This weekend at Martinsville, could prove to be a totally different race than the expectations would have been should there have been qualifying. With the teams lining up for the race according to points, there’s no way of knowing how that is going to affect the outcome of the race. The teams starting on the front row (Kevin Harvick and Matt Kenseth) didn’t necessarily exhibit that they had a good grip on performance for the Martinsville track. In fact, Kevin Harvick made the statement that this could be the slowest qualifying front row for the race ever and I’m inclined to, at least, partially agree.
A quick look at the lineup reveals teams that have been performing well so far this year but don’t necessarily run that well at Martinsville. From this fans view, what is interesting about starting order is that it makes a big difference because of the way the pit stalls are handed out. Even though the teams starting up front may not be running that good during the race, it is possible that their pit locations could actually keep some of the competitors closer to the front during the race than they would be if there would’ve been qualifying.
Even though Jimmy Johnson, who has been highly favored to win this weekend, will be starting third and will have the No. 3 pit stall, his performance in practice didn’t leave him with a comfortable feeling about how his car is going to handle during the race. Now, that doesn’t mean he won’t perform well during the race, but it could mean that he could struggle all day and finish far back in the pack at a track he has been somewhat dominate at in the recent past.
Jeff Gordon is another favorite at this track and although he was running fairly fast during the practice times, he never appeared to be really happy with this car. Sometimes that means Jeff is going to perform better than he expects and sometimes, it just means that his car is only good on the short run and although he may work his way towards the front, we may see him fall back through the pack throughout the day.
Probably the most consistent performer this weekend has been Jeff Burton. This could also be another weekend where Richard Childress Racing shines in 2010, especially the number 31 team. No, I’m not saying he’s going to win, but there is a high possibility that Jeff Burton is going to perform well this weekend. It may just depend on how the breaks fall during the race.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Mark Martin also looked good during the practice times. From this fans view, either one of them could win this weekend. If it happens that Dale Earnhardt Jr. wins, Junior Nation will be ecstatic. Should Mark Martin win, Junior Nation may not rejoice but many people will be quite happy that Mark did win, (including Mark Martin himself.)
Another factor that needs to be considered this weekend is the possibility of the race being shortened due to weather. Rain is expected sometime during the afternoon hours, so it is very possible that the race could be called and have to be continued on Monday or just make it past the halfway point and whoever is leading at that point will be declared the winner. That is not something that NASCAR wants to see happen and I know that the fans don’t want that either but, every once in a while it does happen.
Personally, I would rather they complete the race rather than have to call it because of weather just beyond the halfway point. So I guess that means I would rather it be rained out completely for Sunday and have to be run on Monday rather than get started, make it to just over halfway and be called.
No matter what happens this weekend, come rain or come shine, Martinsville is one of the toughest tracks on the NASCAR circuit even though it is only a half mile track and is always a place where the cream generally rises to the top. I don’t think there’ll be many surprises this weekend when it comes to who wins and finishes in the top 5 but I do think it will be an emotional race and some people may go away from the track with their emotions high and their feelings hurt.
This could be the race that Juan Pablo Montoya steps into Victory Lane for the first time at an oval track in NASCAR. It could also be another victory at the track and a possible turning point in the year for Denny Hamlin. I don’t really expect it, but it could also be a weekend where someone totally unexpected walks away with the victory and the trophy.
I do believe it is going to be a very interesting race and I do hope that it makes it to the end and doesn’t have to be called or rescheduled for the next day. I reckon the only way we’re going to know for sure, is to watch the race on Sunday and see what happens…
See ya next time… Rusty
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© March 27, 2010 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman and NascarFansView.com