The NASCAR Sprint Cup drivers will stay short-track racing this week. Martinsville Speedway, shaped like a paperclip, is among the oldest and most unique tracks on the circuit. The flat straightaways and sharp turns led to extreme braking conditions, as drivers come screaming into the corners. Patience and timing are the keys making passes at Martinsville. Drivers who can set someone up and out-brake their rivals going through the turns will find it easiest to get to the front. Those relying on straightaway speed alone will lose their handle and give back their position in the turns more often than not.
Location: Ridgeway, Va.
Length: 0.526 miles
Turns 1-4: 12 degrees
Front stretch: 0 degrees
Back stretch: 0 degrees
Drivers to keep an eye on
Dale Earnhardt Jr. | No. 88 AMP Energy Sugar-Free Lightning Chevrolet | Hendrick Motorsports
Coming off a seventh-place finish at Bristol Motor Speedway, Junior currently sits eighth in points - perhaps he should blow up over the car radio more often. At Martinsville, Earnhardt has top-10 finishes in three of his last four starts. In those three races, Earnhardt ran in the top 15 a whopping 90.7 percent of the time. Earnhardt looks like a safe play this week at another short track he's been successful at.
Clint Bowyer | No. 33 BB&T Chevrolet | Richard Childress Racing
Since 2007, Bowyer has finished 11th or better in five of his six starts at Martinsville. In last year's Goody's Fast Pain Relief 500, Bowyer finished a career-high fifth and spent every lap in the top 15. Back in 2008, Bowyer had top-10s in both Martinsville events and spent over 89 percent of each race inside the top 15. After starting the season off with three straight top-10s, Bowyer was wrecked at Atlanta Motor Speedway and then suffered an engine failure only 56 laps into the race at Bristol. Consider Bowyer safe to deploy this week as none of his RCR teammates experienced any engine problems this season.
Jamie McMurray | No. 1 McDonald's Chevrolet | Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing
Since winning the Daytona 500, McMurray did not have a top-10 result this season until finishing eighth last week at Bristol. He has never been a reliable option, but there's reason to trust McMurray this week. In 2009, McMurray recorded top-10s in both races at Martinsville. In the spring race alone, McMuarry has a streak running of four consecutive years finishing in the top 10. He's streaky and often unpredictable, but spring time looks like the right time to believe in Jamie Mac at Martinsville.
JPM running well when whole
Juan Pablo Montoya | No. 42 Target Chevrolet | Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing
In six career starts at Martinsville, Montoya has never finished outside of 16th. In last year's fall race, Montoya finished a career-high third. He held an average running position of fifth and spent 94.0 percent of the race in the top 15. This season, Montoya has finished in the top 10 in both of the races he has managed to avoid wrecks and equipment failures. If he can keep everything in one piece, JPM could surprise this week on this Virginia flat track.
Ryan Newman | No. 39 Haas Automation Chevrolet | Stewart-Haas Racing
Much like his 2010 season, Newman has been erratic at Martinsville. In 2008, he only finished 19th and 23rd at the site. Last year, however, Newman finished sixth and seventh. Over the last three races of 2010, Newman has improved from 18th to 16th. Coming off his best finish of the season, teammate Tony Stewart has seen much better progress. He's far from a safe bet on this track, but with the overall team improving, Newman could sneak his way into his first top-10 of the season.
Temper your expectations
Matt Kenseth | No. 17 Crown Royal Ford | Roush Fenway Racing
Bench the No. 1 driver?
Perhaps it is unwise to pick against the driver currently leading the way in average finish (5.4) this season, but we'll give it a shot. After notching two top-10s at Martinsville back in 2007, Kenseth has finished 30th and 23rd in the spring races. He did improve in the fall with finishes of eighth and 14th, but his average running position in those races was 20th or worse. Owners in allocation formats have been looking for a reason to save Kenseth starts all season, here's a week you can finally do it.
Greg Biffle | No. 16 US Census Ford | Roush Fenway Racing
Yes, we are also going to pick against the only other driver this season who is 5-for-5 in top-10s this season. In 14 career starts at Martinsville, Biffle has only one top-10 finish. In 2008, he finished 20th and 12th. Last year was even uglier, finishing 28th and 25th. In the 1,001 total laps run at Martinsville last year, the Biff was only inside the top 15 for 20 of them. Simply put, keep the Biffle off your fantasy census form this week.
Kurt Busch | No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge | Penske Championship Racing
Even Kurt Busch will tell you how bad he runs here. "I struggle at Martinsville, and I've made no secret about it," the older Busch brother said to the media recently. He went on to explain how the intense corner braking gives him trouble. While he did win a race at Martinsville back in 2002, Busch has yet to finish in the top-10 since '05. His average finish in the eight-race span is only 23.1. If a driver is willing to tell you he's no good at this track, I would believe him - even one riding as hot as Busch is.
Kyle Busch | No. 18 Snickers Toyota | Joe Gibbs Racing
If his recent history at Martinsville offers any clues, Kyle Busch will either finish fourth this week, or outside the top 20. After finishing fourth in both of the 2007 races, Busch finished 38th and 29th the following year, this despite starting inside the top 10 for each event. In last year's fall race, Busch started fourth but finished 24th. Stranger still, Busch rallied all the way from 41st to finish fourth in the fall race. The maddening inconsistency should be enough to keep Rowdy off your roster.
Kasey Kahne | No. 9 Budweiser Ford | Richard Petty Motorsports
In 12 career starts at Martinsville, Kahne has only two top-10 finishes, none since 2006. His average finish in the six races since is only 23.5. While he suffered one DNF due to an electrical issue, his best finish in that span is only 15th. After overcoming poor tough-luck finishes outside the top 30 to start the season, Kahne added two top-10 finishes before suffering from a problem under the hood last week at Bristol. Kahne's season has been up and down, plus his history at Martinsville is sketchy. This Bud isn't for you.
Eric McClung has been profiled by the FSWA for covering the fantasy sports spectrum and is a two-time award finalist. He's also made several appearances in print and on radio. McClung began contributing to KFFL in 2008 and currently serves as one of KFFL's featured fantasy NASCAR experts.