How can you top this? At one of NASCAR’s tamest tracks, we had fights for the lead, trading paint on the last lap, and plenty of fireworks after the race was over. If this was the case at Auto Club Speedway, long derided as the ugly stepchild of NASCAR Sprint Cup racing, what will it be like the .526 mile paper clip we know as Martinsville.
Don’t be too sure this will play out the way we expect. As obvious as it seems that Joey Logano will be running for his life, let us review the facts concerning the main antagonists. Denny Hamlin is on the sidelines for at least six weeks. Kurt Busch? Sitting in 13th in his first season at Furniture Row Racing, the elder Busch brother, ordinarily a more than willing fellow to mix it up, has bigger fish to fry, like an ex-con on parole.
As for Tony Stewart, 22nd place is hardly where he wants to be at this point. One would think the owner/driver from Stewart-Haas Racing has more important things on his mind. Stewart, like Busch, will no doubt administer a little on track justice if it can be meted out at the right time under the right circumstances. Perhaps a little “love tap” in heavy traffic? Maybe. An impetuous affair that risks them getting themselves wrecked or fined? Not right now, they won’t. There’s too much to lose.
Say what you will about J-Lo, but he has at the very least demonstrated by now that he’s not going to be NASCAR’s whipping boy anymore, it doesn’t matter if it’s a three-time champion or journeyman back marker. If you consider yourself a contender, you will want to think twice before punting the 22 out of the way.
It’s just one fan’s opinion, but its reminiscent of Brad Keselowski in his earliest days. He was criticized for racing too hard, for lacking respect towards more experienced drivers and got himself wadded up more than once. Denny Hamlin said Bad Brad would never be a champion racing like that. For Keselowski, winning changed all that. Revenge is a dish best served cold.
Does this mean there will be no action at Martinsville? Are you kidding? Something will go down, it’s just a question of who and when. It’s what happens when you stick 43 highly motivated competitors and 43 rockets and have them run around a track barely over a half mile long. When it comes to drama, March Madness can’t compete with the high speed insanity at Martinsville Speedway.
Jim McCoy is an award winning radio sports reporter and radio play-by-play announcer residing with his wife and three children in southern Oregon. A fan of many sports, his true passion is NASCAR, with its high speed intensity and feeling of community among the fans.