Chase Race Seven at Martinsville from a NASCAR Fan’s View

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Rusty NormanNASCAR at Martinsville in the fall is always subject to the weather and this year’s fall race is no different. Cooler weather and a different tire compound may compound the weather issues for some and earlier tire testing my give some an advantage. Now that’s just speculation from this fan’s view, but with only one practice session and and no real qualifying, it remains to be seen what effect the non-cooperative weather situation will have on Chase Race seven.

Because there was no practice or qualifying until NASCAR decided to turn the qualifying session into the final practice, the teams will lineup for today’s race according to points. That will benefit the top twelve in the Chase and all of them will start in the top twelve spots. When the green flag drops it will be 500 laps to see who drops like a rock through the field and who advances (or stays) in front.

The Martinsville track is the smallest on the NASCAR circuit and it follows the largest, which was Talladega last weekend. It is interesting to note how the Chasers consider both the largest and the smallest tracks as tracks they just hope they can survive without too much damage in points. Most of the dread at the Talladega track comes because it is a restrictor plate track and so little of what can happen there is in the drivers hands. At Martinsville it is because it is a short track with two drag strips and two very sharp corners and forty-three cars running and pitting in very tight quarters.

In addition at Martinsville, with the closeness of the competition these days, there is very little separation in speed from the fastest to the slowest and that makes track position one of the most important factors for getting, or staying out front and also adds to the tension and stress levels for the drivers and the crews. If the short final practice is any example of what may happen this Sunday afternoon, this fan thinks the patience level is going to be very short.

Now why do you suppose I would suspect a thing like that? Well, first of all, just look at how the points battle is shaping up. Just twenty six points separate the top five and only another twenty-six points separate the next three spots from them. Although some appear to be eliminated from the Chase, a complete reversal of the way it has gone so far over the next four races would really make it interesting by the time the teams reach Homestead for the finale.

Of course, this fan realizes the chances of that happening are basically slim and none, but since we are talking about NASCAR Cup, it is not completely outside the realm of possibilities. The reality is, this Chase is probably between the top five in the standings from here until Homestead, but we can’t rule out those next three just yet.

Taking a serious look at spots sixth through eighth show two former Cup Champions and one of them has won five consecutive championships. The other has never won a Cup championship but still has to be considered a contender simply because he can go on a winning streak himself and that could put him back into the mix relatively quickly. Of course you know, that last one I’m talking about is Kyle Bush and the other two are Kurt Bush and Jimmie Johnson. Since this is the first year for this points system to be in place, there really is no way of knowing what the possibilities are (even though those guys that like to compare statistics for everything would tell you those last three don’t have a chance, mathematically.)

I really hate to state the obvious, but Martinsville is what everyone expects from short track racing. There will be bumping and banging along with the usual pushing and shoving short tempers and high emotions. Some are going to leave Martinsville disappointed while others will leave higher in the points and looking forward to how much more they can gain next week. From my view, I expect the patience level to be very short, considering the closeness of the points battle and just general short track mentality.

So I guess it comes as no surprise to any fan what can be expected in today’s race. Yeah, that’s right, it should be intense and exciting. From this fan’s view, I’m not so sure the starting order tells us much about how anyone will finish either. This is a track that both Carl Edwards and Matt Kenseth struggle at. Hey, that’s not a judgement call on my part; they freely admit this is not one of their best tracks. In fact, history proves they don’t generally do well at Martinsville. Will the fact they are both starting out front make a difference? I don’t know, but by the end of the day, I reckon we’ll definitely know the answer to that and several other questions, won’t we…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© October 30, 2011 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman and
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