Friday, April 1, 2016

A Gift from Above: Five Questions for Martinsville

(Credit: Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Short tracks are a gift from above.

They bring out the worst in drivers but the best in racing. There is nothing better than chaos-filled laps and a win that comes down to the wire. This season has already given us some great finishes, and this weekend at Martinsville Speedway will try to contribute.

Let’s dive into this week’s Five Questions, to discuss the NCWTS, Danica Patrick and more.

Will Kyle Busch dominate Saturday’s CWTS event? For the first time since New Hampshire Motor Speedway last season, the reigning Sprint Cup Series champion will compete in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at Martinsville. This strikes fear into many of the series regulars, and it should; Busch is a master at Truck racing—or just racing in general. He's proven that he can win in practically anything – but can he claim the victory this weekend? Well, let’s look at the stats. In eight Truck starts, Busch has four top fives and five top 10s. That’s pretty good. However, there have been a few changes since he last raced in this series – like the addition of the caution clock. He probably won’t have any issues adjusting to it personally, but it may cause some last-minute strategy changes. Also, this is Martinsville, so it’s less about stats and more about managing the unpredictability. Busch has a shot –like he does at every track he races on—but not that element of certainty we typically expect.

Which Truck series regular can clinch a Chase spot? With Johnny Sauter and John Hunter Nemechek already locked into the inaugural Truck Series Chase field, the focus now turns to which driver will join the group. As previously mentioned, Martinsville can pull out the tricks and leave people speechless. It can also put some surprising drivers in victory lane. However, my pick is a familiar face to the winner’s circle at The Paperclip. Matt Crafton is undeniably the most consistent Truck Series driver year after year. He always finds a way to finish well – or even grab a trophy. Plus, he’s pretty solid at this track, with two wins, eight top fives and 16 top 10s. Despite this, he might not win this weekend. Busch could win in his return, or another driver could benefit in the short track showdown. Either way, if Crafton doesn’t punch his ticket this weekend, he will soon enough.

Can Patrick back up her historic 2015 finish? One year ago, Danica Patrick finished seventh at Martinsville and secured her spot in history. The result tied her with Janet Guthrie for most top 10s by a female driver, which was five. Patrick broke the record a few weeks later at Bristol Motor Speedway. Can she follow up the performance this time around? If you go off her season so far … eh. The No. 10 team hasn’t gotten into gear just yet. Although they only have one top 20, this could be the weekend where they turn it all around. Patrick seems to have a good grasp of short track racing and can handle the pressure and chaos. As I’ve repeatedly said, anything is possible this weekend. She could grab a top five. Or she could wreck on the first lap. We just have to wait and see.

Is it wrong to use Logano/Kenseth footage to promote Sunday’s race? Does anyone remember what happened at the last Martinsville event? Everyone does? OK, cool. In case you forgot, the track used the controversial incident between Joey Logano and Matt Kenseth in their ads for this weekend’s race. If you want to sell tickets, why not show one of the most insane moments in track history? Well, a lot of people can think of reasons – but I’m not one of them. It’s one thing for NASCAR to use the wreck – which resulted in a two-race suspension for Kenseth – to promote the brand, which would communicate that type of behavior is acceptable (even when they’ve said otherwise). The track can do whatever it wants. You market the jaw-dropping moments in the adverts, not the pace laps or pit stops. That doesn’t communicate the excitement of a short track. The Logano/Kenseth incident does, and it is making Sunday’s race quite buzzworthy. Mission accomplished for the Martinsville Speedway's marketing department.

Speaking of Logano, why does he make everyone angry? Logano had a history of making people mad. First, it was Kevin Harvick at Pocono Raceway (which spurred the infamous “[DeLana Harvick] wears the firesuit in the family” comment) while Logano was still at Joe Gibbs Racing. It seemed to die down until he moved to Team Penske. That’s when it got interesting. Every week, a competitor had something to say about Logano and his driving style. The most recent encounter was with Martin Truex Jr. at Auto Club Speedway. That led to Cole Pearn’s sassy tweet about the Penske driver. What’s the deal? After not succeeding much at JGR, he moved to Penske and blossomed. He bonded with teammate Brad Keselowski and developed a similar style – rough and intense. There is nothing wrong with that, but that’s not the case for many drivers and fans. You do you, Logano. 


  1. Logano "firesuit" comment was in no way an insult to the wife, it was in fact a commentary on the immature husband. Most saw it for what it was. In fact these two have made a good joke about it over the years, I am sure her husband, not so much. Logano is finally racing others the way they have done him. Now they get "pushback" and they are shocked, he is not pulling over and let them motor on through. Tough. Logano is a one of the top contenders and most a very jealous, his stats and wins speak to the truth.