Saturday, April 2, 2011

Sprint Cup 2011: Race 6 -- Martinsville Update

Bad rubber could be a problem as the Sprint Cup field prepares for tomorrow’s race at Martinsville. The first signs of trouble were noticed during the Camping World Truck practice on Friday. Instead of tires wearing down rubbering the track, little scraps of rubber pealed off the tires creating memories of the 2008 Brickyard and its tire fiasco. Unusual tire wear resulting in the track not building up its rubber membrane will require drivers and their crews to constantly monitor their tire situation as if taking care of the brakes and other mechanical factors aren’t enough at the crammed packed little track. There is no quick solution to this tire fiasco as there was at Bristol.

Here are the top qualifiers for tomorrow’s race.

1- Jamey McMurray, #1, Chevrolet
2- Ryan Newman, #39, Chevrolet
3- Kasey Kahne, #4, Toyota
4- Joey Logano, #20, Toyota
5- Denny Hamlin, #11, Toyota
6- A.J. Allmendinger, #43, Ford
7- Bobby Labonte, #47, Toyota
8- David Reutimann, #00, Toyota
9- Kevin Harvick, #29, Chevrolet
10- Regan Smith, #78, Chevrolet
11- Kyle Busch, #18, Toyota
12- Mark Martin, #5, Chevrolet
13- Brian Vickers, #83, Toyota
14- David Ragan, #6, Ford
15- Clint Bowyer, #33, Chevrolet

From first glance, it’s clearly a good day for Toyota’s with all their top teams except Martin Truex Jr. in the top 15. Truex starts 18th. It’s a tough day for Ford with Carl Edwards and Matt Kenseth next in line in 23rd and 24th. Trevor Bayne is in 25th. With Greg Biffle struggling to get his season started is stuck in 33rd. Penske’s two Dodge entries did not fare well either with Kurt Busch in 20th and Brad Keselowski in 22nd. Surely aside from Martin, the Hendrick drivers fall below expectations with Jimmy Johnson in 17th, Jeff Gordon in 21st, and Dale Earnhardt Jr. in 26th. Tony Stewart’s frustration continues with a 28th position. Jeff Burton who finally had a satisfactory run in California must overcome a 32nd starting spot on his home track to advance.

Dave Blaney interviewed on SpeedTV’s “NASCAR Hub” indicated his team will be racing for the foreseeable future. This column will hold him and Tommy Baldwin to their words. Meanwhile, the following starters are likely freeloaders. Given the tight racing, it would be only just if some sustain ripped off fenders, crashed in side panels, or busted splitters. The leeches start with Michael McDowell in 35th, Joe Nemechek in 37th, Mike Skinner (it’s always someone else’s fault) in 39th now racing for the fraudulent HP racing, and J.J. Yeley in 41st. Additionally, eyes will be on #37 driven by Tony Raines to see if that car parks now being managed by master quitter, Bob Germain. So far this year, Phoenix racing has competed. Landon Cassill drives that entry.
Weather conditions should improve overnight with sunny skies and a 59o temperature when the green flag waves at 1:00 pm rising into the mid 60’s during the race. According to track President, Clay Campbell, on WSLS-TV, NBC, Roanoke, ticket sales are up over last year’s pace but camper bookings are down. Given high gas prices and a very cold March, the ticket sales are encouraging.

Top drivers in the standings beware – burned out brakes, tire trouble, and nasty fender benders can really rearrange teams’ fortunes. This will be a tough weekend on drivers like Greg Biffle who need to improve and does not fare well at Martinsville especially with a poor starting position.

The “paperclip” track has been especially kind to Denny Hamlin in recent years dominating the competition only challenged by Jimmie Johnson. Hamlin needs a strong performance to move toward the elite top 10.

The hot dogs will be dripping with sauerkraut and red dye. The chase for the grandfather clock is on.


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