NASCAR gets tiny this weekend, as it prepare to unload 43 850HP racing machines on the half-mile paperclip pretzel in Martinsville.
Cars will have red-hot brakes, and drivers will, most likely, have tempers of a similar hue by race’s end. With bumping and banging primed for the max, it’s time to look at the gentlemen most likely bang and bump themselves to a checkered flag.
Position 1: Jeff Gordon
Leader of over 300 laps in the spring Martinsville race and victim of a late-race wreck, Gordon will look to turn his recent top-three’s into a trip to victory circle.
Position 2: Jimmie Johnson
Barring odd late-race happenings, it wouldn’t be surprising to have the final battle for the win come down to teammates Gordon and Johnson. Johnson still finds it nigh impossible to finish outside of the top-10 in a Chase race, and it will be hard to find him outside of the top-three at Martinsville.
Position 3: Denny Hamlin
It’s almost a journalistic cliche to call Gordon, Johnson, and Hamlin as the top 3 drivers at Martinsville, so we’ll leave the explanation be and move on.
Position 4: Clint Bowyer
Bowyer continues to be the quiet man in the Chase who flirts with tiitle contention, and like Johnson above, Bowyer has found it hard to finish outside of the top-10. Look for a performance at least that good come Sunday.
Position 5: Brad Keselowski
Martinsville hasn’t been Brad’s forte thus far in his Cup career, but neither were any of the five tracks at which he’s won this year. Before he won at them, that is. Do you see the logic? Expect good speed and an outside shot at the win.
Position 6: Kasey Kahne
If it wasn’t for a spot of ill-luck here and there in the Chase, Kahne would have an extra 15 or so points and a much more legitimate shot at a 2012 title. He’s still looking strong, and it’s hard to spot him less than 8th or 9th at any race right now.
Position 7: Martin Truex Jr.
Martinsville isn’t necessarily his bread and butter, but don’t tell that to Truex, who continues to keep pace with teammate Bowyer and rack up top-10 after top-10. Such a result wouldn’t at all be surprising come Sunday.
Position 8: Matt Kenseth
With two wins in the last three races and a surprising turn of performance in recent Martinsville races, Kenseth should be able to mix it up in the top-10 quite well. Martinsville has traditionally been one of his lesser resume elements, but put the past behind and keep a top-10 eye on team #17.
Position 9: Tony Stewart
With a somewhat lucky top-10 run at Kansas last week, Stewart looks to return to form on a track which has, at times, been kind to the man. He’s won here before, and he should be fast on Sunday.
Position 10: Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Junior Nation gets glued back to their couches, as their hero returns form a concussion-induced downtime to hit Martinsville with a vengeance. He scored a top-five in the spring event, and he’s bound to make a fine statement in his reinstatement behind the wheel.
Position 11: Joey Logano
Logano continues to be a standout non-Chaser, with four top-10′s in the six Chase races. Martinsville has seen a number of top-10 finished for Logano, and he contends quite well at the tricky half-mile. Expect outside top-10 contention from team #20.
Position 12: Kyle Busch
Not surprisingly, KyBusch is often hot or cold at Martinville, with some win contention here and some struggles there. He’s been generally strong through the six Chase races thus far, and he will most certainly contend for a top-12 finish.
Lucky Dog: Kevin Harvick
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