NASCAR Pre-Race Media: Martinsville Track Trends, Race Preview, etc

TRACK: Martinsville Speedway (.526-mile oval) DISTANCE: 400 Laps – Stage 1: 130 Laps, Stage 2: 130 Laps, Final Stage: 240 Laps, 263 Miles

Martinsville Speedway is a place where you don’t want to be stuck on the outside. Small track with long straights and paperclip like corners. Pit strategy and track position key.

  • JGR and Penske have put four cars in the top five of the finishing order in three of the last six Martinsville races and have won six of the last eight there too.
  • The only other team worth watching is Hendrick Motorsports. If you throw them into this equation, you get eight of the top 10 finishers from the 2020 June race belonging from Penske, JGR and HMS. They took five of the top six spots in the playoff race that year too, then went 1-2-3-4-5-6-7 last April and 1-2-3-4-5 in the Fall race
  • The eventual race winner had a top five finish in the first stage every year minus last Fall.
  • Three of the last five winners have all come from a top five starting spot with 10 of the last 12 coming from the top 10 overall.
  • Brad Keselowski and Martin Truex Jr. are the only repeat winners of the spring race in the last decade but the duo have combined to win 4 of the last 5 though in the spring event.

TRACK COMPARISONS

Richmond, Phoenix and Loudon are the closest comparisons. Loudon more so because of the shape of long straights and tight corners.


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Favorites

Martin Truex Jr. 

He’s won three of the last five Martinsville races. The only ones he didn’t win was the last two Fall races to where he led 129 laps in the Fall of 2020 and was fourth this past year. Truex, has seven top fives in his last nine tries on the Virginia paperclip.

Kyle Busch

Busch, has 12 top 10 finishes in his last 13 at Martinsville including a runner-up last Halloween.

Chase Elliott

He won the 2020 Fall race en route to a Championship 4 appearance. He was also fifth in the spring race prior while also being runner-up last spring to score four top fives in his last six Martinsville starts, three of them being in the top two.

Joey Logano

A pair of top five finishes came at Martinsville in 2020 to go along with seven top 10’s in his last eight tries.

MARTINSVILLE, VIRGINIA – OCTOBER 31: Kyle Larson, driver of the #5 HendrickCars.com Chevrolet, and Chase Elliott, driver of the #9 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet, lead the field during the NASCAR Cup Series Xfinity 500 at Martinsville Speedway on October 31, 2021 in Martinsville, Virginia. (Photo by Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images)

Sleepers

Ryan Blaney

He came home runner-up in both races in 2020 and was fourth and fifth respectively in 2019. Blaney, has five top fives in his last eight tries on the Virginia paperclip overall. While he was 11th in both races last year, he did sweep both stages in the spring race.

Christopher Bell

He has three top eight’s, two of which are top fives, in four Truck Series starts at Martinsville and was seventh last April in the Cup Series. Also, Bell has 3 top 10’s in his last 5 starts on the season including 3rd in COTA and 6th last week.

Alex Bowman

He never considers himself a great Martinsville racer, but Bowman finished sixth in both races in 2020 and the won last year’s playoff race. Bowman, has four top sevens in eight tries on the paperclip with HMS and 4 top 10’s in his last 5 starts on the season too.

William Byron

Worth a play here too. Byron, has four top eight’s in his last five Martinsville starts including a runner-up in the playoff race in 2019 and fourth and fifth respectively last year. He was third last week for his third top five in the last five weeks at that including 2 of the last 3 races leading over 100 laps.

Brad Keselowski

Keselowski, has six top five finishes in his last seven starts in Martinsville including 10 in his last 12 overall. He has four top three’s in his last six there.


Who To Fade?

Denny Hamlin

Odd to have a driver coming off of a win on the fade list, but truth be told, out of Hamlin’s 47 career Cup wins, he’s only gone back-to-back weeks of two straight trips to victory lane twice, the last one coming back in 2012. Also, 3 of his last 4 Martinsville finishes have seen him come home 11th or worse. On top of that, 6 of his 7 starts in 2022 have seen him finish outside the top 10 too.

