Martinsville race is made up of 500 laps, or 1,000 corners. Most of these circuits will be navigated with an average speed of 95 mph, and the fastest way through the turns is to develop a steady rhythm. The old adage, “you don’t win anything for practice, but you can’t win without it,” definitely comes to mind on this bullring.
Fantasy players may be witnessing the early signs of a changing of the guard at Martinsville. With Denny Hamlin sidelined for a several weeks due to a back injury, one spot has opened up at the front of the pack and Clint Bowyer is determined to take it. He paced both of Saturday’s practices in terms of fastest laps led and 10-lap averages. The No. 15 team missed the setup on Friday and rolls off the grid 15th, but that means Bowyer will earn significant place differential points if he finishes in the top five.
Winning a pole is a double-edged sword in the NASCAR Fantasy Live game because it often means that drivers are guaranteed to lose place differential points. With 500 laps of competition at Martinsville, however, Jimmie Johnson is not going to be affected. He won from the pole last fall, and even if he slips a position or two, he will make up the deficit with a large number of laps led and fastest laps.
First, Johnson had to survive practice, however. Late in practice, Joey Logano got loose entering a turn with Johnson on his back bumper. The two collided and wrinkled their fenders, but casual contact is going to happen dozens of times during the STP Gas Booster 500.
Martinsville is one of the tracks Mark Martin skips during his part-time seasons and that is a good indication of his feelings for it. He had some success while racing for Hendrick Motorsports, but does not like the baseline setup on the No. 11. In Saturday’s practice, he was only 26th quickest in terms of his 10-lap average in the first session and was 27th in the second session.
Tony Stewart will probably not need to worry about anyone blocking him on Sunday and could very well be the one who has to get out of the way. His car has not looked comfortable all weekend and his best session netted only the 15th-quickest 10-lap average Saturday morning. He slipped down the grid to 22nd, and this team is going to have a long day unless it stumbles onto a miraculous setup.