Skip to search.

NASCAR Preview

Last Updated Monday, Nov 1, 2010 2:00 am, EDT

TUMS Fast Relief 500

Status: Final Martinsville Speedway

Race Capsule

Martinsville Speedway
  • What:

    Race 32 of 36 on Sprint Cup circuit

  • Where:

    Martinsville Speedway, Ridgeway, VA

  • When:

    October 24, 2010 1:13 pm EDT

  • Laps:


  • Track Length:

    0.526 miles

  • Race Length:

    263.00 miles

  • Purse:


Drivers to Watch

Denny Hamlin Hamlin is just 41 points out of the Chase lead heading to a track where he has three wins, including the last two races. The Virginia native has seven top-five and nine top-10 finishes in 10 Martinsville starts. The only time he has finished out of the top 10 came in his second race there -- the spring 2006 event -- when he started 41st and finished 37th. "It's really a combination of things," Hamlin said of his success at Martinsville. "I have raced here more than I have raced at any other track when you consider total laps. Growing up in Virginia, I had the chance to race here in some other series, and all that track time definitely gave me a comfort level at Martinsville. That carried over to trucks and Nationwide Series and now to the Cup Series. I feel really confident at this track and I know we bring great cars -- those things together usually lead to success. It's also a lot of pressure because this is a race we circled as one where we expect to be really competitive. It definitely starts with having confidence there. It's not an easy place to race, so you know you are in for a battle. It's really tight and there is no room for error. For me it's always been about braking at Martinsville -- that is where I find I have an advantage. You are always searching for grip coming off the turn there, but if you can be smooth in and get the car situated on entry, you put yourself in much better position getting back to the throttle. You also have to be very patient. It's not an easy place to pass, so you have to take the opportunities when you have them -- you don't want to be in position like I was last year, needing to make up a lot of ground in just a few laps."
Greg Biffle Biffle improved two positions in the standings but is 225 out of first place, and his record at Martinsville doesn't fuel much hope for a comeback -- he has no wins, no top-fives and only two top-10 finishes in 15 Martinsville starts. He was 25th last October and 10th in March -- his first Martinsville top-10 in five starts. "Well, it's obvious by looking at my stats that Martinsville has been a tough place for me," Biffle admitted. "We've had a few decent runs there, but getting your car to turn can make the difference between a fun race at Martinsville and a long day at Martinsville. When the car is turning and you can get off of the corners on the gas, the race at Martinsville can be one of the most fun races of the season, but when it won't turn or your brakes a failing, it is probably my least favorite track on the circuit. I would say our goal this weekend is to leave Martinsville with a top-10 finish like we did in the spring."
Ryan Newman Newman will be shooting for his fourth straight top-seven finish at Martinsville. "We had a good run there in the spring," said Newman. "We were fastest in practice, but we had to start pretty deep in the field (26th) because qualifying got rained out. But we have a good enough car that I was able to drive it into the top 10 and race there all day. I look forward to going back."
Juan Pablo Montoya Montoya finished third in the fall race a year ago at Martinsville. "We've run good at Martinsville," said Montoya. "It's a track I really enjoy racing at. Something about the way it's designed suits my driving style. We came close to a win there last year, and hopefully we can be up there in the front contending for a win again this time around."
Tony Stewart Stewart dropped one spot in the standings and is 177 out of first. Stewart has two wins, eight top-five and 13 top-10 finishes in 23 starts. He was ninth in this race last year and 26th in March. It was the second time he had finished 26th in his last four Martinsville races. Sandwiched in between are two top-10 finishes. "You can have it (success at Martinsville), for sure," Stewart said. "It's knowing that feel, it's finding that combination that works, and the next time you come back to that track you know what that feel is like and you know what you're looking for in practice for it to be good in the race. During the race, the track changes quite a bit, but you know when you kind of have that rhythm. You have the timing of what it was like. You just know what that feel is in the car that you're looking for, not necessarily to be good in Happy Hour as much as to be good for the race. When you've had a good weekend, the next time you go back it's just easier to try to go back and mimic that feel. That's why when guys hit on something they're normally good for a while until the package changes quite a bit, and then once that changes, you have to learn a different feel. Normally for a while you can have that, and different guys, if you look over the history, have kind of had runs at it. It seems like whether it's a three- or four- or five-race period, guys get that feel of it and know what that tire likes, what the chassis combination likes at that time, and they kind of have that and they know how to adapt to it."