Kyle Larson

4 of his 7 finishes this year have been 29th or worse. He led no laps and kind of stole a 5th place finish last weekend. This week however, isn’t one of his better tracks. Larson, has 1 top 5 (5th place last year) in his last 9 Martinsville tries including 10 of his 14 tries there seeing him finish outside the top 15.

Kevin Harvick

He’s had just two top fives in his last 19 Martinsville starts including 15th and 17th in 2020 and ninth and 12th last year.

Aric Almirola

He’s not had a top five ever on this track and was 20th and sixth last year respectively.

Kurt Busch

Wildly one of his worst tracks. He’s had one top five since his 2014 win here and only five top 10’s in his last 31 starts at Martinsville overall. He did finish seventh last Fall though.

Austin Dillon

5 of his last 8 races have seen him finish 22nd or worse. The other two finishes? 11th, 14th and 13th.

MARTINSVILLE, VIRGINIA – APRIL 10: Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell Pennzoil Ford, and Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Office Toyota, lead the field to start the NASCAR Cup Series Blue-Emu Maximum Pain Relief 500 at Martinsville Speedway on April 10, 2021 in Martinsville, Virginia. (Photo by James Gilbert/Getty Images)

Blu-Emu Maximum Pain Relief 400 preview

So far, this new car has proven to be just what we expected it to be. 7 races down, 7 different winners from 5 different organizations. Will Martinsville be a place to keep this going?

the sixth different year in the NASCAR Cup Series’ Modern Era (1972-2022) to start with seven different drivers in Victory Lane; joining 2021, 2014, 2003, 2000 and 1991. 

Now the NASCAR Cup Series is heading to the historic Martinsville Speedway to see if the streak can make it to eight different winners. If the 2022 season sees an eighth different victor this weekend it will become just the third different season in the NASCAR Cup Series Modern Era (1972-Present) to start with eight different winners in the first eight races; joining 2003 and 2000. Last season, Martin Truex Jr. snapped the different winners streak to start the year by winning his second race of the 2021 season at Martinsville (Race No. 8).

2022 NASCAR Cup Series Season Recap:

 LocationPole WinnerRace WinnerPoints LeaderPts Lead
1DaytonaKyle LarsonAustin CindricAustin Cindric0
2Auto ClubAustin CindricKyle LarsonAustin Cindric8
3Las VegasChristopher BellAlex BowmanKyle Larson6
4PhoenixRyan BlaneyChase BriscoeJoey Logano4
5AtlantaN/A – WeatherWilliam ByronChase Elliott7
6COTARyan BlaneyRoss ChastainChase Elliott13
7RichmondRyan BlaneyDenny HamlinRyan Blaney0

The Modern Era record of different winners to start a NASCAR Cup Series season is 10 set back in 2000. NASCAR Hall of Famer Dale Earnhardt Jr. snapped the different winners streak by winning his second race of the 2000 season at Richmond (Race No. 11).

SeasonRace No.WinnersTrackDate
20001Dale JarrettDaytonaSunday, February 20, 2000
20002Bobby LabonteRockinghamSunday, February 27, 2000
20003Jeff BurtonLas VegasSunday, March 5, 2000
20004Dale EarnhardtAtlantaSunday, March 12, 2000
20005Ward BurtonDarlingtonSunday, March 19, 2000
20006Rusty WallaceBristolSunday, March 26, 2000
20007Dale Earnhardt JrTexasSunday, April 2, 2000
20008Mark MartinMartinsvilleSunday, April 9, 2000
20009Jeff GordonTalladegaSunday, April 16, 2000
200010Jeremy MayfieldAuto ClubSunday, April 30, 2000

The next longest streak of different winners to start a season in the NASCAR Cup Series Modern Era belongs to 2003 with nine consecutive different winners. Kurt Busch snapped the streak of different winners by winning his second race of the 2003 season at Auto Club Speedway (Race No. 10).

