Saturday, March 29, 2008

Beatin' and bangin' is back

This is the weekend we get to see some real old school racing.
Martinsville Speedway, VA boasts the oldest track still in use in the NASCAR Cup series, and it is a classic short track oval. It guarantees some good old fashioned beatin' and bangin' just like what we see at our local tracks. Passing is limited, so there will be much use of the front bumper against the rear of other cars. Hopefully such use will be done in a sportsman-like way, but we know, with the high level of competitive spirit our favorite drivers exhibit, there will be some tempers flying out of control. For those who lament that Bristol no longer features out of control tempers, Martinsville should bring them some vindication.
All in all, Martinsville is a drivers' track, because aerodynamics don't matter, and there will be plenty of caution laps to make sure it doesn't become a fuel mileage race. It comes down to how well the driver can handle close contact, how hard he can enter the turns, and how quickly he can accellerate out of the turns. Other than that, success depends on brakes and breaks.
Although this is not a fantasy picks blog, we do like to say who we want to win and who we think will win, and why.
Who we want to win is obvious to those who read this blog regularly, but even so, Smoke has a pretty good chance of finding victory lane. He is starting in the top ten, and 51 percent of the winners in Martinsville's long history have come from the top ten. He is one of the gutsiest drivers there are, and is likely to drive further into the corners than most of the other drivers, which could give him an advantage. He is among the best of the car control specialists, and that should help him avoid trouble, early on in the race at any rate.
Now as far as who we think will win, the real race will be between the front row sitters, Jeff Gordon and Denny Hamlin. Jeff is certainly the most skilled of the two, but Hamlin can be quite crafty, especially when it comes to short track racing. If he takes the lead early in the race, it will be difficult to take it away from him, which could lead to a lot of excitement caused by drivers trying to overcome that difficulty.
But aside, from Gordon and Stewart, there are a few other drivers who could present a serious challenge to Hamlin. Greg Biffle, in second place in points, comes to mind. He is a very skilled short track driver who is definitely proving that he is among the best of the Sprint Cup drivers. He is on a roll, and we have seen nothing so far this season that would suggest his momentum could be dampened.
Jimmy Johnson is another driver who could be expected to win, and if he is going to regain some of his former glory, Martinsville will be the place to do it.
Jeff Burton is another driver who has a good chance at winning, and he will be trying to do so. This is possibly the only track where you will ever see him move another car out of the way, because that is the safest method at Martinsville of passing another car.
Something in the back of my mind keeps saying the #17 car, and I will let it go at that.
Sunday's race will be exciting if you like and appreciate the skill it takes for a driver at the Cup level to negotiate the traffic and survive the race. It is not for those who like the high speed races, but for racing purists, it will be one of the best of the year so far.

No comments: