One of the oldest tracks on the Cup circuit, Martinsville Speedway opened as a half-mile dirt track in 1947 with only 750 seats. The track hosted one of 8 races held in the 1949 "Strictly Stock" series which eventually became the NASCAR Cup series. Today, Martinsville seats 91,000 and has 25 corporate suites. The Virginia track, paved in 1955, is a flat paperclip shaped half-mile oval, which is tough on drivers, brakes and sheet metal. Most of the passing is done by shoving someone out of your way. This usually causes some payback, but that's racin' on a short track. Since it doesn't take long before the leaders catch the end of the field, they're coming up on some cars that don't want to go down a lap. That's when it really gets hairy. These guys at the rear are usually not handling very well already, but now they'll overdrive the cars to stay ahead of the leaders. Martinsville is a lot different from the half-mile Bristol Motor Speedway, which is high-banked and totally concrete. Martinsville is flatter, with longer 800-foot asphalt straights, and a concrete surface, added in 1976, throughout the turns. At .526 miles, it is also Sprint Cup's shortest track
First Cup race
Curtis Turner, in his No. 41 Frank Christian-owned 1949 Oldsmobile, led a field of 15 cars to the green flag of the September 25, 1949 Strictly Stock race on the « mile dirt oval track. Turner led 18 laps and finished 9th. Red Byron started the No. 22 Parks Novelty Oldsmobile 3rd in the lineup, led 97 of the 200 lap race, and finished 3 laps ahead of 2nd place, Lee Petty. Byron earned $1,500 for the win. He won 2 races in the 8-race season and became the 1949 series champion.
As fantasy players, your team budget won't allow you to pick all track favorites so Mid-pack Attack is here to help. A mid-packer may not win the race but has as good a shot at a top 15 finish as track favorites Kyle Busch, Jeff Gordon, Denny Hamlin, Jimmie Johnson and Tony Stewart. There were 45 cars on the preliminary entry list for this weekend's Cup race. The 43 drivers who qualify will be competing in front of 91,000 fans in the grandstands. Here are our picks for Sunday's TUMS QuikPak 500 in Martinsville, Virginia.
Martinsville Speedway ranks as Jamie McMurray's second best qualifying track with an average starting position of 12.6. He averages a 15.0 finishing position at Martinsville, his third best track on the circuit. He has 7 top ten finishes in 11 Cup starts, including an 8th here in the Goody's Cool Orange 500 in March 2008. McMurray started 18th in the 2004 truck race at the Virginia track and drove the Dodge Ram to his first Craftsman Truck Series career victory. That was his last CTS race. He's looking to make it back-to-back CTS Martinsville wins when he doubles-up with Roush Fenway Racing entries in both series this weekend. The extra seat-time on Saturday has to help some for Sunday's Cup race.
Juan Pablo Montoya is the only driver who has finished all of his Martinsville races (3 starts) on the lead lap. That says he can handle himself pretty well in close short track racing. Montoya is ranked 9th best in the top ten drivers scoring the most championship points in those three races. The other nine are all top 15 drivers in the 2008 standings. He also has three top 20's in four Bristol starts. This is a good week to put Juan in as your third or fourth driver.
Martinsville Speedway owes one to Brian Vickers. With only three laps to go in the March 2008 race, while running in the top 5, Vickers ran out of gas (finished 23rd). Okay, maybe the Red Bull team "rolled the dice" and lost. He failed to make the show for the two races here in 2007 (Toyota's tough first year in the Cup Series) but he finished 8th and 17th in the 2006 races. Vickers is our suggestion for your fourth or fifth driver this week.
With an average finish of 23.6 at Martinsville Speedway, Casey Mears is not only our deepest pick but he's probably a really cheap buy in your fantasy league this week. He's been doing alright lately with top 15's in four of the last six races this season. In his last visit to this track in March, on the heels of a 42nd place at Bristol, another short track, Mears came through with a respectable 7th place finish. Use him for the last slot on your roster.