More Martinsvilles Please

Kansas was a fiasco. Talladega a high speed parade. And Charlotte nothing special until the final ten laps.

This year's Chase for the NEXTEL Cup hasn't exactly created long-lasting memories.

With Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson on the verge of running away and hiding from the rest of the field, the championship storyline isn't much as well.

It's no surprise the title is coming down to the "Jeff and Jimmie Show," with at least for now special guest star Clint Bowyer, the Colorado Rockies of NASCAR.

But the actual on-track product hasn't given fans much to savor during the long, upcoming winter months.

Hopefully that will change this weekend with a return to Martinsville Speedway.

By its very nature, short track racing is about as exciting as any type of competition in NASCAR. Close racing, trading paint, rubbing fenders and making contact are all part of the game whenever the Cup series comes to play at a half-mile bullring like Martinsville.

While we heard of yawning inside the car and boredom when the circuit took on Talladega two weeks ago, there will be no such talk come Sunday at Martinsville.

The racing, the atmosphere, the famous Martinsville hot dogs and the track's long-standing tradition of handing a grandfather clock out to race winners has most drivers actually looking forward to this weekend's stop.

"We've had a lot of really good days but we've never been able to close the deal," said Dale Earnhardt, Jr. "I'd be really happy to trade all of those laps led and those top-fives and all of the Martinsville hot dogs I've eaten in the past for a win there this week."

"If you have a car in the race that’s not driving well and you have a bad qualifying run and a bad pit selection and you end up fighting the car all day, then a place like Martinsville becomes a very tough track," said Tony Stewart. "But that’s also one of the reasons why when you do win there it means so much. Plus, their grandfather clock is one of the coolest trophies around."

Martinsville is always mentioned as a place that could lose one of its dates in NASCAR's expansion plans somewhere down the road.

That logic always baffles me.

If anything, Martinsville and Bristol and Richmond - the three short tracks on the NEXTEL Cup schedule - should be secure forever. In fact, why the next new track built to host Cup racing isn't modeled after these three places, instead of some 1.5-mile replica, would be a mystery.

Short track racing has a long history in the Cup Series and right now, it provides about the only excitement going.

We need more Martinsvilles, not less.



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