NASCAR at Martinsville: Preview and picks

Watch for Joey Logano to win this weekend. Photo via: Wiki Commons.

The NASCAR Cup Series heads for the track they call the paperclip this week in Martinsville, Virginia. Martinsville is one of the more iconic racetracks on the schedule, and we are sure to see plenty of beating and banging all throughout the night. With the track’s tight corners, we will be seeing a lot of heavy braking. It will be important for drivers to maintain their tires and keep their cars in one piece. Pit lane will be a huge key to the race as it’s one of the most narrow on the circuit, there is sure to be plenty of action exiting pit-road. This will also be the first race for the new car at this racetrack, personally, I don’t expect much to be different from what we have seen in the past.

Last week, Denny Hamlin got his season back on track after scoring his 47th career victory at Richmond Raceway. It was a relatively clean race as the average green flag run was 60 laps. Because of this, there were plenty of strategies that came into play, but when it was all said and done, Denny was able to save enough of his tires to pass William Byron in the closing laps to capture his first victory of 2022. It had been a tough start to the season for the Joe Gibbs Racing Toyotas, and it seems like going to Richmond was a shot in the right direction for them, as each of their four cars finished in the top ten.

As Hamlin and his team were celebrating, Ryan Blaney found himself in an all too familiar position as it was another dominant performance that failed to result in a victory. It seems like week in and week out, this team does everything right the whole weekend, from qualifying to the early parts of the race. It’s clear that they have the speed in the first two stages of the race but towards the end, it just seems like they fall off a cliff. Last week, Blaney led a race-high 128 laps, but after the handling of the car went away and miscommunication in strategy, he would have to settle for a seventh-place finish. If this team can continue to be as consistent as they are, they will win a lot of races, but it just goes to show how difficult it is to win at this level. Luckily, Martinsville is a good track for him, since 2019 he is currently the highest average finisher here and has led over 200 laps. Look for Blaney to be upfront.

The driver that I am picking to win this weekend though is Blaney’s teammate, Joey Logano. Over the years, Logano has become quite the short-track racer, and it makes sense considering how well it fits his aggressive driving style. He’s shown that he can get it done here in the past as he won here back in the fall of 2018 which led him to a championship. While there are many different circumstances since then, he’s posted a respectable 8.33 average finish here in the previous four races, not to mention he also won at the clash in the coliseum which is almost a carbon copy of Martinsville. If Logano wants to win, he will need much more speed than he had last weekend after posting a mediocre 17th place finish. He will be the car to watch come Sunday.

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Houston Texans head coach Lovie Smith met with the media on Monday afternoon and shared his thoughts on the Texans 16-9 loss to the Broncos on Sunday.

1. The Broncos scored a TD and the Texans didn't, sometimes it's that simple. Lovie made this point on Monday, discussing some missed opportunities for the Texans offense. Multiple times the Texans coached emphasized that the team has to score more points.

2. The Texans got RB Dameon Pierce more involved and that will continue, according to Smith. Pierce led the Texans RBs in touches with 16. He finished with 69 rushing yards on 15 carries and caught one pass for 8 yards. This is a big improvement over week 1 which featured Rex Burkhead with the most touches. Burkhead didn't even have one carry against the Broncos. He did catch 2 passes on three targets.

3. Kevin Pierre-Louis and Brevin Jordan are dealing with injuries. The team is evaluating the injuries and will give an update at a later point in time.

4. The Texans only recorded one turnover for the defense. Coach Smith talked about one turnover just not being enough and the team needing more. Smith also complemented the turnover by Christian Kirksey.

5. At one point, Lovie Smith deflected a question about Davis Mills' strengths saying, "we've talked about Davis enough."

6. The Texans played without starting center Justin Britt on Sunday. Lovie Smith said backup center Scott Quessenberry did a great job and didn't feel like the team missed a beat.

7. Rookie corner Derek Stingley Jr. had a challenging day against Broncos WR Courtland Sutton, who finished with 7 catches, 122 yards. Coach Smith said he felt Stingley competed hard and tackled well.

8. Lovie acknowledged that the team hasn't been able to stop the run as well as they would like to, and penalties have been a problem. We have to think both factors will be critical in Houston's next game against the Chicago Bears.

9. Lovie Smith pulled the curtain back toward the end of the presser when he talked about the Texans lack of execution on 3rd and 15 at the start of the fourth quarter. Courtland Sutton streaked down the left sideline and caught a pass for a first down easily. Derek Stingley and Jonathan Owens were both in the area and looked confused. Smith told the media that was one of his major disappointments from the game.

Up next: The Texans have a shot to push their record to 1-1-1 if they can defeat the Bears in Chicago on Sunday. The Texans are 3-point underdogs. Be sure to check out the video above to watch the full press conference.

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