What To Expect At Martinsville

By Toby Christie (Originally appeared on RubbingsRacing.com)

Okay okay I know Jimmie Johnson won at Bristol, but other than that my predictions were pretty solid. This week I will not be making the mistake of betting against Jimmie Johnson as this is possibly his best track.

Jimmie Johnson’s worst finish in the last nine races at Martinsville is a fourth… and this week he will be right up among the leaders again. He has six career wins at this track, and he has only finished outside the top-ten once in 16 career starts. If you have a fantasy team Johnson is a guy you definitely want this weekend.

Denny Hamlin, who is a Virginia native, is looking to get his season on track. Through five races Hamlin has a goose egg in the following columns: Poles, Wins, Top-five’s, and Top-tens. However Hamlin couldn’t be coming to a better place. In his career at Martinsville (nine races), Hamlin has two wins, six top-fives and eight top-tens. He has been a virtual lock for a great finish here his entire career, so I expect him to come alive this week… and if he doesn’t I don’t expect him to make the chase.

Jeff Gordon is the active leader in victories at Martinsville, at least for now with seven victories. Four of those wins have come since 2003, and since 2003 Gordon has not finished outside the top-ten here. That is 14-straight top-tens. Expect Jeff to challenge in this one.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. got amped up on his radio last week, and climbed his way to the top-ten in the point standings. Those who doubt that Earnhardt has shown improvement will have no choice, but to acknowledge it this weekend as Earnhardt is a great at Martinsville. Between 2001 and 2004 Earnhardt had a string of eight-straight top-ten finishes at Martinsville. Lately he has had some iffy finishes at this track, but with his team back on track, and his mojo in full swing I expect Jr. to be in the top-five, and he is actually my pick to win this weekend.

The darkhorse for this race is Juan Pablo Montoya. Montoya has two top-ten finishes at this track in six starts, and he seems to excel at this track because the paperclip turns are very similar to a road course. If Montoya can keep the car clean, and even if he can’t he should be close to a top-ten.

Matt Kenseth and Greg Biffle have finished in the top-ten in every race thus far in 2010, well this week I expect at least one of them (if not both) to break that streak. Biffle in 14 starts here has just one top-ten finish, and Kenseth hasn’t been much better.

Who else will struggle this week?

Sam Hornish Jr. has an average finish of 33rd in his career at Martinsville Speedway, and I don’t see him improving on that too much this week. Kasey Kahne has struggled mightily in his career so far at this short track. In 12 career starts here Kahne has just two top-tens, and his luck so far in 2010 doesn’t help his chances.

Carl Edwards, Martin Truex Jr. and Brian Vickers are also drivers who haven’t fared to well at the shortest track on the schedule. If you have a fantasy team I would not take a chance on any of these drivers this weekend.

Author: Toby Christie

Toby is the Editor of TheFinalLap.com and Social Media Director of all things @TheFinalLap. He is the co-host of The Final Lap Weekly radio show and podcast, and he is the writer and co-host of the Racing Legends podcast. Additionally, Toby is a NMPA (National Motorsports Press Association) award winning writer, and has followed the sport as a fan since 1993.

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