THE LEFT TURN
NASCAR at Martinsville: Preview and picks
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.