 18 Toyota wheelman earned his first career victory at the .526-mile track in April and will try to become the first driver to sweep a venue this season. More importantly, he’ll try to earn a spot in the Championship 4 as he pursues his second consecutive NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship.

Busch led 352 of 500 laps in the April race and registered a driver rating of 148.2 on his way to Victory Lane.

For his career, Busch claims one win, 10 top fives, 11 top 10s and a 14.5 average finish in 22 starts at Martinsville.

Pride Of Virginia: Hamlin Hopes To Add Another Win In Home State

Chesterfield, Virginia’s Denny Hamlin hopes to capture his sixth victory at Martinsville Speedway this weekend and the ninth in his hometown state (he also owns three victories at Richmond).

After beating Kurt Busch to the stripe by .006 seconds (appx. two feet) in last Sunday’s Hellman’s 500 at Talladega Superspeedway to earn the final spot in the Round of 8, Hamlin can make the Championship 4 with a win at Martinsville.

In 21 starts at “NASCAR’s Wrigley Field,” Hamlin claims five wins, 11 top fives and 16 top 10s. His 9.5 average finish, 9.7 average running position and 108.1 driver rating all rank third-best among active drivers at Martinsville.

Hamlin is the winningest Virginian in NASCAR Sprint Cup Series history with 29 victories. The list of drivers from the Old Dominion State includes NASCAR Hall of Famers Joe Weatherly, Curtis Turner, Glen Wood and Wendell Scott, as well as former NASCAR iron man Ricky Rudd.

Martinsville Spoilers

With only eight drivers left in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, the number of competitors who can spoil a bid for the Chase-eligible drivers gets larger. Still, the remaining Chase drivers have accounted for 54.8 percent of the wins among active drivers at Martinsville Speedway (Jimmie Johnson, 9 wins; Denny Hamlin, 5 wins; Kurt Busch, 2 wins and Kevin Harvick, 1 win). Among active full-time drivers, the win percentage increases to 77.2 percent. The non-Chase drivers starting in Sunday’s Goody’s Fast Relief 500, who have won at Martinsville are Jeff Gordon (9 wins), Tony Stewart (3) and Ryan Newman (1).

And Then There Were 8
: Combined Wins, Average Finishes And Driver Ratings Of Chase Drivers At Round Of 8 Tracks

Below are the combined wins, average finish and driver ratings at the three Round of 8 tracks – Martinsville Speedway, Texas Motor Speedway and Phoenix International Raceway:

Jimmie Johnson – 18 wins, 7.9 avg. finish, 112.5 driver rating
Kevin Harvick – Nine wins, 12.9 avg. finish, 98.6 driver rating
Denny Hamlin – Eight wins, 10.9 avg. finish, 97.9 driver rating
Carl Edwards – Five wins, 13.8 avg. finish, 93.2 driver rating
Kyle Busch – Four wins, 13.3 avg. finish, 100.0 driver rating
Kurt Busch – Four wins, 16.8 avg. finish, 89.1 driver rating
Matt Kenseth – Three wins, 13.7 avg. finish, 93.3 driver rating
Joey Logano – One win, 15.4 avg. finish, 86.5 driver rating

Gordon’s Last Ride?
Sunday’s Goody’s Fast Relief 500 at Martinsville Speedway is likely Jeff Gordon’s last NASCAR race ever.

If it is Gordon’s last race, there is a good chance he goes out with a strong finish, if not a victory. The four-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion is the defending winner at Martinsville and has more wins (nine), top fives (29), top 10s (37) and laps led (3,779) there than he does at any other track. Another top-five finish would tie him with Richard Petty for the track record in that category, while a top-10 finish would break his tie with Petty for the track record in that statistic. If Gordon racks up another 72 laps led at Martinsville, he will surpass Petty for first in laps led there.

Gordon leads active drivers at Martinsville in not only wins, top fives and top 10s, but also average finish (6.8) and driver rating (119.5).

If Gordon leads 64 laps on Sunday, he will become only the sixth NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver all-time to lead 25,000 or more laps, joining NASCAR Hall of Famers Petty, Cale Yarborough, Bobby Allison, Dale Earnhardt and David Pearson.

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Etc.

At The Paperclip, It’s Good To Be Up Front – The Coors Light Pole is the most proficient starting spot in the field at Martinsville, producing more wins (21) than any other starting position. Only seven of the 135 races (5.2%) at the southern Virginia track have been won from a starting position outside the top 20 – two of these occurred in 2015 (Denny Hamlin, spring; Jeff Gordon, fall). Ninety-seven of the 135 races (71.9%) have been won from a top-10 starting position. Chaser Kurt Busch holds the Martinsville record for lowest starting position by a race winner – 36th in fall of 2002….

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