Repeating Rare At Martinsville

It has been 11 races since there was a repeat winner at Martinsville Speedway … that’s 5 ½ years. Will that amazing streak end with the Virginia 500 on April 13?

Tough question.

You would think that with 11 different drivers winning the last 11 races on the tough .526-mile oval, the odds would favor one of those 11 to slip back into victory lane.

Don’t bet on it, though. There is a pretty impressive list of drivers who are not among those 11 previous winners. But first the list of 11: Kurt Busch (2002 Old Dominion 500); Bobby Labonte (2002 Virginia 500); Ricky Craven (2001 Old Dominion 500); Dale Jarrett (2001 Virginia 500); Tony Stewart (2000 Old Dominion 500); Mark Martin (2000 Virginia 500); Jeff Gordon, 1999 Old Dominion 500); John Andretti (1999 Virginia 500); Ricky Rudd, 1998 Old Dominion 500; Bobby Hamilton (1998 Virginia 500); Jeff Burton, (1997 Hanes 500).

All but one of the 11, Hamilton, remain active in the Winston Cup ranks.

Last fall Busch kept the streak alive in the Old Dominion 500. Had he slipped down the stretch, the streak would have probably still gone unbroken. Johnny Benson, who did not have a Winston Cup career win at the time, was on Busch’s bumper as the race wound down and wound up second.

The same was true a year ago in the Virginia 500. Labonte took the checkered under caution, but Matt Kenseth, another non-Martinsville winner, was chasing when the caution came out.

Benson and Kenseth head up a solid list of drivers who could keep the different winners’ streak alive. Joining that list are Earnhardt Jr., Ward Burton, Jimmie Johnson, Kevin Harvick, Sterling Marlin, Ryan Newman, Jimmy Spencer and one of the most successful drivers ever at Martinsville, Rusty Wallace. Wallace is the only driver in this group who has won at Martinsville.

Wallace has won at Martinsville six times. He has four wins in the Virginia 500, two in the Old Dominion 500. Amazingly, though, he has not won a Martinsville Speedway race since the spring of 1996, three races before the present streak began.

Although Earnhardt Jr. is best known for restrictor-plate prowess, he had a solid season at Martinsville last year with a fifth in the spring and a fourth in the fall.

Benson and Kenseth’s names keep popping up when looking at the last couple of seasons at Martinsville. The two have both recorded a second and a sixth the past two years.

Ward Burton has also been solid at Martinsville the past two years with a third and a fifth in the last four races.

Johnson finished sixth last fall in just his second race at Martinsville while Newman was on the pole for that race, also in his second Martinsville trip.

And while there’s an entire host of drivers trying to up that streak of different winners in different races to an even dozen, there will be 11 drivers … the last 11 Martinsville winners … trying to end that streak.

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