It's springtime in Virginia, with the dogwood trees blooming and the roar of engines at the historic Martinsville Speedway.
The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series will get back to action when it invades the track March 26 and 27 for the Kroger 250.
Anytime the trucks come to the paperclip-shaped track, you're pretty much guaranteed an action-filled race. It's one that Mother Nature may delay, but the end result's the same—a classic and a fan favorite.
"With young drivers and seasoned veterans in the field, I'm sure it will be a survival race," driver Dennis Setzer said.
It's also a track where two champions and a part-time star in the series are winless, but they're among the leaders in the stats and may just break through to Victory Lane on Saturday.
First you have Ron Hornaday Jr., a four-time champion who's done everything at Martinsville but celebrate victory on the front stretch.
Horn has run 15 races here, collecting six top-fives, nine top-10s, one pole, and led 231 laps. In his last six races at the track, he has five top-10s, and even bad finishes were strong runs.
Take the fall race in 2008: Horn led 154 of 200 laps before he ran out of fuel, finishing 29th and still scoring the second best driver rating of 123.6.
Since Loop Data Statistics' inception in 2005, which is a span of 10 races at the track, Horn has an average driver rating of 108 there, an average running position of 8.4, a series high 170 fastest laps run and a series high of 1,926 laps in the top 15 of 85.3 percent.
Second is Todd Bodine, the 2006 champion who is not only looking for his first win at Martinsville but also his first short-track win.
Bodine has four top-fives, seven top-10s and led 74 laps in 12 races. He came close to winning last October when he finished second to hometown hero Timothy Peters.
Like Horn, he has put together some top numbers at Martinsville according Loop Data Statistics. In 10 races he has a driver rating of 93.6 percent, an average running position of 10.8, has 43 fastest laps run, and 1,707 laps in the top-15 of 75.6 percent.
Third is part-time trucker Kyle "Rowdy" Busch, whose finishes at Martinsvillle have been like a yo-yo.
Busch has two top-fives, three top-10s, and led 200 laps in six races. His best finish is fourth, but last spring he led 139 laps before finishing 17th. He also has a driver rating of 103.3 and an average running position of 8.4.
So when you look at these three stars statistically, they are all overdue for a win at Martinsville, but on the short tracks the trucks are just so unpredictable, and it usually comes down to survival.
One thing is definite: We'll be treated to another masterpiece on "the Paperclip."
Will it top last October's event, in which Peters picked up his first career win?
We'll just have to wait 'til Saturday to find out.
Photo Credit: Brian Graham