The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drafts their way out of the 2.66-mile Talladega Superspeedway to the 0.526-mile Martinsville Speedway nestled in the mountains of Virginia for the 68th annual Goody’s Fast Relief 500. This will kick off the “Round of Eight” for the Chase for the Sprint Cup. A win by a Chase driver will guarantee a lock at a chance for the championship at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
40 drivers are vying to compete for 40 spots in Sunday’s main event. Notable drivers in the field include Jeff Gordon, who will race for the final time in 2016 filling in for Dale Earnhardt Jr. Dylan Lupton will be making his third start of 2016 this weekend in Martinsville.
Martinsvile Speedway was built in 1947 by H. Clay Earles, and is the only track to host NASCAR sanctioned races since 1949. Martinsville is known on the NASCAR circuit as “The Paperclip”, due to its shape and its tight corners. The track width is only 55 feet. The turns are 588 feet in length and the straights are 800 feet. Pit road begins at the entrance of turn three and goes to the exit of turn two and is only 46 feet wide.
There have been 59 different pole winners at Martinsville. 49 different drivers have won at the prestigious speedway. 21 races have been won from the pole with Jimmie Johnson being the last driver to do so in 2013. In 1996, Gordon set the race record at 82.223 mph. In 2014, Jamie McMurray set the qualifying record at 99.905 mph.
Besides the Chase for the Sprint Cup, there are numerous storylines coming into the weekend. Ford has not won a race at Martinsville since 2002 with Kurt Busch. The other storyline is can Joey Logano win his fourth consecutive pole to become the first driver to do so.
Drivers talk about Martinsville and going into the “Round of Eight”.
“We’ve run well the last couple times at Martinsville and definitely pumped about getting back there. I’m hoping we can have a really good car there again this time around like we did last time. We led a lot of laps and we were really fast. Hoping that some of those things that we were able to push through there at Martinsville, we’ll be able to do this time around,” says Kyle Busch, driver of the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota.
“These next three races line up really well for us. We’ve been fortunate to have won at Martinsville before and we ran really well there the first race. The 1.5-mile tracks have been our bread and butter and Phoenix has been really good pretty much every single time we’ve been there. First it was just trying to get to Martinsville and we’ve accomplished that. Now we have to focus on getting the best finish that we can out of each racetrack. I guess if I’d have to pick one that we’ve been most successful at it would be Phoenix hands down. But, our 1.5-mile stuff has been our bread and butter this year as we’ve gone through the season, so that should be good; and Martinsville has been good to us in the past,” says Kevin Harvick, driver of the No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevy.
“We had a really good test at Martinsville a few weeks ago and I’m looking forward to the race this weekend. It seemed like we found some speed and we’ve been pretty good at Martinsville the last two races. I’m feeling pretty optimistic about running in the top 10 this weekend and maybe even better than that,” says Greg Biffle, driver of the No. 16 Roush Fenway Racing Ford.
Track activity begins at 11:00 a.m. EST with first practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series to prepare for qualifying which will be at 4:40 p.m. EST. On Saturday, teams will have two practice sessions at 9:00 a.m. EST and 12:00 p.m. The Goody’s Fast Relief 500 will begin at 1:00 p.m. EST. All activities from Martinsville Speedway will be broadcasted by NBCSN and Motor Racing Network.