Cup Teams Take on the Paperclip at Martinsville from a NASCAR Fan’s View

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Rusty Norman

The Gen 6 car is fast at Martinsville and records fell duirng qualifying. One thing didn’t change though… Jimmie Johnson was fastest and will sit on the pole for the STP Gas Booster 500. It was his third pole at the Martinsville track. Not unexpectedly, three of the Hendrick teams qualified in the top six. Points leader, Dale Jr, qualified 17th but less than a quarter of a second behind the pole winner.

It is probably a good thing there was a week for some of the tempers to cool down. Since the paperclip is a short track, it is almost a definite that there will be some emotional responses by the end of the race Sunday afternoon. (Uh, in case you’re wondering, that’s a nice way of saying there will likely be some hot tempers by the end of this one, especially since the speeds are up and the Gen 6 keeps the drivers’ adrenaline high, not to mention how the drivers keep each other on edge for the whole race.)

It was nice, at least for a few weeks, that the media was talking about Denny Hamlin, Joey Logano and Tony Stewart and had almost completely stopped talking about Jeff Gordon and Clint Bowyer from last year’s (how shall I put this) “disagreement?” It was getting a little old, at least from my view, that they kept trying to keep the rivalry alive by constantly asking if this would be the week “payback” would come from Bowyer. Bowyer himself has said the best way he can get back at Gordon is to beat him on the track. So far this season, that strategy seems to be working although this fan isn’t going to rule out at least another minor skirmish between them if the circumstances come together for them.

Now, all eyes are on Tony Stewart and Joey Logano, even though they say they have put their scuffle behind them. (Of course, we all know it remains to be seen if that is really true…) Short tracks have a tendency to bring out the bad tempers and the drivers are well known to never forget. As for Joey Logano and Denny Hamlin… well… Denny is out of the picture for right now, but don’t expect him to keep quiet during that time, (he hasn’t so far although I have noticed the “twitter” war has definitely slowed a bit.)

It is widely accepted that the Hendrick teams have an good grip on Martinsville and Jimmie Johnson’s winning the pole also attests to that. Unless something really out of the ordinary happens Sunday afternoon, it looks like the Hendrick teams will be some of the ones to beat, but, it also looks like there are others that have a good chance, too.

Some of those would be the RPM Ford camp and of course no one can deny the JGR Toyotas. Matt Kenseth is one of the quiet ones to watch but I expect him to be there when it comes down to crunch time. He usually flies under the radar until the end of the day. Along with these would be the MWR Toyotas and I don’t think anyone wants to rule out Brad Keselowski from the Penske camp. He is also starting in the top ten and could be up front before some of the others know what hit them.

I have to admit, the Gen 6 car has finally shown us a couple of good races with tight competition and wild finishes. Since it did perform well at Bristol (which does qualify as a short track) and many gave it high marks at the 2 mile Auto Club Speedway in Sonoma (which qualifies as an intermediate track) it appears to this fan that Martinsville and the Gen 6 could be a good match. One can only hope that the racing will be good and one for the books. I won’t say I’m expecting anything really spectacular other than the record speeds already seen so far.

It does seem to this fan that there is a very good chance this could be one of the better races of the year and I do hope it turns out that way. Whether it will or not remains to be seen and there is a chance there could be some very unexpected things happen. We may even see a new feud or two form by the time this one is over. (I do expect adrenaline levels to be very high by the end of the day.)

With the greatly increased speeds for this weekend, there is concern for the way the tires will be able to handle the heat from the braking. The increased speeds and brake temps at Bristol weren’t good to some of the teams and this fan doesn’t expect the Paperclip to be any nicer. I do think the crew chiefs and engineers for many of the teams have had time to analyze the tire problems they experienced at Bristol and have hopefully come up with a different plan to make the cars be able to turn better without abusing the right side tires.

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© April 7, 2013 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, and
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