The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series will be hitting this 0.526 mile paved short track for the 123rd time in series history for the 6th race of the 2010 season and 2nd short track race.
Jimmie Johnson's won 3 of the first 5 races of the season and will be the favorite to win this weekend and make it 4 of 6. Johnson has 15 straight top tens at Martinsville with 6 wins in the last 11 races and 5 in the last 7.
The driver who's taken it to Jimmie the most at Martinsville of late is Denny Hamlin. He has 7 straight top tens including 2 wins and 6 top fives and won the fall race last season so he could make it back-to-back Martinsville wins. Unfortunately his start to the season's hasn't been nearly as impressive, his best finish is 17th and he's mired in 19th in the standings. Martinsville will be both a chance for Denny to get his season on track and a barometer of where they sit.
And the driver with the longest history of success at Martinsville is Jeff Gordon with active bests of 7 wins, 22 top fives and 28 top tens in 34 career starts. He's on a streak of 10 consecutive top fives and 14 consecutive top tens but also his longest winless streak at 8 races (went first 7 career Martinsville races without a win). Jeff's been painstakingly close to getting to the top 3 in all time victories but wins have been hard to come by of late for the 4 time champ. But no matter how much he's struggled in the past (which is not very much) he's always put his best foot forward here so he could finally get win #83 and tie Cale Yarborough for 5th all time this Sunday.
There's the three obvious favorites for the win, here's the 7 other drivers who could steal the win:
Juan Pablo Montoya - Surprisingly one of his better tracks, JPM has never finished worse than 16th in 6 starts and had an 8th place finish in his rookie season. JPM's road course expertise seems to override his temperament here and he showed it with a 3rd place finish last October. He's come close to his first oval win at Atlanta and bad luck that's blown his chances in other races this season but he could finally get it here.
Tony Stewart - Smoke got Stewart Haas Racing it's first top five finish in this race last season and followed it up with a 9th in the October race. The two-time Martinsville winner hasn't led a lap in the last 5 races but from 2005-2006 he led over 247 laps in 3 straight races combining for 818 of 1500 laps led. Tony's lost a bit of that dominant edge in the past few seasons but he's found other ways to win races so he won't have to lead over 200 laps to win here.
Mark Martin - Mark's said in the past he doesn't like Martinsville very much, and it showed when he didn't race here when he scaled back to part time. You wouldn't know it after he finished top ten in both races last year, or by his two wins here back in 1992 and 2000. He's won here in two different decades so why not a 3rd?
Dale Earnhardt Jr. - Martinsville is the one short track in Cup that Dale Jr. hasn't won at yet despite his best efforts. He'd led over 100 laps in 4 of his 20 starts here and has 8 top fives with a best finish of 2nd in October of 2008. In fact he's the only current Hendrick driver without a win here. It'll be tough to beat his teammates here (Mark'll be easier, he's never liked Martinsville despite his success) but it'll be his best chance to date to get back to victory lane for the first time since 2008.
Jamie McMurray - Jamie had his troubles at Roush but with one exception: Martinsville. In 8 starts here with Roush Jamie had 5 top tens, more than any other Roush driver (Roush only had 11 in 41 starts in that stretch). Jamie was great here in his days with CGR as well with 4 top tens in 6 starts including a runner-up in October 2004. With his confidence at an all-time high thanks to Daytona and coming off a great run at Bristol he's got the momentum to not only get another top ten but contend for the win.
Kurt Busch - This is purely based on how well Kurt's run of late because despite a win here back in 2002 Martinsville is not one of Kurt's better tracks. Only 4 top tens in 19 races and none in his last 8 starts makes it a tough sell but Kurt had been struggling of late at Bristol too before he went back to his dominating ways of old. Kyle Busch and Addington had only 1 finish better than 24th in 4 races here together but it was a 4th in their last Martinsville race last October.
Joey Logano - Joey only has two starts at Martinsville, both last season. He started 34th and finished 32nd 4 laps down in what amounted to an awful run in his first race but then improved to a 7th place start and a 12th place finish in his 2nd start. They're still a big wild card but don't be surprised to see them pop up in the top five at the end of the race and have a shot at the win if they can keep all the fenders on.
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