Sean Gardner | Getty Images
Sean Gardner | Getty Images

2021 Martinsville betting preview, presented by BetMGM

The following article is brought to you by BetMGM.

Martinsville Speedway held its first NASCAR-sanctioned race in 1949, and “The Paperclip” track — as it is known — has been going strong ever since. Richard Petty’s 15 career race wins still stand as the venue’s record, and it’ll be tough for anybody to beat that mark in today’s highly competitive and technical circuit.

But there are standouts who top the NASCAR odds this week who have proven over the years to be very strong at the Virginia track, which is the shortest in the NASCAR Cup Series at .526 miles long. Bristol — the next shortest — stands at .533. The bumping and the banging of sheet metal is bound to entertain.

RELATED: NASCAR Bet CenterUpdated odds by BetMGM

Let’s take a look at who could tame the short track:

THE FAVORITE

Martin Truex, Jr. (+400)

It makes sense that Martin Truex, Jr. tops the NASCAR betting lines for this weekend’s Martinsville race. Not only is he typically strong at short-track races, but he also has been dominant in recent years at the Virginia track.

He’s won two out of the past three NASCAR Cup Series races there while competing in Joe Gibbs Racing equipment, and he has six top-10 finishes in his last seven races there. Whether he was racing at Dale Earnhardt, Inc., Michael Waltrip Racing, Furniture Row Racing or Gibbs, he’s had success.

Again, on short tracks? At venues like Bristol, Martinsville, and Richmond? Truex has four career Cup wins, 15 top-five finishes and 28 top 10s. He’s a good driver to start with, but there’s something about the quick-lap tracks that he likes.

OTHERS: With that being said about Truex, the next guy you have to take a hard look at is Denny Hamlin (+500). He leads all current drivers there with five career wins and 21 top-10 finishes, has led more laps there than anybody else who is active — and he happens to take a lot of pride in doing well there since Virginia is his home state.

Granted, Hamlin hasn’t won at Martinsville since 2015, but he does have three top-five finishes in his past five races. He’s certainly a guy to watch, as is veteran Brad Keselowski (+600), who has 11 top-five finishes out of 22 career Cup races there.

THE DARK-HORSE THREAT

Ryan Blaney (+800)

Blaney has only won five career races in the Cup Series, but he very nearly added two more victories to that tally last year when he nabbed two runner-up finishes at Martinsville. He led a total of 70 laps in the two races and seemed within striking distance of claiming what could’ve amounted to his sixth and seventh career wins.

Add in Blaney’s two prior wins in NASCAR’s junior circuits (Xfinity and Trucks) at another half-mile track — Bristol Motor Speedway — and it shows he could be in the mix this weekend.

With his fourth-place starting position (based on this season’s COVID-19 pre-race formula), Blaney will be in a good position at the beginning.

OTHERS: Considering his status as one of NASCAR’s top veteran drivers, it’s hard to call Joey Logano (+800) a dark-horse candidate. He has six all-time wins on the shortest tracks on the circuit (Martinsville, Bristol and Richmond) and won the most recent race at Bristol when race organizers converted it to a dirt surface instead of concrete.

THE INTRIGUING LONG SHOT

William Byron (+2500)

He’s young, he’s in top-of-the-line equipment with Hendrick Motorsports — what else could you ask for in a long-shot candidate, right? Byron only has six Cup starts under his belt at Martinsville, but he does have two top-10 finishes there. Granted, two of his starts ended in wrecks. If he can avoid the typical calamities that take place at a track like Martinsville, he should do well.

Oh, one other thing — he starts third in the field thanks to this year’s qualifying setup. That doesn’t hurt, either.

OTHERS: Alex Bowman (+2500) is another guy who, like Byron, doesn’t have a whole lot of experience at Martinsville in the Cup Series. But when he has come to town, he’s performed well. With three top 10s in limited starts, he’s an outlier worth tracking — and the NASCAR race odds back it up.