TUMS QuikPak 500 fantasy NASCAR preview

by C.J. Radune on October 15, 2008 @ 00:00:00 PDT

 


Martinsville Speedway is relatively flat. This, combined with its paperclip shape, makes it difficult to pass. With passing at a premium, track position is a must for racers. If a driver attempts a pass, it will usually be to the inside; because of this, cars hook the bottom in hopes of holding off potential passers. A successful pass will almost certainly require a driver to either out-brake the lead car or nudge the car out of way, and often both occur. Brakes are also important for slowing out of the relatively long straightaways into the sharp turns. All told, there isn't a track on the Sprint Cup circuit where brakes are more important.

Proper brake and tire management could be the key in the TUMS QuikPak 500. With track position also being important, tire management and pit strategy could also play a big part in determining the race results. The team and driver that can manage their equipment while not falling deep into the traffic could end up being at the front to fight for the win at the end of the day.

Location: Martinsville, Va.
Length: 0.53 miles
Shape: Oval
Banking: turns - 12 degrees; straightaways - 0 degrees

Table: Do not bench

Kyle Busch Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Jimmie Johnson Tony Stewart
Matt Kenseth Jeff Gordon
Kevin Harvick Denny Hamlin
Carl Edwards Jeff Burton

Leading the pack

Jamie McMurray | No. 26 Crown Royal Ford | Roush Fenway Racing

McMurray brought home his first top-five finish of the season in last week's Bank of America 500. When you combine that result with his first top-10 finish of the season in the Goody's Cool Orange 500, you have a driver that could be going places at Martinsville. McMurray is returning to the scene of his first top-10 result of the season off the back of his first top-five of the season. He should be in for a decent day with statistics like that. He also notched one top-five and seven top-10s in his 11 career Martinsville starts. Look for McMurray to make an impact this weekend.

Ryan Newman | No. 12 Alltel Dodge | Penske Racing

In 13 career Martinsville starts, Newman chalked up two poles, five top-fives and six top-10s with two DNFs. He hasn't been the strongest driver at the paperclip track, but he can get around the oval pretty quickly. Newman hasn't exactly been on a hot streak lately, either. His last top-10 finish was in the Sharpie 500 back in August. He was able to lead 10 laps in the Bank of America 500, though, and perhaps that could be enough to get the ball rolling in his direction again. Newman is a notoriously good qualifier, and that could continue to swing the pendulum his direction in the TUMS QuikPak 500.

Juan Pablo Montoya | No. 42 Big Red Slim Pack Dodge | Chip Ganassi Racing

Montoya's worst result in three career Martinsville starts was 16th in the 2007 Goody's Cool Orange 500. His average finish in that span is 12.3. He even led nine laps in the 2007 Subway 500. While he and the team struggled the majority of this season, things could be starting to gel. An accident ruined his efforts in the Bank of America 500, and they will be hoping to close the season out with a little bit of momentum. If there is one track Montoya can put his superb car control skills to work, it is Martinsville. Combine his desire with his skill and you might have a formidable factor in Montoya this weekend.

Kurt Busch | No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge | Penske Racing

Busch's last visit to Martinsville ended in a dismal 33rd-place result. He ended that day seven laps down, a stark contrast to his third-place result in the Bank of America 500 last weekend. Busch hasn't tallied a top-10 finish at Martinsville since the 2005 Subway 500. Like his teammate Newman, Busch could be in for a decent day though. Martinsville is a track he won on before and even scored a pole once too. Look for the Penske strategy to work its magic through the TUMS QuikPak 500. It might just give Busch a shot at his second straight top-10 finish.

Kasey Kahne | No. 9 Budweiser Dodge | Gillett Evernham Motorsports

Kahne backed up his Coca-Cola 600 win at Lowe's Motor Speedway with a second-place finish in the Bank of America 500. He and the team definitely nailed Lowe's this season. He didn't do too badly at Martinsville either though. He started the Goody's Cool Orange 500 a strong sixth but was only able to finish 17th. It has been three starts at Martinsville since his last top-10 result at the track, but Kahne has been streaky this season. With a strong second last week, he could be in for more success at Martinsville this weekend.

Drivers to keep an eye on

Clint Bowyer | No. 07 Jack Daniels Chevrolet | Richard Childress Racing

Bowyer's average finish in each Chase race thus far is 11.8. He hasn't finished lower than 12th in any of those five races. After his teammate and fellow Chase contender Jeff Burton won the Bank of America 500, it will be interesting to see if that rising tide will lift all of the Richard Childress Racing teams. Bowyer's lone 2008 win came at another short track, Richmond International Raceway. He also scored a top-10 finish in his last visit to Martinsville. Look for Bowyer to be running in the top 10 throughout the TUMS QuikPak 500.

Elliott Sadler | No. 19 Best Buy/Garmin Dodge | Gillett Evernham Motorsports

Sadler finished 15th in the Goody's Cool Orange 500, his last start at Martinsville Speedway. Keeping that in mind, two of his eight top-10 finishes this season have come in the last three races. If Sadler can keep the progress coming he might be able to tally his ninth top-10 result of the season in the TUMS QuikPak 500. He finished 20th in the Bank of America 500 last weekend, but his teammate Kasey Kahne landed second. Sadler seems to have been able to effectively use his teammate's success this season to improve his win totals. Keep a look out for what Sadler may be able to accomplish at Martinsville this weekend, but starting him is a moderately risky proposition.

Bobby Labonte | No. 43 Cheerios/Betty Crocker Dodge | Petty Enterprises

Labonte finished 25th in the Goody's Cool Orange 500. He ended the race three laps down but also led three laps. He followed his best finish of the season with a 17th-place result in the Bank of America 500. Seeing as how Labonte led laps in his last visit to Martinsville and spent 16 laps in the top 15, he can make his presence felt at the track. His average position on each lap of that race was 32nd, though. His average shows that while Labonte struggled a good portion of the day, he was still able to carry the car forward in the final standings. Look for Labonte to do more of the same in the TUMS QuikPak 500.

David Ragan | No. 6 AAA Insurance Ford | Roush Fenway Racing

After starting the Goody's Cool Orange 500 from fourth position, Ragan spent the entire race running in the top 15. He finished the race 11th and had run as high as third. That was a strong day for Ragan at Martinsville, and looking at his current form, he has been doing a lot of the same. He hasn't finished outside of the top 10 for the last three races. Ragan has been a consistently strong driver this season, and knowing what he was able to do at Martinsville the first time around, there is no reason to expect that he wouldn't be able to do even better this weekend.

Brian Vickers | No. 83 Red Bull Toyota | Red Bull Racing

Vickers' stunning 2008 season has tailed off in recent weeks. His average finish in the last five races is 26.8, which is markedly different than the first five races of the season when his average finish was 19th. He finished 23rd in the Goody's Cool Orange 500 after running out of fuel. He spent nearly the entire day in the top 15 and even ran as high as second position. Assuming the team gets the strategy right this weekend, Vickers could finish higher than his last visit to Martinsville, but he will also have to overcome his slumping form.

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About C.J. Radune

Radune has been a KFFL contributor since January 2008.

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