NASCAR Afterthoughts: Martinsville

I usually start the Afterthoughts post with the winner crossing the finish line but this is the moment everybody was talking about. Martinsville provided a great race for everyone. It was cleaner than the normal race throughout the first, oh, 350 laps. But it heated up quick…

We were set up for a historic finish, potentially two or three Hendrick drivers battling out for the 200th team win in Sprint Cup. The Jaws music had been cued up after Jeff Gordon had reeled in Jimmie Johnson and we were set for a dash to the finish as the two were side by side with a handful of laps to go. Then came the drama around David Reutimann. The team says they wanted to get to the pits but the car wouldn’t turn well enough to get in and then the motor broke. They obviously needed to stay out for points (they finished one lap ahead of Kyle Busch for 35th place) so you know that had to be a factor as well. That set up the first green-white-checkered restart and the big wreck that took out Gordon and Johnson. If you are a Gordon, Johnson or a Hendrick fan in general then you are blaming Clint Bowyer. If you are a Clint Bowyer fan, you are blaming Gordon or Johnson, maybe even Newman for the extra push he provided (Note: Clint was going with or without the push). If you are a fan of most anyone else, you probably just thought that it was racing and that’s that. Bottom line is that this is Martinsville. Patience is not your friend. The boys up front spun their old tires on the restart and there was a freight train of guys behind them that weren’t gonna be patient. If Clint lets off there someone is going to get into the back of him. It’s probably the same outcome if Gordon or Johnson would have let off. There was enough track space below for Clint Bowyer to stick his nose under Gordon and he had to take it. You don’t have time to wait for another opportunity at Martinsville especially if the leader leave it open like that. Obviously it didn’t work out and two guys who had the best cars on the track came home with finishes outside the top ten. If you are a Johnson fan, don’t forget the luck he’s had so far this season since Daytona, especially last week with the rain falling as the car was blowing up. It was still a good finish and I think most people were rooting for Dale Jr. on that final green-white-checkered restart but Hendrick’s 200th win wasn’t meant to be this week. Congrats to Ryan Newman on Stewart-Haas Racing’s (Team Hendrick Jr.) 3rd victory of the season!

Disappointments: There was plenty of disappointment to go around. One of those feeling a lot of disappointment was Kevin Harvick. Harvick was making his 400th Sprint Cup start and was the defending champion of this event. He started in 2nd and led the first 21 laps of the race only to be overtaken by Jeff Gordon who would go on to dominate most of the race. Harvick slowly trickled toward the back as his car began to handle worse and worse throughout the long green flag run that started the race. Because of the lack of cautions, the team was unable to get in and make changes to the car to correct the handling. By the time the first pit stops came around they had fallen back around 10th. The car handled well at the beginning of the run but again started deteriorating as the laps piled up. They were close a couple of times to getting a lap back via the Lucky Dog but couldn’t stay ahead of other teams. They were never really able to compete and were mired between 15th -25th for the rest of the race finishing in 19th position 2 laps down. Greg Biffle had, for him, a really good finish of 13th at Martinsville.  It was thought that Biffle is bad enough at Martinsville that it would leave the door open for Harvick to potentially take the points lead with a good finish. Instead, Harvick falls from 2nd to 5th in points. For Biffle, he hangs on again as your points leader and will look to return to the Ford-friendly confines of Texas Motor Speedway in two weeks. Reutimann also left the track with disappointment as they failed to stay in the top 35 in owner points by just 1 point. It makes a little more sense of why they had so much trouble getting into the pits now, doesn’t it? Finally, let’s not forget the disappointment of the Busch Brothers. Kyle is good at Martinsville but wrecked again early just as he did at Bristol and had some major repairs to do before he could get back out into the race. Kurt had a tire go down a couple of times and hit the wall once because of it. He also showed a bit of frustration on the radio yesterday via sarcasm on why they only changed two tires instead of four after his brush with the wall. Pay attention to these guys in the next few races. Rock Bottom could be coming.

Kasey Kahne: Oh you didn’t think I would leave out the biggest disappointment of all did you? Sad Kasey is here to remind you just how bad his season is going. Kasey started on the pole but never led a lap and eventually his engine blew up and he ended up sitting backwards after spinning out when entering pit road. The start of the season must be stressful enough to where he is longing for the days of driving for RPM. Kasey is sitting 31st in the points standings after 6 races. To help put that in perspective, Mark Martin is in 25th with 36 more points than Kahne and only 4 races. You have to think Kahne will turn this around and be competitive but as each week goes by I see this team missing the Chase which will be a huge disappointment against the expectations they had coming into the year.

Gold Stars: These drivers get gold stars for their efforts yesterday. Quietly, Martin Truex, Jr. finished 5th. He now has 4 top 10’s in the last 5 races. Oh, there is also the fact that he sits 6th in the points. Carl Edwards and all of Roush are known for not racing well at Martinsville lately. He got a lap back late and ended up 11th. He crawls up to 11th in the points. This is not where he wants to be but it isn’t bad considering the funk this team seems to be in early this year. This is definitely a silver lining for them to take away from Martinsville. Brad Keselowski also gets a gold star for finishing 8th and jumping up 4 spots into 12th place in the points. Brad K overcame a speeding penalty on pit road to get back into the top 10.

We are taking a week off as there is no Easter race. See you next Friday with a Texas Primer. Best wishes to Junior Johnson also as he was hospitalized with a Staph Infection. Get well soon…

UPDATE (Richard Phillips): Ask and you shall receive…

 

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6 thoughts on “NASCAR Afterthoughts: Martinsville

  1. No matter who wins, you can’t say the Martinsville race isn’t fun.

  2. My biggest disappointment was the matching berets that Mr. and Mrs. Delana Harvick were wearing pre-race!

  3. I heart Martinsville! Now post that pic Trcky D!

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