SeasonRace No.WinnersTrackDate
20031Michael WaltripDaytonaSunday, February 16, 2003
20032Dale JarrettRockinghamSunday, February 23, 2003
20033Matt KensethLas VegasSunday, March 2, 2003
20034Bobby LabonteAtlantaSunday, March 9, 2003
20035Ricky CravenDarlingtonSunday, March 16, 2003
20036Kurt BuschBristolSunday, March 23, 2003
20037Ryan NewmanTexasSunday, March 30, 2003
20038Dale Earnhardt JrTalladegaSunday, April 6, 2003
20039Jeff GordonMartinsvilleSunday, April 13, 2003

In the Modern Era (1972-2021), the record for the most different NASCAR Cup Series winners in a single season in its entirety is 19 set back in 2001. The series has also seen a total of 18 different winners (second-most) in a single season twice – in 2002 and 2011. Last season, the series produced 16 different winners.

To find the winner, you can’t really look past the “Big 3” on Saturday night. JGR, Penske and Hendrick Motorsports. This trio has combined to win each of the last 7 races on the Virginia paperclip including 14 out of the last 15 overall.

Last week in Richmond, another short track, they took 8 of the top 9 finishing positions.

Combined, you get eight of the top 10 finishers from the 2020 June race too between these three organization. They also took five of the top six spots in the playoff race that year too, then went 1-2-3-4-5-6-7 last April and 1-2-3-4-5 in the Fall race.

Does the new car alter their dominance? I don’t honestly see how it does since it’s such a short track and aero is thrown out the window.

JGR and Penske would be the ones to beat normally as they’ve put four cars in the top five of the finishing order in three of the last six Martinsville races and have won six of the last eight there too among themselves. JGR came out of their funk last weekend and have the drivers to shine under the lights.

Martin Truex Jr. (winner of 3 out of the last 5 here), Denny Hamlin (4 top 5’s last 7 in Martinsville), Kyle Busch (11 top 10’s in last 13) and Christopher Bell (7th last year) having had solid races on the Virginia paperclip lately.

In Penske’s case, Austin Cindric is a rookie but has gotten better in his three NXS starts in being 10th to 6th to 2nd, but he was also 21st and 10th in his 2 Truck tries too. I just don’t see a rookie driver winning Martinsville. His two teammates though could be factors in Joey Logano (7 top 10’s in his last 8) and Ryan Blaney (5 top 5’s last 8).

HMS has won 2 of the last 3 but both were in the Fall race. However, the fall race has ended under the lights though too which could be an advantage in its own right. They’ve not won a spring race since 2013 though.

The thing is, William Byron has 3 top 5 finishes in his last 5 starts on the season, Alex Bowman having 4 top 10’s in the last 5 and Chase Elliott being a recent winner at Martinsville has me thinking this may be the top sleeper team.

So how do you eliminate some of them?

I’d start with Austin Cindric. In his case, the last time we’ve seen a “rookie” win here was Morgan Shepherd in 1981. However, he did make some starts prior to ’81 but that Martinsville race was just his 12th career Cup starts. The last one prior to that was Earl Ross who was making his 21st start in his 1974 win. Numbers aren’t on his side.

For Denny Hamlin, he’s only gone back-to-back weeks with wins twice in his Cup career. The last time occurring a decade ago (2012). Kyle Larson has 1 top 5 (5th place last year) in his last 9 Martinsville tries including 10 of his 14 tries there seeing him finish outside the top 15. You also have Chase Elliott with 1 top 5 all year and no wins on an oval since Nov. 2020.

Blu-Emu Maximum Pain Relief 400 key stat

The first night race of the season is here as we’ll run 400 laps under the lights at the Martinsville (VA) Speedway this weekend. That’s a big change from a few years ago to where Martinsville didn’t have lights ready for NASCAR as well as the distance always being 500 laps.

How much of a factor will that play?

I mean you’re truly only talking about a 53 mile differential in mileage. We’ve shortened races at other tracks by 100 miles. This is basically half of that. So, will it truly change the outcome?

It may.

Since the stage era began in 2017, we’ve had 10 Martinsville races. In them, the leader at Lap 400 failed to win the race in the end 5 times. They’ve also won the race 5 times too including 5 of the last 8 overall. On the flip side, the leader at Lap 400 has failed to win the race outright in each of the last 3 tries too.



Key Stat

If you want to win, you better find yourself in the top two or three by the end of the second stage. Since we began stage racing in 2017, the eventual winner has finished either first (4 times), second (3 times) or third (twice) in nine of the 10 second stages. However, they have just 1 top five all season though too.

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