Martinsville Handicaps

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Kurt Busch- Busch’s Martinsville Cup finishes present an enigma posing as a quandary. In 2002 he won the fall race here and finished tenth in the spring race, but his other five starts here have all yielded a result outside the top 25. Most peculiar, strange days indeed. So I’m going to go out on a limb and say Busch will either finish well or not so well. You heard it here first.

Matt Kenseth- Kenseth was the runner up in this race in 2002 and finished sixth in this race in 2001. But his other six finishes at Martinsville have been outside the top 10, usually decidedly so. It must be something in the water at the Roush shops.

Dale Earnhardt Jr.- Earnhardt’s first four starts at Martinsville were unmitigated disasters, but his last four Cup starts here have yielded top 5 results. His best Martinsville Cup finish was third in this race last year.

Tony Stewart- Stewart won the fall Martinsville race as a rookie in 2000 and has finished eleventh or better in seven of his last eight Cup starts here. But if he gets wrecked out of the race he’ll probably throw something at someone again.

Elliott Sadler- Sadler holds the all time record at Martinsville. Unfortunately it’s for consumption of fried bologna sandwiches. Qualifying tends to be an issue for Sadler here. He’s needed a provisional to make the field in all but one of his ten starts here. His finishes are hard to get happy about as well with eight finishes in those ten races outside the top 20. Yet somehow he finished fifth here in this race last year. Most be the fried bologna sandwiches.

Jimmie Johnson- Johnson has top 10 finishes in his last three Cup starts at Martinsville including a runner-up result in last fall’s race. It is unknown if he enjoys fried bologna sandwiches but his gasman does.

Kasey Kahne- As best I can figure out this weekend will be the first time Kahne races at Martinsville. This track is typically tough on rookies. So he’ll probably finish second.

Kevin Harvick- Think of Harvick and Martinsville and the first recollection that will probably come to mind is the time Harvick made a jackass of himself after getting black-flagged during the truck race in the spring of 2002 and NASCAR sitting him out of the next day’s Cup race. His first five finishes at Martinsville were pretty sorry as well, but he did finish seventh here last fall. Can he keep his temper this time around? I wouldn’t bet the ranch on it.

Jeff Gordon- Gordon’s record here is the stuff of legends. He’s won here five times in 22 starts including both races last year. He’s finished in the top 10 in fifteen of his last eighteen starts here. Has to be considered the odds on favorite this week.

Ryan Newman- Newman has never started outside the top 10 in four career Cup races at Martinsville. But he’s got just one top 10 finish in those four races, a fifth place result in last fall’s race.

Rusty Wallace- Before they invented Jeff Gordon, Rusty Wallace was the man at Martinsville. He’s won six Cup races here. But his last top 5 finish here was in the fall of 1999. During that period he’s found numerous ways to squander a win on pit road. Everybody sing, “There’s a new kid in town….”

Jeremy Mayfield- Mayfield has struggled at Martinsville. In seventeen Cup starts here he has just one top 5 result (fourth in the spring of 1996) and a total of four top 10 results. If this horse was any darker you’d need a torch to find it at high noon.

Jamie McMurray- McMurray finished eighth in the fall race at Martinsville last year.

Sterling Marlin- While this was never one of Marlin’s better tracks he’s showing some improvement here as of late with top 10 finishes in four of his last six Cup starts here. But he did finish 43rd here last fall after blowing an engine on lap 127.

Bobby Labonte- Labonte is another driver who is showing dramatic improvement at Martinsville as of late. In his last eight starts Labonte has finished twelfth or better six times. That streak includes a win in this race in 2002 and a runner-up result in this race last year. But he blew an engine here last fall and finished 43rd. That’s what he gets for laughing at Sterling over the radio.

Mark Martin- Martin is vocal about his dislike of this track despite the name. He once said he’d run naked through the grandstands if he ever won here. He has twice. (Won races that is, not run naked through the grandstands. I don’t think any of us need to see that though it would probably produce a strong surge in sales for his sponsor Viagra.) He’s got top 10 finishes in three of his last six Cup starts at Martinsville.

Joe Nemechek- Nope. Not going to happen. This place doesn’t suit Nemechek. He’s started 19 Cup races here and has yet to score even a top 10 result. His best ever finish here was fourteenth in 1994 back when Brian Vickers was still at the teat.

Casey Mears- Mears finished 36th and seventeenth here in his two Martinsville Cup starts to date.

Greg Biffle- Biffle has top 10 finishes in two of his three Craftsman truck series races at Martinsville but has finished eighteenth and nineteenth in his two Cup starts here to date.

Dale Jarrett- Jarrett bought a streak of eight straight top 10 finishes at Martinsville (including a win in the spring race of 2001) to Martinsville last spring. But he missed the top 10 in both 2004 Martinsville Cup races. (Not by much. He finished eleventh here last fall.)

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Monster Energy NASCAR Cup, 2004

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