NASCAR: Predicting the Top 10 Finishers in the Goody's Fast Relief 500
The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series makes its way this week from the West Coast to the short half-mile track in Martinsville, Virginia.
Martinsville is one of the most unique tracks on the NASCAR circuit. The flat corners and the paperclip shape make maneuvering around the track difficult for drivers with poor setups on their cars.
The races at Martinsville have historically been dominated by Hendrick Motorsports and Joe Gibbs Racing. The two teams have won 15 of the last 18 races at the track, and there is a good chance that a driver from one of those two teams will win the race on Sunday.
Here is my prediction for the top 10 finishers in the Goody’s Fast Relief 500 at Martinsville.
10. Brad Keselowski
Brad Keselowski has not been very good at Martinsville. In his four races at the track, he has only finished in the top 10 once. Keselowski has never led a lap at the track in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.
Keselowski is steadily improving at every track on the NASCAR circuit. He will match his career-best finish at Martinsville when he brings his No. 2 Penske Racing Dodge home in the No. 10 position.
9. Joey Logano
Joey Logano seems to have success at tracks that his teammates (Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch) have success at.
Logano has an average starting position of 17.7 with an average finishing position of 13.8 at Martinsville. He currently is in the No. 13 position in the 2012 point standings. He could use a strong finish in Sunday's race to move him into a Chase position in the point standings.
Logano will hang around the top 10 on Sunday and will come home in the No. 9 position.
8. Jeff Gordon
Jeff Gordon should be higher on this list than he is, as he is one of the most dominant drivers at Martinsville. The problem with Gordon is his bad luck. Maybe some of Jimmie Johnson’s luck will rub off on Gordon, but I am not betting on it.
Gordon has started 38 races at Martinsville with 31 top-10 finishes, 25 top-five finishes and seven wins at the track.
Gordon will have a good car on Sunday and will race up front for most of the race, but I predict that he will have problems on pit road, once again taking away his top-five finish. Gordon will finish the race at the disappointing No. 8 position.
7. Carl Edwards
Carl Edwards began his career without much success at Martinsville. In his first seven races at the track, his average finish was 21st. Edwards has improved in his last four trips to Martinsville, with three top-10 finishes in the last four races.
In the last race at Martinsville, Edwards started on the pole and finished the race ninth. I predict Edwards will be the top Ford in the race and bring his No. 99 car home in the No. 7 position.
6. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. has a streak of three top-10 finishes going at Martinsville. I predict he will extend his streak on Sunday.
Martinsville has been one of Earnhardt’s best tracks. In his 25 career starts at the track, Earnhardt has 13 top-10 finishes, nine top-five finishes, has led 173-laps and won two pole positions and one race.
Earnhardt quietly sits No. 3 in the points standings. He will continue his good run in 2012 on Sunday when he finishes the race in the No. 6 position.
5. Kyle Busch
When people talk about Martinsville, the first names that come up are Hamlin, Johnson and Gordon. It will be a while before Kyle Busch enters the conversation, but after Sunday's race, people will start to think of Busch as well.
Busch has always been the master at Bristol. It will not be long before he figures out Martinsville as well. In the last two races at Martinsville, Busch has led 277 laps. Once he figures out how to be more patient at the track, he will start turning his top-10 finishes into wins. I predict Busch will take a step forward this week when he finishes the race in the top five.
4. Tony Stewart
In the last race at Martinsville, Tony Stewart did not have the best car in the race, but he drove the car like a man on a mission, won the race and went on to win the championship.
Stewart’s hot streak has continued into 2012. After winning in Fontana last weekend, Stewart has momentum going into Martinsville. He has proven that he is the driver to beat on intermediate tracks. Will he become dominate on a short track as well? I think he comes close to winning the race on Sunday when he finishes in the No. 4 position.
3. Kevin Harvick
Kevin Harvick has been one of the best drivers at Martinsville for the past two seasons. Harvick has a streak of three consecutive top-four finishes going at the track. I predict he will extend that streak on Sunday to four.
Harvick might not be the driver who leads 100 laps on Sunday, but after the final pit stop, people will start to ask themselves, “Where did he come from?”
Harvick is known as "The Closer" for a reason. It is not how many laps you lead in the race that matters, but who leads the last lap. I do not predict Harvick will lead the last lap on Sunday, but he will not be far behind. Harvick will finish the race in the No. 3 position.
2. Denny Hamlin
I am predicting that Sunday’s race will be won by the nose of the car, and the two drivers competing for the win will be Denny Hamlin and Jimmie Johnson.
Martinsville is Hamlin’s best track. In his 13 career races at Martinsville, he has 11 top-10 finishes, nine top-five finishes and he has won four races. He will be close to winning his fifth Grandfather Clock on Sunday when he finishes the race in the No. 2 position.
1. Jimmie Johnson
Jimmie Johnson has a lot going for him right now. It was a miracle when NASCAR overturned the No. 48 team’s suspension and gave back the 25 points the team was docked. Then, in the race at Fontana, the No. 48 car had an oil leak, which would have been a disaster for the team if the heavens would not have opened up and the rain concluded the race.
Johnson is one of the best drivers at Martinsville, and with luck on his side, it will be almost impossible to be the No. 48 team. Now that the Daytona distraction is behind them, the No. 48 team can concentrate on winning races, and that is exactly what I predict they will do on Sunday.
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