Sunday, Dec 04

Three burning questions for Martinsville

Wednesday, Apr 03 1641

With five races in the books and the Spring Cup Series headed to Martinsville this weekend, it appears that there are more questions than answers on the minds of NASCAR fans.

Here are three burning questions that have to be asked as the drivers prepare to beat and bang around the half-mile bullring known as Martinsville Speedway.

Will there be any retaliation this week?

I don’t think there is a question of “If” there will be retaliation, but more likely how much and who will be involved.

Don’t forget the final laps of the spring race a year ago. Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon, Clint Bowyer, and Ryan Newman were all going for the win when melee ensued. We all remember the result, Bowyer makes a bonsai move that wrecks himself, Johnson, and Gordon and allows Newman to take the checkered flag.

We also remember the fight that took place at Phoenix last fall between Gordon and Bowyer, but will either driver try to settle the score or is that chapter closed? With both drivers on the outside of the Chase looking in at this point, I’m not sure if you’ll see either willing to dig themselves into a deeper points deficit, but it’s hard to escape close quarters racing at Martinsville and I wouldn’t be shocked if sparks flew.

Of course the story that’s fresher on our minds is the post-race ruckus between Tony Stewart and Joey Logano. I don’t see Logano as the type that would chase Stewart down, but if these two were in close proximity I could see Stewart being a man of his word and teaching Logano a lesson.

I think this Logano-Stewart battle has the chance to linger on throughout the year and we’ll be talking about it later this year.

What results will see from Mark Martin while subbing for injured Denny Hamlin in the FedEx Toyota?

Martin has had a slew of success at Martinsville. He has two victories, 25 Top-10 finishes, and at one point he won the poll in three-straight races. But in recent history, he’s not been so hot with only five Top-10’s in his last 10 starts.

But knowing Mark, he’ll rise to the occasion and most definitely be in contention for a top finish this week.

Is this the year for Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and will he finally win a race at Martinsville?

Earnhardt is off to his best career start with five-straight Top-10 finishes to start the season, but I don’t see his early success as a shock or a surprise. Earnhardt has continued to improve under the tutelage of Steve Letarte and I think this is the best shot he has at claiming his first Spring Cup title.

Unlike years past, Earnhardt is running closer to the front, leading laps, and consistently in the Top-5, a key step in the process of winning races.

Will this week be the week? I think it can be and here is why. Martinsville has always been one of his best tracks but since joining Hendrick Motorsports, he’s got seven Top-10 finishes in the last ten races on the half-mile track.

Earnhardt gets around the track as well as any driver on the circuit and add to that, he’s hungry to finally claim the signature Grandfather Clock trophy for winning at Martinsville. Of course the key to an Earnhardt win will be qualifying.

This seems like the same old song and dance when talking about Earnhardt, but he has to qualify better. He’s proved that he can come through traffic and show up front when it matters, but a better starting spot will go a long way in claiming his first victory at Martinsville.

I’ll be roaming the track for this weekend’s race so follow me on Twitter @ChrisHughes151 for news and updates from Martinsville.

 

Chris Hughes

About Me: I'm a high school football journalist turned NASCAR writer.  I'm a native of Kannapolis, North Carolina, and have been around the sport of NASCAR since the early 1980's.

I'm retired from the United States Army and disabled veteran.

 

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