While it was nice to have a little break in the schedule, it will be GREAT to see the race cars this weekend under the lights at the “Paperclip.” Martinsville is the epitome of short track racing, and there will be plenty of contact and trading paint on Saturday night.
Quick recap of Bristol dirt, which I feel like happened six weeks ago now. The two favorites, Christopher Bell and Kyle Larson got into each other early in the race and ruined both of their days. Joey Logano took the checkered flag and there were some very surprising results in the Top 10 behind him. Ricky Stenhouse in 2nd, Daniel Suarez in 4th, Ryan Newman in 5th, and Eric Jones in 9th were all drivers that outperformed the equipment that they’re in. It was very cool to see the Cup cars on dirt and I’m excited that they will be back next spring in Bristol.
Now on to another half mile track, but it couldn’t be any different than Bristol dirt. They’re back on the traditional asphalt surface this weekend. Martinsville Speedway is 0.526 miles in length (the shortest on the Cup circuit) with relatively flat 12 degree banking in the corners. There are a handful of drivers that always seem to do well here and this track is notorious for destroying rookies and younger drivers. The Xfinity Series has only raced here once (last fall) since 2006 so many of the younger drivers do not get the chance to turn laps and become familiar with the track. Let’s get on with some Power Rankings!
1) (Last week 1, Avg Finish 4.7) Denny Hamlin – Sounds like a broken record, but Denny had another Top 5 finish last week. He now has six Top 5s in seven races and holds steady for his fourth week in a row atop my rankings.
2) (5, 12.9) William Byron – Byron knocked out his fifth consecutive Top 10 at Bristol dirt, which is an incredible run for the 23 year old. The young phenom may be finally growing into his potential. He has finishes of 2nd and 8th in his last three races here (misleading 35th last fall) so he should have confidence as he looks for his sixth straight T10.
3) (10, 9.4) Joey Logano – Logano had the fastest green flag speed last spring at Martinsville and was 4th fastest in the fall despite already being locked in to the Championship 4. He has finished Top 10 in every stage here since 2017 and will start from the pole Saturday night. Look for him to be up front early and often along with his Penske teammates.
4) (7, 11.3) Brad Keselowski – Brad and the rest of the Penske garage have to be ecstatic to be heading to Martinsville this weekend. All three drivers race well here, but Kes has been on another level. His last 10 races here have produced finishes of 5th, 2nd, 1st, 4th, 10th, 5th, 1st, 3rd, 3rd, 4th. Are you kidding me with those numbers?! That is an average finish of 3.8 and my mind is officially blown.
5) (2, 10.7) Martin Truex Jr. – Truex won at Martinsville last spring and could have won the fall race too if not for a late pit road error by his crew. In his last six races here, he has two wins, five Top 5s, and holds the best driver rating.
6) (8, 14.7) Chase Elliott – Chase had an incredible performance at this track last fall as he won his way into the Championship 4 and we all know how that ended for him. He led 236 laps and had a near-perfect driver rating of 145.6. He also finished 5th in the spring race last year so he will have an excellent chance for a repeat victory.
7) (3, 9.4) Kevin Harvick – Harvick continues to grind through the season despite the Stewart-Haas cars lacking speed. He is the only SHR car to finish in the Top 10 this year (he has four Top 10s) which is incredible for one of the top teams on the circuit. The #4 team has struggled to find the proper setup at the “Paperclip” as he only has one Top 5 in his last six races. He will likely battle his way to another Top 10 this weekend but it may not be pretty.
8) (4, 11.9) Kyle Larson – Larson hasn’t raced here since fall of 2019 and that was in a Chip Ganassi car. He finished 2nd in stage 2 and 9th in the race. It will be interesting to see what he can do on a short track in a Hendrick car. He’s shown nothing but success early this season with the upgrade in equipment.
9) (6, 14.0) Ryan Blaney – YRB finished 2nd in both 2020 Martinsville races, and had results of 4th and 5th in 2019. He looks to be a near lock to finish in the Top 5 and compete for his second win of the season on Saturday night.
10) (12, 12.3) Ricky Stenhouse Jr. – “Wrecky” had a hell of a run at Bristol dirt and is outdriving his nickname. He hasn’t wrecked one time this year. He has finished 18th or better every race this season and 13th or better in his last five races. That’s the good news, the bad news is he’s never finished better than 10th at the “Paperclip” in 16 races. Last year he had finishes of 20th and 21st.
11) (9, 15.4) Christopher Bell – Bell has only raced at Martinsville twice since 2017 when he was in the Truck Series. Even in the trucks, he never won here and only had a few Top 5s against much inferior competition. Last year in the #95 Cup car, he didn’t fare very well with finishes of 15th and 28th. As I said in my intro, this track tends to beat up on younger drivers so I don’t expect Bell to have a great night Saturday.
12) (Not Ranked, 17.6) Kurt Busch – Kurt has had a roller coaster of a season, but should have some success this weekend at one of his best tracks. He finished 5th and 9th here last year and ran in the Top 10 all day at both races. I’ll be looking to bet him Top 10 and possibly Top 5 as well and hope we both have better luck than at Atlanta.
One Lap Down:
(NR, 21.9) Matt DiBenedetto – Don’t let Matty D get hot! He’s finished 16th or better in each of his last four races after a tumultuous start to his season. He also had two Top 10 finishes last year at the “Paperclip” after never finishing that well in his previous ten races here. Another good bet for a Top 10 finish.
(11, 15.0) Austin Dillon – If you think the #3 car is bad at road courses, you should see his Martinsville resume! Since he finished 5th in the Spring 2017 race, he has finishes of 13th, 30th, 30th, 11th, 22nd, 37th, 23rd for an average finish of 23.7. Austin is not a guy you’ll want to roster in DFS or on your betting ticket this weekend.
(NR, 15.6) Kyle Busch – Rowdy clearly didn’t have a great time at Bristol dirt, but he’s set up for success at Martinsville. He has two wins here and had a streak of eight consecutive Top 5s from 2015 to 2019. However in the last three races here he’s only cracked the Top 10 one time. Which Kyle will we see Saturday night?
(NR, 17.0) Alex Bowman – Bowman had a pair of 6th place finishes at Martinsville last year. He may just have figured this place out after struggling early in his career. The Hendrick cars all look good this weekend.
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