NASCAR Martinsville Preview
Last weekend, Denny Hamlin was able to score a breakthrough victory for both himself and Toyota as he rallied late to score the victory at Richmond Raceway.
Now, the NASCAR Cup Series hits the middle leg of its “short track swing,” heading to Martinsville Speedway Saturday night for the running of the Blue-Emu Maximum Pain Relief 400.
For only the second time in the track’s history — and the first time since 1956 — this weekend’s race at Martinsville will only be 400 laps in length, down from the traditional 500.
It will also be only the second scheduled night race in the track’s history, with the first coming in 2020, after being postponed due to rain.
At 0.526 miles, Martinsville Speedway measures in as the shortest track on the regular season calendar, with only the temporary quarter-mile inside the Los Angeles Coliseum being a shorter distance.
However, the small speedway never fails to provide big action and, usually, a fair share of bent fenders and hurt feelings. In recent years especially, the track has been known for the fights and confrontations that have occurred between some of the sport’s high-profile stars, the most recent coming between Hamlin and Alex Bowman after last fall’s playoff race.
With 100 less laps to work with Saturday night, the intensity should only ratchet up even higher, and it would be no surprise to see tempers boil over again either during the race or after the checkered flag.
When handicapping the field for this weekend’s race at “The Paperclip,” a good place to start is in the Toyota camp, which finally broke through for its first win of the season thanks to Hamlin’s victory.
Martin Truex, Jr. has been the driver to watch recently, as he has won this race each of the past two seasons and has three wins in the last five Martinsville races in total.
However, Hamlin and Kyle Busch have also been contenders on a consistent basis as well. Hamlin has five wins at the speedway, while Busch has also won there twice in recent seasons.
Another driver to watch this weekend should be Joey Logano. While Logano only has one Martinsville win to his credit, he has had several more potential victories at the track slip through his grasp, including a loss after his infamous run-in with Matt Kenseth in 2015.
Logano has always shown strength at the short tracks, though. And he also picked up the win in the season-opening Clash at the Coliseum race on a track that shares a few similarities with the Virginia half-mile.
One final driver to keep an eye on is the driver currently tied for the regular-season points lead in Chase Elliott. Despite being atop the standings, it’s been a bit of a struggle so far in 2022 for the No. 9 team, as race-winning speed has seemed hard to come by.
However, Martinsville has been a good track for Elliott in the past. He nearly scored his first-career win there in the playoffs in 2017, and was able to pick up a clutch victory in 2020 en route to winning the championship.
After watching his three teammates find victory lane early in the season, Saturday night could finally be the time for Elliott to pick up another grandfather clock and turn his season around.
Kasey Kreider is a first-year majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.