The NASCAR Sprint Cup series headed to Martinsville last weekend. Qualifying was rained out and on Sunday weather forced the postponement of the race to Monday. Frankly, it was worth the wait.
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One of the best cars all day long, Denny Hamlin has won two consecutive races at Martinsville Speedway. It did not come easy even though he held the lead with only a handful of laps left. When caution flew for Jeff Burton tire going down, Hamlin and teammate Kyle Busch hit pit road, while everyone else stayed out.
Hamlin restarted ninth and charged his way to the front. Caution then flew Busch On the first attempt at green, white checker Hamlin restarted fourth. Contact between Matt Kenseth and Jeff Gordon had Hamlin taking the checkered flag.
It was gutsy call my crew chief Mike Ford. This time it paid off for Hamlin and he is proving he is the new Mr. Martinsville. Hamlin needed not only a solid points day but he needed to run a good, clean, error free race and that’s exactly what he did.
Well we are six races into the season and surprisingly Paul Menard is sitting in the top 12 in points and has not finished worse than 18th. What a start to the season for this team, and Monday was no different. With the race being lined up by points, Menard started in ninth.
He ran in the top-15 for most of the day. It is Martinsville and he did run into some trouble suffering damage to the front of this car on lap 170. Then again during the green, white checker restart he got into Busch.
Menard did a good job of surviving on Monday, sometimes that’s the best you can do. He finished 14th and maintained his position in the standings. Early on this season I was surprised by Menard's early runs, now I am looking for him in the top 10 week in and week out.
Of all the drivers on Friday looking to get qualifying in, Ryan Newman was the one. He had a fast race car in practice and led the speed charts. He was hoping Mother Nature would hold off just in time to put his Chevrolet on the pole. As it would go Newman would be start 26th but found his way to the top 10 quickly.
This team ran a great race. Newman took care of his and made sure they were there when it counted. He worked his way into the top ten and even top five with pit strategy early and very good handling race car. He found himself in third on the restart on lap 496, Gordon pulled away but with Busch’s spin Newman suddenly had a second chance at the win.
With Gordon and Matt Kenseth beating and banging and a hard charging Hamlin coming with his teammate Joey Logano, Newman on the outside was at a disadvantage. That being said Newman battled hard and came home behind Gordon in fourth.
A great run for this team especially with their position in the points. Their run on Monday was exactly what this team needed.
If Denny Hamlin had the best car all day, Jeff Burton had the second best car. In fact, when Hamlin was not leading Burton was up front. It has been long times since Burton has dominate at a track like he was on Monday.
Hamlin and Burton switched the lead on multiple restarts and throughout the run. Burton had a better short run car, while Hamlin had a long run car. By the end of the race they were about equal. Burton was running in second with 15 to go when a tire went down. He tried to nurse it home but with 10 to go, the tire completely let go.
Burton was able to stay on the lead lap and finish 20th.
I was debating on whether to put him on this side of the list only because the day they had prior. But as they say it’s all about how you finish. Even though it was not the end they were hoping for Burton and his teams have turned a corner. Don’t read into the finish, this team is definitely ready to contend.
If there was ever a driver looking to have a clean race with no issues Mark Martin would be it. In the last couple races he has gotten caught up in other people’s mistakes and ruining what could have been solid finishes if not more.
Monday, Martin made his own mistakes on pit road. He left the box with equipment on lap 364 and had a penalty. He started at the tail end of the longest line and was forced to work his way back into contention. With the help of a caution, Martin was back in the top 10 and charging forward.
His day took a turn when he cut a tire under green forcing him to pit and losing multiple laps. He finished 21st. Unlike last season he has been running up front early, we know he will be a contender but they seem to want to get the bad luck over now.
Prior to Monday’s race the weekend at Martinisville had been nearly perfect for Kevin Harvick. After earning the pole for both races, after rain cancelled qualifying. He then dominating the Camping World Truck race on Saturday, Harvick was looking for the sweep.
Early on Monday, Harvick had a fast car leading laps early and his team was doing a great job on pit road. On lap 105, Harvick went straight to the garage with brake problems, something not uncommon at Martinsville. The team replaced the brakes but still struggled with issues after they came back out.
Not the day he was looking to have and not the finish either, he finished 35th. Harvick was frustrated with the brake issues but this will not sideline this team. The key will be to rebound next weekend at Phoenix.
This weekend the series has an off weekend. This is their last off weekend until July, so this will be the hardest stretch of the season.
The debut of the spoiler on the car was an overall success. Although I do not think that at a short track we will see the full effect on the cars. Next they had to Phoenix International Raceway for a Saturday night race under the lights.
The Subway Fresh Fit 600 is Saturday, April 10 at 7:30ET on FOX.