TUMS Fast Relief 500
by Matt Taliaferro and Nathan Rush
Location: Martinsville, Va.
Distance: .526-mile oval (500 laps/263 miles)
Banking/Turns: 12 degrees
Race Dates: March 28 (Denny Hamlin) and October 24
From the Spotter’s Stand
The shortest track on the Cup schedule has an even shorter list of recent winners. Jimmie Johnson and Denny Hamlin have combined to win the last eight races at the half-mile paperclip, with Johnson nabbing five wins to Hamlin’s three.
Hamlin led 296 laps in the spring of 2009 before being nudged by Johnson on Lap 485 of 500. The 48 car then pulled away to win by .774 seconds on March 29 — which also happened to be the 25th anniversary of Rick Hendrick’s first Cup win as an owner.
Revenge was served in late October, however, when Hamlin (206) and Johnson (164) combined to lead 370 of 501 laps; but it was Hamlin doing the passing and taking the checkers for his second win and eighth top-10 in nine starts.
Earlier this season it was Hamlin again who took control and led a race-high 172 laps en route to his second straight Martinsville win by just .67 seconds over Joey Logano.
Jeff Gordon has hauled a few Grandfather clocks out of Virginia in his time. Gordon leads all active drivers with seven wins in Martinsville. He trails only Richard Petty (15), and Darrell Waltrip (11) and is tied with Rusty Wallace for the most all-time wins at the Cup circuit’s oldest track. His last wins came in 2005, when he swept both events, and the four-time champion hasn’t finished worse than fifth in the nine races since.
Crew Chief’s Take
"It’s a long day in the sun there, and you don’t win it by roaring out of the box. You can’t use up your brakes; you can’t use up any of your equipment. It’s hard to pass at Martinsville because it’s so tight. It’s not nearly as fast as Bristol, but we have as much contact at Martinsville as we do at Bristol. There aren’t as many incidents because the pace is slower. The faster you run, the more you’re on the edge of grip. When you lose grip, you make more contact. It’s inevitable, but a driver has to keep cool. The ones who don’t like to be touched don’t do well here."
Looking at Checkers: Denny Hamlin is always up on the wheel in his home state, averaging a 6.6-place finish in Martinsville.
Pretty Solid Pick: Of course, hamlin will have to go through Jimmie Johnson, who has six wins at the old paperclip.
Good Sleeper Pick: Ride the momentum with Jamie McMurray, who is actually really good here.
Runs on Seven Cylinders: There’s a few, namely Harvick, Ragan and Reutimann.
Insider Tip: Hamlin and Johnson have combined to win the last eight races in Martinsville.
Classic Moments in Martinsville
Martinsville Speedway hosts its first race on Sept. 7, 1947, as a half-mile dirt track with its still-existing paperclip configuration. A paid crowd of just over 6,000 watches NASCAR’s first champion, Red Byron, win the 50-lap feature.
The first NASCAR-sanctioned Modified event is held the following year on July 4, making it the only original track still on the schedule. Fonty Flock wins that race, while NASCAR founder Bill France Sr. finishes eighth.
The newly-dubbed NASCAR Strictly Stock Series (now the Sprint Cup Series) holds its first official race at Martinsville on Sept. 25, 1949. Red Byron again comes away the victor in front of a crowd of 10,000. Lee Petty (second) scores his first career top-5 finish. Martinsville now holds upwards of 63,000.
October 2009 Race Winner: Denny Hamlin
March 2010 Race Winner: Denny Hamlin
March 2010 Top 10
1. Denny Hamlin
2. Joey Logano
3. Jeff Gordon
4. Ryan Newman
5. Martin Truex Jr.
6. Brian Vickers
7. Clint Bowyer
8. Carl Edwards
9. Jimmie Johnson
10. Greg Biffle
March 2010 Laps Led
Denny Hamlin — 172
Jeff Burton — 140
Jeff Gordon — 92
Kevin Harvick — 57
Mark Martin — 25
Kurt Busch — 19
Travis Kvapil — 2
David Gilliland — 1