When the Sprint Cup Series rolls into the half mile of the Martinsville Speedway it’ll mark the sixth race in the 2009 Chase and the final short track race of the season.
Jimmie Johnson is looking for his third straight win after dominating California and Lowe’s Motor Speedway last weekend. He enters the paper clip with a 90-point lead over teammate Mark Martin and as the defending winner of the Tums Fast Relief 500. He also won the April Martinsville event.
Johnson may have to compete and watch his back with hometown hero Denny Hamlin, whom Johnson knocked out of the way in April. Hamlin isn’t in contention for the championship and will be out solely to win on Sunday.
Last weekend none of our Creatures picked Johnson to win at “his house,” which meant none of them picked up maximum points for a win. Instead, most had forgettable nights and the point standings shuffled again with five races remaining in the season.
This weekend they’re looking for the driver that will be at the front and in one piece after 500 laps Martinsville.
Ben Bomberger: Denny Hamlin
I penciled Jimmie Johnson in from the beginning of the Chase as my pick for Martinsville, but I'm going to hang on to him just a little bit longer being as he will be points racing this weekend and Denny Hamlin won't.
Hamlin enters this weekend all but out of championship contention and can go solely for the win. In eight starts at the paper clip track Hamlin has one win, five top fives, seven top-10s and one pole. His average finish of eighth is just behind Hendrick teammates Johnson (5.3) and Jeff Gordon (6.8).
While Martinsville has been "Hendrick's House" recently, I think Hamlin will be the man to beat in his home state this weekend.
James Broomhead: Jimmie Johnson
Oh yes, it's Jimmie week for my pick. The man practically owns Martinsville along with Lowe's, California, and just about every track on the circuit at some point.
He has four wins in the last five races—the ones where the COT has been used—so there is absolutely no reason why he can't do it again. Of course now that I've picked him expect the engine to expire after about four laps.
Mary Jo Buchanan: Denny Hamlin
Denny Hamlin will make his ninth career start in a Cup car at Martinsville Speedway this weekend, and will feel right at home as he considers Martinsville not only his home track but one of his best tracks as well.
He lead led 296 laps in the spring race; he finished in the second spot, and will be gunning for that grandfather clock this weekend.
It won't re-ignite his championship hopes, but it will do this driver and his fans good.
Kelly Crandall: Jimmie Johnson
I’ve known sine the Chase started that I wanted to save Johnson for Martinsville, after all his name is Mr. Martinsville. I thought about choosing him last weekend when no one else did and I won’t make that same mistake this weekend.
In my opinion this is Johnson’s best track and one that he’ll be at the front all day come Sunday. He’s either going to finish first or second and gain the points we both need in the championship fight.
He earned me my first win of the season in the April race, and I hope he can do it again to keep both our title hopes alive.
Mason Dunn: Kyle Busch
No comments sent.
Adam Heasley: NO PICK SENT
No pick sent.
Danielle Henderson: Casey Mears
Mears has been running very well the past few weeks, coming of a seventh place finish, to give Mears the confidence to win a race. Call me crazy, but I'm picking Casey Mears to win at Martinsville.
Kara Martin: Denny Hamlin
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SM Napier: Denny Hamlin
He's on his home track, has always put together some decent runs that he just hasn't finished, and statistically it's one of his better tracks. Of course, it doesn't help when you get booted out of the way for the win like this past spring and he may return the favor to Jimmie Johnson.
I do think he is the biggest threat to keeping Johnson out of victory lane, but he also hopefully doesn't have anymore part failure, or gets messed with by the HMS team the way Montoya did last week.
David Phillips: NO PICK SENT
No pick sent.
Jen Preston: Denny Hamlin
My quest to not pick a Hendrick Motorsports car continues!
Sure, Jimmie Johnson has an average finish of fifth at Martinsville, along with a ton of wins, and he may be riding the wave of momentum after winning three of the first five Chase races. But he's not going to win this weekend.
No, that will be JGR's Denny Hamlin, who has an average finish at Martinsville of eighth, and has only one finish outside the top ten (a 37th in 2007), and just two outside the top five!
If there's someone who can stop JJ in his tracks, it's Denny Hamlin.
Rob Tiongson: Jeff Gordon
It's time to go with my favorite here and I got a great feeling he's going to start his true assault on the championship with a victory at this paper clip track. He's won here six times, and if there's a track where Gordon rises to the challenge, it's Martinsville.
After Johnson’s dominating win in Lowe’s last weekend, here’s out the Creature stack up heading to Virginia.
Ben Bomberger (5,823 ) Tony Stewart finished 13th (3 )
Mary Jo Buchanan (-27 ) Mark Martin finished 17th (1 )
Kara Martin (-28 ) Kasey Kahne finished third (3 )
Kelly Crandall (-109 ) Kasey Kahne finished third (2 )
Rob Tiongson (-142 ) Kasey Kahne finished third (2 )
Jen Preston (-211 ) Juan Pablo Montoya finished 35th (1 )
James Broomhead (-229 ) Ryan Newman finished 11th (3 )
David Phillips (-268 ) NO PICK SENT (2 )
Mason Dunn (-270 ) NO PICK SENT (0 )
SM Napier (-318 ) Kasey Kahne finished third (2 )
Danielle Henderson (-468 ) Kasey Kahne finished third (2 )
Adam Heasley (-793 ) NO PICK SENT (3 )
Jimmie Johnson is not only chasing his third straight win and seventh of the 2009 season, but his third in a row and seventh career Martinsville win. The man that’s chasing him in the points, teammate Mark Martin, has stated that he’s not looking forward to this weekend since he only has an average finish of 13.3 at the Speedway.
Don’t be surprised to see a Chevrolet driver pull into victory lane on Sunday as the bow-tie drivers have won 39 races at the track and nine out of the last 10.