David Reutimann Reutimann is still looking for his first top-10 finish at Martinsville. His best finish in seven starts at the track is 16th. "Martinsville, obviously, has not been a good track for me," said Reutimann. "But we feel our short track program is getting better, so I feel this might be the weekend I finally get that first top-10."
Jamie McMurray McMurray has finished in the top 10 in two of the last three races at Martinsville, which gives him nine top-10s in 15 starts there. "Martinsville is always a good track for me and one that I've consistently been fast at," said McMurray. "At Martinsville it's really hard to discipline yourself to wait long enough to get back in the gas on the straightaway, so it's a track you really seem to focus on developing your rhythm."
David Ragan Ragan is still looking for his first top-10 finish at Martinsville. His best finish in 11 starts at the track is 11th. Yet Ragan still said, "It's one of my favorite tracks on the schedule. It's such a unique track, and it's nice that it is pretty close to home. Coming off a strong run at Charlotte, our UPS team should be primed up and ready for another good weekend."
Jeff Gordon Gordon remains fourth but took a big hit in points, dropping to 156 out of the lead. Gordon has seven Martinsville wins, but his last victory there was in 2005, when he swept both Martinsville races. He has 23 top-five and 29 top-10 finishes in 35 starts and was fifth in this race in 2009 and third in the first trip there this year. He has a streak of 11 straight top-five finishes at Martinsville. "I always love going to Martinsville," Gordon said. "I feel like we're really good there. The cars handle well there. I like the track. We just tested at Little Rock (a Martinsville-shaped oval located next to the big oval at Rockingham, N.C.) last week to try to get prepared for that race. So it's a track that I think as a group we carry a lot of confidence going into. I would like to see more short tracks (on the schedule). We only have two half-mile tracks. Richmond is a nice short track, but it's even a little bit big. It acts a little bit more like a Charlotte. Aerodynamics plays a pretty big role there. It would be pretty cool to have something sort of in between a Martinsville and a Bristol -- a little bit more banking and a little bit more sweeping corners. That would be very cool. I'm a big fan of that."
Paul Menard Menard finished 14th in the spring race at Martinsville. That was his best finish in six starts at the track. "There are a couple of keys to being successful at Martinsville," said crew chief Slugger Labbe. "Track position is so important, of course, because it's so hard to pass. Getting the car to run through the center of the corner so you can drive straight off the corner is another."
AJ Allmendinger Allmendinger has one top-10 finish in six starts at Martinsville. "The good news is that all of our hard work has finally helped us make it into the top 20 in points," said Allmendinger. "Now we just need to make sure we stay there. Martinsville and Talladega can be a bit of a crapshoot and we got into some trouble the last time we were in Martinsville, so the important thing will be finishing the race problem-free."
Martin Truex Jr. Truex finished a season-best fifth in the spring race at Martinsville. It was only his second top-10 finish in nine starts at the short track. "I have a love-hate relationship with Martinsville, and if you ask Pat (Tryson, crew chief), so does he," said Truex. "We're proud of that top-five, and I would never have predicted it."
Clint Bowyer Bowyer has finished in the top-10 in fifth of the last six races at Martinsville, including a seventh in the spring event. "I do like Martinsville, although it took a while to learn it," said Bowyer. "It is very challenging; (it's) a lot of fun and you have to look at it like that. You have to look at it as a challenge. It is one of the tracks that I feel like someday I can win a race there."
