Well the race over the weekend at Martinsville proved to be a no-brainer if we focus on recent past performances at the 1/2 mile ‘paperclip’ in south-central Virginia. The Hendrick teams once again dominated the day as they have most trips to this track over the last several years.
Between Jimmy Johnson and Jeff Gordon running up front most of the day and the overall impressive showing by the Hendrick teams, it left absolutely no doubt that they have the place pretty well figured out. As the stands cleared, the final results showed the Hendrick cars had finished first, second, fourth and sixth. Jeff Gordon finished fourth and that made his eighth consecutive top five finish. When you think about it, he didn’t have the win but that statistic isn’t too shabby, either.
Specifically, Jimmy Johnson lead 339 laps and no one could consistently keep him behind them all day, which is proved by his driving into victory lane after the race. Having the number one pit stall didn’t hurt his performance for the race either. He was strong as usual from beginning to end and, in my opinion, looks very strong to finish the year out front and take this year’s Sprint Cup. By doing so he would become only the second driver in Nascar history to win three championships in a row, (a feat previously accomplished only by Cale Yarborough and that puts him in pretty good company.)
Although it was a fairly typical Martinsville race, it progressed mostly without any major altercations. Jeff Burton experienced difficulty in the pits on the last stop and, unfortunately, it cost him a lap and some points in the standings dropping Jeff to third behind Greg Biffle who now is 149 points behind ‘Chase’ leader, Jimmy Johnson.
Greg Biffle and his team tried a strategy during the race that ended up hurting them in the final results as he finished 12th, but because of Jeff Burton’s problem in the pits, Greg moved to second in the Chase standings by a slim three point margin. In an after race interview, he said he was happy with that performance and was really excited to be heading to Atlanta next week.
Carl Edwards sits fourth in the standings, 198 points behind Johnson.
The next three, Bowyer, Harvick and Gordon are over 242 points out of first which in my opinion makes it look like their chances of coming close to even taking over the second spot are dismal and would require Biffle, Burton, and Edwards to help them by having some really bad finishes. Although strange things do happen in the Chase format, I just don’t think any of those three are going to have that much trouble in the near future, especially considering the tracks Nascar visits over the next four races.
Looking ahead to Martinsville next year, I know that Greg Biffle and Carl Edwards are looking forward to race next Spring considering their after race comments. With their finishes this week of third and twelfth they certainly appear to have some of their problems with the track worked out. They finished strong and look to be strong this coming weekend in Atlanta. (If you remember the race from earlier in the year at Atlanta, Carl Edwards ran strong but his engine blew before the end of the race.) In any case, it should prove to be interesting to see how they measure up to the Hendrick teams in the spring time.
Overall, Martinsville was very much a normal short-track race with beatin’, bangin’ and the usual short track intensity and frustrations. The only noticeable recurring problem was a few problems with tires being over heated by the heavy braking required to slow the heavy C.O.T. cars. Some teams, noticeably, have a lot of work to do in that department.
See ya next time …