Chase Scenarios For Martinsville Speedway

File:Martinsville Backstretch.JPG 

By Peter Carcia
TheRacingExperts.com Reporter
10/20/2010

Only twice now in the last two years have we seen a winner without the chase being involved in his goals. That man is Jamie McMurray. After taking the two most prestigious events in the regular season, he was able to get his first “non major” event this year. Now, we see a crucial battle coming to this race in Martinsville . Both Jimmie Johnson and Denny Hamlin, the top two in the points, have dominating numbers at this track, and now, we could see who gets the advantage over these two by who wins this Sunday.

            The chase is getting wider, however, with only four drivers that are statistically able to make the top spot in just this race alone. I’d admit that I’m leaving out Tony Stewart and Kyle Busch (both 177 points behind) for reverse psychology, but among the four drivers left, you have four completely different stories.

 

Jimmie Johnson (5843 / lead) THE CHAMP: Johnson was the favorite for me to win this race in Charlotte , but just barely missed the opportunity after Jamie McMurray pulled ahead. Now we head to one of his strongest tracks on the circuit. What’s different? Denny Hamlin, who is the best target when seeing an upset of the big man on campus, is also the man most likely to dethrone him. Now, he’s split the first two of his incredibly strong tracks (won @ Dover , 3rd @ Auto Club) and that’s definitely why he hasn’t held the lead he has had at this point in the last two years (lead by 90 points in 2009 and 69 points in 2008). I like his strategy, but I expect him to be a little more aggressive in this race, primarily because of who’s right below him in this list.

  • Finished 3rd @ Charlotte
  • 3.40 Average finish @ Martinsville since Feb. 2008 (2nd among active drivers)
  • 5.35 Career average @ Martinsville (1st among active drivers)

 

Denny Hamlin (5802 / -41) THE YOUNG GUN: We all expected him to be conservative this time around, and in Charlotte , it surprisingly worked pretty well. He still lost a bit of ground, but he was in a very good position, finishing right after the man he’s chasing. Make no mistake however; what’s coming up next is armed and dangerous for those who dare stay conservative. Any time it seems that he hasn’t been aggressive enough, it gives the 48 another W. Hamlin has the last two wins at this track, and what he needs to do is take the plans for the chase itself, and throw it out of the window for this race. The real question that should be asked is, “how did we win those last two races?” The only reason I don’t see him trying to run up front is if Johnson’s just wrecked and he doesn’t want to lose his opportunity to take the lead. Let’s be honest, how would that happen?

  • Finished 4th @ Charlotte
  • 2.00 Average finish @ Martinsville since Feb. 2008 (1st among active drivers)
  • 6.60 Career average @ Martinsville (2nd among active drivers)
  • In order to gain position, Hamlin can:

·        Finish 15 spots better than Johnson

 

Kevin Harvick (5766 / -77) THE COMEBACK KID: Kevin obviously earns that title, but it’s how he uses it that will determine what his fate will be. Kevin Harvick’s average in the last 5 Martinsville races is an even 15. That’s not the best average to have at a time like this. Harvick is in a very good position to get back into contention, and he could do it with more of what he’s doing. In the race at Talladega , go for the win, but for now, you need to focus on making sure you’re still in the hunt. He has the ability somewhere, but without determination, comebacks will be put to waste.

  • Finished 8th @ Charlotte
  • 15.00 Average finish @ Martinsville since Feb. 2008 (13th among active drivers)
  • 18.11 Career Average @ Martinsville (25th among active drivers)
  • In order to gain position, Harvick can:

·        Finish 27 spots better than Johnson

·        Finish 13 spots better than Hamlin

 

Jeff Gordon (5687 / -156) THE OLD FART: There is a problem going on in the #24 team’s garage and that is the negative attitude. With all of the missed opportunities that Gordon has gotten over the last year, there is little to cheer about. The real dilemma simply is that those words aren’t true. Gordon has done much better than expected in this chase, and there is nobody that I talk to that says Gordon has a legitimate chance. This is the kind of talk that got teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr. in the hole he’s in. All you can really do at this point is being positive. After all, this was one of the tracks where he had his best chance at a win. That same attentiveness can change that concept.

  • Finished 23rd @ Charlotte (-1 Lap)
  • 3.60 Average finish @ Martinsville since Feb. 2008 (3rd among active drivers)
  • 6.69 Career Average @ Martinsville (3rd among active drivers)
  • In order to gain position, Gordon can:

·        Finish 43 spots better than Johnson AND lead the most laps

·        Finish 38 spots better than Hamlin

·        Finish 28 spots better than Harvick

 

Other chase contenders: Kyle Busch (-177); Tony Stewart (-177); Carl Edwards (-200); Greg Biffle (-225); Kurt Busch (-237); Jeff Burton (-239); Matt Kenseth (-256); Clint Bowyer (-300)

 

Next week, it’s the moment you’ve been waiting for; Talladega, the Wild Card weekend. Until we settle the shortest, however, I’ll see you on the track.