By HEATHER WILLIAMS
12:46 PM CDT, October 26, 2012
So something odd has happened at Martinsville the last three times NASCAR has visited the Virginia track, someone not named Jimmie Johnson or Denny Hamlin has won. From 2006 to 2010, those two drivers combined to win nine straight races at Martinsville. Should make things interesting as both are still strong contenders for the chase as NASCAR heads back to Martinsville this weekend.
"It should be a good track for us," said Jimmie Johnson. "As excited as I am, I know also that the No. 11 (Denny Hamlin) is and I have to assume the No. 24 (Jeff Gordon) is pretty charged-up to go. But either way, I feel like it’s a good opportunity for us to get points and hopefully if we’re not in the points lead, we can get awfully close to it or take it there.”
Johnson mentioned Gordon so I should remind young NASCAR fans that before it was Johnsonville or Hamlinville, Jeff Gordon owned Martinsville. The 24 has seven victories at the short track.
"Martinsville is just that kind of place where you get into a rhythm, and it's important when you get into traffic to maintain that rhythm, or get back into it as fast as you possibly can," said Gordon. "No other track demands the kind of rhythm needed at Martinsville. It's very easy to 'over drive' the corners here. When you're around other cars, you have to change your line and change what you're doing in order to make a pass. It's important to jump right back into that rhythm that you had. That's part of the challenge that comes with Martinsville."
If you are looking for a less obvious choice as a pick to win this weekend, Tony Stewart has three wins at Martinsville and his teammate Ryan Newman won in the spring. Kevin Harvick, Kurt Busch, Bobby Labonte and Jeff Burton also each have a single win at Martinsville.
"We ran pretty well in April and typically Martinsville Speedway has been a strong track for us so we expect to go there and run well," said Burton. "The track does seem to be changing lately and we've been a little behind the curve on setup stuff, but I feel pretty good about going back there and running well."
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