Jeff Burton Burton dropped two places in points and is 239 behind first-place Jimmie Johnson. Burton has one win, 10 top-five finishes and 14 top-10s in 32 starts at Martinsville, his home-state track. He was 15th in both 2009 races and 20th in March and is hoping to break a streak of four straight finishes out of the top-10. "We had a great shot to win that race (last spring) and ended up cutting a right front tire real, real late," Burton said. "I led a lot of that race and thought we had an opportunity. So (we) have been waiting on this -- would kind of like to go back and redeem that. It is a real balance of over-driving and not driving hard enough. It is a one-corner-at-a-time race track. You can't think ahead. You have to be in the moment and pay attention to what you are doing right now. If you do that, that is when you have your best races there. It is real hard to plan ahead there. So many things happen. It is a matter of being smart, aggressive, consistent -- all those things really mean a lot there. It is very cool to race in your hometown. I grew up about an hour from Martinsville and raced late models there as a kid. I can remember them announcing they were going to run late model races at Martinsville, and it was like, 'Oh my gosh, that is incredible that we will have a chance to do that.' That track has always meant a lot. Got lucky enough to win the first Nationwide race I ran there and have run really well there."
Jimmie Johnson Johnson takes a 41-point lead into Martinsville, where he has been dominant -- six wins, 12 top-five finishes and 16 top-10s in 17 starts. The only time he finished out of the top 10 was in his first race there in 2002, when he started 14th and finished 35th. He was second in this race last year and ninth in March. He won this race two years ago and the March race in 2009. "It took awhile to get there (become successful at Martinsville)," Johnson said. "And when I came into the sport, I had two years in ASA and thought that the short tracks would fit well for me and it was quite the opposite. It took a long time to understand the big car, the radial tire, the extra power, and how to maneuver around on a short track. But the track at Martinsville, especially when the rubber is laid down, reminds me of some of my off-road stuff where we would have barrels or tractor tires stacked up as the turn-marker, but it was that tight of a radius. And when the rubber lays down, especially the right-side rubber on corner exit at Martinsville, you have to change your line to not run through the rubber at the wrong spot. We had a really exciting finish there in the spring with the double-file restart. First and foremost, you would have to assume the front-row outside driver -- the old theory of eight wheels are better than four is going to come into play -- and whoever the inside car is going to lean on him pretty heavily. There we can turn people around pretty easily. It could. I've heard Jeff (Gordon) make those comments on how double-file restarts could affect things. I naturally think that he's speaking more to the mile-and-a-half and two-mile tracks because the cars are really out of control in low-air situations. You have more control over your car at Martinsville than at any of the other tracks on a double-file restart. We'll see."
Mark Martin Martin has two wins and 23 top-10 finishes in 45 starts at Martinsville. "Martinsville was one of our more spectacular races this season," said Martin. "If you just look at the stats (he finished 21st), you won't see that, but we had one of the strongest race cars at the track that day. We led for a while but then had a pit-road penalty midway through the race -- a freak deal with the air hose really, but our car was so strong that we got back into the top 10. Then, probably from pushing the car so hard to get back to the front, we cut a tire and that cost us what could have been a really, really good finish."
Joey Logano Logano finished second in the spring race at Martinsville. "We had a great run there in March," said Logano. "Denny (Hamlin, his teammate) is awfully hard to beat there, but I think we have a chance to really run good there again this weekend. We just have a lot of confidence in our short-track program right now."
Brad Keselowski Keselowski finished 12th in his Sprint Cup debut at Martinsville in March. He will be racing a new car this weekend. "The No. 12 team had a very successful race at Martinsville in the spring," said Keselowski. "We ran solidly in the top-15 for most of the day, and we were able to bring our car home in pretty good shape. Hopefully we can ratchet that up a notch or two and get a top-10 effort out of it this weekend."
Kyle Busch Busch climbed an amazing four points positions, to fifth, and is 177 out of the lead. Busch has never won at Martinsville, where he has four top-five and five top-10 finishes in 11 starts. He was fourth in this race last year and 22nd in March. His fourth-place finish in 2009 was his first top-10 at Martinsville in four attempts. "If I had Jeff Gordon's or Jimmie Johnson's success there, then I would be comfortable going there," Busch admitted. "I've had some decent runs there where I've felt like we've had a car to win and had a shot to win. Unfortunately, we weren't able to get the track position toward the end of the race. Jeff (Gordon) is so good there, and Jimmie (Johnson) and Denny (Hamlin) are all so good there. They are probably the three most difficult guys to pass there because they know the place. They know how to get off the corner and how to roll the middle of the corner there. Everything is timing, and their stuff just works, whatever it is. Every track is different. There aren't two race tracks out there that are the same. Everybody says that Atlanta, Texas, Charlotte, those places are the same because they look the same from the sky. But they are so, so different. They say Chicago is the same as Kansas and (Las) Vegas, and those places are so different. California and Michigan, they're so different. I would say that probably the closest race track that I grew up racing on was San Bernardino, Calif. -- it was Orange Show Speedway. That's closest to what Martinsville is. I only ran Legends cars there, so it's not a true telling. It was only a quarter-mile. It's just a tough place because you're so hard on brakes, but your minimum speed there -- everybody's -- is the same, pretty much. Except there are a couple of guys who will get a half-mile-an-hour faster through the center of the corner, and that is the difference between the pole speed and being dead last. You're looking to find things that will make your car just that much faster there. You want to drive into the corner one foot deeper than that other guy. You want to step on the gas one foot sooner than that other guy and you want to roll a half-mile-an-hour better than that other guy. That's why it's so finicky and so hard there because everybody runs so tight that, any little thing you can find, it can help a lot."
Dale Earnhardt Jr. Earnhardt has finished in the top five eight times at Martinsville to tie a personal-best mark for the most top-fives at one track. He also has eight top-fives at Daytona, Talladega, Richmond and Atlanta. Earnhardt has led 758 laps at Martinsville, a personal best for laps led. Thus, it is not surprising to hear him say, "I love going to Martinsville."
Kurt Busch Busch dropped from sixth to ninth in the standings and is 237 out of the lead. Busch is another driver with a mediocre record at Martinsville -- one win, two top-five finishes and four top-10s in 20 starts. He was 17th in this race last year and 23rd in March and has not finished in the top 10 in his last nine trips there. His last top-10 was a sixth in this race in 2005. "We're coming back into Martinsville with a lot of confidence and a really positive attitude about racing there this weekend," Busch said. "We've run very well there through the years, but you wouldn't know that by just looking at the statistics. The biggest thing is that it's been seldom that we've been able to put together a whole race at Martinsville. We'd start out strong and not be able to get the good finishes we needed. Many times we've been strong enough to win a 400-lap race there, but the problem is that Martinsville races are 500-lappers, not 400."
Matt Kenseth Kenseth has only six top-10 finishes in 21 starts at Martinsville. "It is really hard to be patient at Martinsville because it always seems like you're getting run into or you're running into somebody," said Kenseth. "We're always racing for the little bit of room we have on the track, so it can easily become a frustrating place. But you have to be patient in order to get a solid finish."
Kasey Kahne Kahne has finished in the top 10 only twice in 13 starts at Martinsville, but one of them was a second back in the spring of 2005. "As a driver, I've learned a lot about racing at Martinsville," he said. "The first time I raced at the track, I could barely go around it. The next year I was better and the car drove 10 times better than the year before and we ran second. It's a tough track."
Kevin Harvick Harvick remains third but is 77 points out of first. Harvick's record at Martinsville is not nearly as impressive as what Jimmie Johnson and Denny Hamlin have done there -- he has never won there and has yet to finish in the top five. He has seven top-10 finishes in 18 starts and was 10th in this event last year but was 35th in March. "I think we've run well there (at Martinsville)," Harvick said. "We ran well at the first race and had some mechanical issues. We just have to keep doing what we've been doing. I think (Jeff) Burton had the fastest car there last time and wound up getting a flat tire, so we will look at those notes and go from there and see what happens. When it comes to thinking about being or not being aggressive because it is in the Chase, in my mind, nine times out of 10, the aggressor comes out up top. So, I'll take that 10th of a percent and 10 percent chance of making a mistake and having things happen. But if you don't protect yourself in trying to go forward, you are going to get run over. Usually, by trying to stay out of trouble, you usually find more trouble than you will just going and racing like you normally do. Here is my motto through the whole thing: You don't have to win it in one week, but, you sure can lose it in one. So you just have to go out and protect yourself the best you can and race as hard as you can and get the best finish that you can."