Fantasy Racing: Martinsville
Tums Fast Relief 500
Sunday October 25, 1:30 ET ABC
Race Facts: Martinsville has a lower top 10 win percentage than most tracks. 73 percent of winners have started in the top 10… Fred Lorenzen led 493 laps on his way to winning at Martinsville in 1964 while John Andretti led just four in 1999. I don’t think anyone is going to repeat Lorenzen’s feat, given the propensity for cautions… Chevrolet has the most wins of any manufacturer at Martinsville with 45. Who wants to bet that it will be 46 after the conclusion of Sunday’s race?
Drivers to Watch:
Jeff Gordon: I need a good week, so I’m going with the obvious locks here. Outside of Jimmie Johnson, Gordon has been the best driver at Martinsville in recent memory, but hasn’t won since 2005. But what’s even more astonishing is that Gordon hasn’t finished lower than ninth at Martinsville since 2002. That’s a string of 13 races. Absolutely incredible. Of course, I’m probably jinxing the 24 by putting them in this column, but you can’t go wrong hinging the fortunes of your fantasy team on Gordon at Martinsville.
Denny Hamlin: Hamlin has only one finish outside the top 10 in his career at Martinsville, and that was a 37th place finish thanks to an accident in the spring of 2006. Hamlin’s just as good as Johnson, Gordon and Tony Stewart, and should be running up front with them the whole day on Sunday. And remember, Hamlin has a free shot on Johnson after what Johnson did in the spring race. The revenge factor may be more dangerous to Johnson than any other accident or mechanical failure.
Clint Bowyer: The monsters will be off the car this weekend and Bowyer has quietly done well at Martinsville since finishing outside the top 20 in his first two starts at the track. In those last five starts, Bowyer ‘s lowest finish is 11th, and with the way that RCR has run the past few weekends, Bowyer is set up to have another good finish this weekend.
Drivers to Watch Out For:
Kurt Busch: Busch won from the 36th starting position in 2002 (the lowest a winner has ever started at Martinsville, but recently he’s been dreadful. His highest finish in the last seven Martinsville races is 12th, and while Busch is in fifth place in the standings, this could be the race that allows Pat Tryson a clean break from Penske to go start working at Michael Waltrip Racing.
Greg Biffle: The Biff has only one top 10 in his career at Martinsville, which is a little odd given his success at New Hampshire. Biffle had a glimmer of hope for the title at Kansas, but that went away at Auto Club and Lowe’s, places where Biffle needed to make up more ground if he had a realistic title shot. Maybe being out of contention will be a good omen for Biffle, as it will allow Greg Erwin to go for broke, but odds are Biffle will finish somewhere midpack.
Mark Martin: Martin has four top 10s in his last 11 Martinsville races, and while he finished 7th in the spring, he’s obviously not nearly as good at the paperclip as the rest of the people who surround him in the standings. Given their success, Talladega may not matter if Martin finishes around 15th while everyone else in the top four finishes in the top 10.
Stone Cold Lock of the Week:
Tony Stewart: Basically, I need someone other than Johnson to pick, so I’m going to go with Stewart. Stewart has six top seven finishes in his past eight Martinsville races, and also holds the track qualifying record, which he set on his way to the title in 2005. If Johnson wasn’t so damn good at Martinsville, this would be a prime place for Stewart (and Gordon) to pick up a plethora of points. However, unless disaster strikes the 48 team, they’re not going to make up many. Still, I like Stewart’s chances to reach Victory Lane.
To Watch: Ky Busch 8th, Logano 5th, Ambrose 22nd
To Watch Out: Vickers 34th, Newman 11th, Reutimann 15th
Stone Cold Lock: Montoya 35thNo Comment