If you’re a NASCAR driver in the Chase for the Sprint Cup, you can either LOVE Martinsville or you can HATE it.
Heading into Sunday’s TUMS Fast Relief 500 very well could scramble the Chase standings. Brad Keselowski maintains just a 7-point lead over Jimmie Johnson. Last April’s race at the 0.526-mile track had Johnson, Bowyer and Jeff Gordon piled up on the next-to-final restart of a green-white-checker finish and handed the victory to Ryan Newman. Jeff Gordon, who led 329 laps, finished 14th.
If you remember, however, from the fall of 2006 through the fall of 2010, it was either Johnson or Denny Hamlin that had won every Martinsville race. Johnson holds six – four while in the Chase; Hamlin holds four – two in the Chase. But then came along Tony Stewart, who just happened to win last year’s Martinsville Chase race.
NASCAR has just stated that Dale Earnhardt Jr. has been medically cleared to return to NASCAR competition and WILL be back in the seat of the No. 88 Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports this weekend at Martinsville Speedway.
Earnhardt missed the past two events after suffering a second concussion Oct. 7 at Talladega Superspeedway. His first concussion came during testing at Kansas Speedway. Earnhardt was not seen by the Kansas Infield Care Center, but apparently learned he did suffer a mild concussion from that hard hit during testing.
Earnhardt finished third at Martinsville in the spring. He has a pair of second-place finishes (most recent, spring 2011) among 10 top-five finishes and has finished seventh or better in his past four Martinsville starts.
NASCAR CAMPING WORLD TRUCK SERIES
Ryan Truex will make his truck series debut behind the wheel of the No. 27 Hillman Racing Chevrolet in Saturdays’ Kroger 200 at Martinsville Speedway. This start will mark a “Truex family” trifecta with all three Truex Family members (Martin Truex, Martin Truex Jr. and Ryan Truex) having a start in each of NASCAR’s three national touring series at Martinsville Speedway.
Ryan Blaney will also be making his track debut at the 0.526-mile oval, Martinsville Speedway after winning at Iowa Speedway, another short track, earlier this season. Other local drivers will be Tyler Young made his truck series debut at Rockingham Speedway earlier this year and has made two additional starts (Kentucky – June, Bristol) this season. Josh Richards will make his first series start this season in the No. 5 Wauters Motorsports Ford. Richards drove the Kyle Busch Motorsports Chevrolet last season in seven races including the fall Martinsville race. Jeff Agnew from Cooper Hill, Va., has two truck series starts (Spring 2012 and Fall 2011) at Martinsville Speedway with a best finish of 14th last fall. In addition, Agnew has a late model victory captured at the speedway. Grant Enfinger has three truck series starts this season with a best finish of 12th at Daytona and Las Vegas. Matt Merrell will attempt to make his truck series debut in the No.35 Win-Tron Racing Chevrolet.
NNS headed into an off weekend once again with Elliott Sadler holding a six-point lead in the championship standings over Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
The NASCAR Nationwide Series returns on Saturday, Nov. 3 in the O’Reilly Auto Parts Challenge at Texas Motor Speedway.
Sources: NASCAR, Hendrick Motorsports PR