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Martinsville Rewards Friends, Mangles Others

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, October 25 2013

Matt Kenseth and Jimmie Johnson have had varying success at Martinsville Speedway. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Christa L Thomas)

MARTINSVILLE, Va. – Call it the mystique at Martinsville.

Fifteen of Richard Petty’s 200 career wins in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series came at Martinsville Speedway. .

Bobby Allison, on the other hand, never managed to visit victory lane at the paperclip-shaped oval during his legendary Cup career.

Fast forward to today and that trend remains in full force with the elite drivers of NASCAR.

Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon and Denny Hamlin have been dominant at the .526-mile facility during the past decade. Together, they have accumulated 19 grandfather clocks, the signature trophy awarded to Martinsville winners.

But many top drivers, such as Greg Biffle, Carl Edwards and 2003 Cup champion Matt Kenseth have struggled mightily at Martinsville during their career.

As the Cup Series rolls back into town for Sunday’s Goody’s Headache Relief Shot 500, Kenseth is still basking over his 14th-place finish here in the spring which was arguably the best run at the smallest track on the circuit in 27 career starts for the Wisconsin native.

“I don’t know why it’s always been such a struggle, although I do feel like the last couple of years on average it’s been much better,” said Kenseth, who led 96 laps here in April.

“Some tracks feel natural to you and comes real easy, fits your style and other ones are just a lot more work. This one has just been in general a lot more work for me than other tracks.”

Eight-time Martinsville winner Johnson said he figured out the flat track during his sophomore season while following Tony Stewart.

“I think once it clicks here for a driver it’s a place they always have (success),” Johnson said. “If it doesn’t, it gets under your skin and aggravates you and continues to fest and creates the flip side.

“You are happy and enjoy the place and you run well. Then the flip side is if you don’t and it festers, you just have a tough time here and don’t like this place.”

NASCAR released the 2014 Camping World Truck Series schedule on Friday.

It is nearly identical to this year’s slate of events, with the following exceptions:

Rockingham Speedway and the second race at Iowa Speedway are off the schedule. Gateway Motorsports Park in St. Louis is on the docket, as is a previously announced date at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

“I look forward to it,” said Truck Series points leader Matt Crafton, when asked about the trucks returning to Loudon, New Hampshire for the first time since 2011. “I always loved going there. It was disappointing that we didn’t go there this year. It’s always been one of my favorite race tracks.

“I like the mile, the flat stuff because I always say it puts more of the driver back in the seat.”

Still nursing a sore back stemming from an incident with Joey Logano at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif. in March, Denny Hamlin will pull double duty this weekend.

The Virginia native said the jury is still out on whether he will go under the knife during the upcoming offseason.

“As far as surgery, I still haven’t decided on it,” said Hamlin, who will pilot Kyle Busch Motorsports’ No. 51 Toyota Tundra in Saturday’s Kroger 200. “I still haven’t met with doctors to figure out the best option.

“I have been feeling so much better this last month or so that I’d like to steer away from surgery, if possible. Obviously, I don’t want to just cover up the pain with the treatments I’ve been doing. That just numbs you a little bit.

“We still have an issue there that we have to address in the next month of so.”

– Jeff Hood can be reached at jhood@racintoday.com

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, October 25 2013
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