March 31, 2015

Magic Mile Power Rankings: Martinsville




Next Up: Duck Commander 500 at Texas Motor Speedway

Getty Images
Six weeks into the NASCAR season and it's finally time to take a breath. It's been a whirlwind start with five different winners and a driver that's been so dominant that an eighth-place finish at Martinsville Speedway on Sunday seemed like a finish outside the top 30.

The sixth race of the season also marks the first time this season in Magic Mile Power Rankings that a race will be dropped off, as the points accumulated in the season-opening Daytona 500 no longer count (see the MMPR format below).

Denny Hamlin put a lot of smiles on the faces of employees throughout Joe Gibbs Racing (our thoughts and prayers are with J.D. Gibbs), and it was a terrific day all the way through for the JGR team, which needed a boost. Was the win enough to vault Hamlin into the top-five? And how much did Kevin Harvick's eighth-place finish hurt him in rankings?

MMPR format:
Win: 10 points
Top-5: 5 points
Top-10: 3 points
Most Laps Led: 2 points
Pole: 1 point
21-30: Minus-1
31-40: Minus-3
41-43: Minus-5
*The most recent five races are counted.
(Last five weeks' point total in parentheses)

Here's a look at the MMPR heading into the sixth race of the season at Texas Motor Speedway on Saturday night, April 11, in Fort Worth, Texas:


March 25, 2015

Martinsville: Three Drivers To Watch

STP 500 Race Preview


Jimmie Johnson has won seven of the last 17 races
at Martinsville and eight in total. (Getty)
After letting the drivers open it up out west, the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series will tighten up the field with a race on the 0.526-mile oval at Martinsville Speedway.  The theme this weekend is Crazy Eights: two drivers in the field have eight wins at the track, while one that has struggled at it has a string of eight consecutive races with a top-two finish.

Here are three headline name drivers to watch at Martinsville:

Green Flag - Jimmie Johnson

The driver of the No. 48 is a machine at Martinsville.  He has eight wins in 26 starts and has finished out of the top-10 on just four occasions.  He's fallen off the last two races this season, failing to lead any laps after leading at least 39 laps in each of the first three, but still managed finishes of 11th and ninth, respectively.

Magic Mile Power Rankings: Fontana



Next Up: STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway



There's surprising wins then there's what Brad Keselowski did on Sunday at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif. With Kurt Busch and Kevin Harvick battling for the lead late in the race, Bad Brad came from the middle of the pack after a late pit stop and zoomed away to his first win of the season, ensuring both Penske Racing vehicles will once again be in the Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship once again in 2015.

The win was surprising, not only because Keselowski used four fresh tires to move his way from outside the top 10 all the way to the front, but because he hadn't had so much as a top-15 finish in six previous starts at the 2-mile track.

It was a crazy day in the Golden State. So, what effect did it have on the Magic Mile Power Rankings? Was Kevin Harvick able to hold on to the top spot? And how far did Kurt Busch climb?



MMPR format:
Win: 10 points
Top-5: 5 points
Top-10: 3 points
Most Laps Led: 2 points
Pole: 1 point
21-30: Minus-1
31-40: Minus-3
41-43: Minus-5
*The most recent five races are counted.
(Last five weeks' point total in parentheses)

Here's a look at the MMPR heading into the sixth race of the season at Martinsville Speedway on Sunday in Martinsville, Va.:



March 24, 2015

Top Ten Tuesday: Gordon's Search for a 'W'

Top Ten Tuesday: Gordon's Best Chance to Win

This probably wasn't the way Jeff Gordon thought his swan song would go. His final year as a full-time driver in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series has gotten off to a downright rotten start with only two top-10s in his first five starts.


It's safe to say that's not likely how he wanted his final season to begin, but the good news is that there's still lots of time left for the veteran pilot, who, with a win, can still become a legitimate threat to close out his career with a championship.

Here’s a list of the top 10 tracks that Jeff Gordon can break through and get a win this season to clinch his spot in the Chase for the Sprint Cup Series championship:

  1. New Hampshire Motor Speedway  – While it's an obvious choice, it isn't without some statisical help. A three-time Magic Mile winner, Gordon dominated the one-mile oval during the early part of his career. He has six career poles, including one as recent as 2012, something that is crucial at NHMS.  
  2. Martinsville Speedway – The eight wins say it all. Gordon has mastered Martinsville, earning 28 top-fives in 44 career starts there. In fact, of the 21,679 laps he's has run at the paper clip, Gordon has led 3,723 of them — more than any other track on the circuit.
  3. Sonoma Raceway – With a ridiculous 18 top-10s in 22 career starts at the northern California road course, Gordon will almost assuredly be in contention when the Cup Series rolls through the Golden State at the end of June. Of those 18 top-10s, 14 are of the top-five variety (including five wins), and while he hasn't won there since 2006, his back-to-back runner-up finishes show that he's been anything but an also ran.
  4. Darlington Raceway – One of the most well-respected tracks on the circuit, Darlington is was once Gordon's playground. The 24 once won three straight and five of seven there during the mid-90s, and with eight top-fives in his last 11 starts, there's every reason in the world to believe that Gordon will be back in the winner's circle come September. 
  5. Daytona International Speedway – The unpredictability of Daytona is no more evident than a quick look at Gordon's resume at the 2.5-mile superspeedway. In 45 careers starts there, Gordon has 20 top-10s, including 13 top-fives. He also has 19 finishes outside the top 20, including 10 finishes of 30th or worse. That said, with six career wins, he's going to be a favorite in July.
  6. Bristol Motor Speedway – This has been a rough track for Gordon over the last decade. It's, fittingly, been 24 starts since his last win at World's Fastest Half-Mile, so what better time than now to end that streak. After all, he started hot, winning four of his first 11 career starts there, why not finish hot, too.
  7. Charlotte Motor Speedway – A victory factory for Hendrick Motorsports, Gordon has five wins here since his first start in 1993. It's been a while since he last took the checkers — 2007 to be exact — but this is a NASCAR hotbed with as loyal fans as they come, who would love to see the 24 smoke the tires once last time.
  8. Pocono Raceway – The Tricky Triangle has been anything but for Gordon, who has six wins in 44 careers starts there. It's been three years since the 24 car last visited victory lane at Pocono, but he led 63 of 160 laps there last August and should be a threat again in early June.
  9. Talladega Superspeedway – Almost everything that applies to Daytona (see above), applies here, too. But 'Dega has been a bit more of a challenge for Gordon of late, having just one top-10 finish in his last seven starts there. Odds don't favor the 24, but six career wins mean there's certainly enough history to make it a realistic goal.
  10. Kentucky Speedway – Sorry, what? Kentucky? Really? Well, a win in the Blue Grass State isn't as crazy as it appears on paper. With just four races under his belt at the 1.5-mile tri-oval, Gordon has four top-10s. And while he's never so much as led a lap there, a win in his final hoorah would be very appropriate.

March 19, 2015

TBT: The Truex Success Story

#NHMS25 Anniversary Throwback Thursday Feature


Martin Truex Jr.'s win on July 16, 2005,
was his third career NHMS victory.
Martin Truex Jr. is impressing in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series with a clean four top-10s in as many starts on the 2015 season.  Its a resurgence for the driver of the No. 78 Furniture Row Racing car, after a down season last year, which included the off-track news of his girlfriend, Sherry Pollex, being diagnosed with ovarian cancer.

In 2015, away from the track, Pollex continues to show encouraging signs that she's winning her battle.  On the track, Truex is on one of the best streaks of his career and sits third in the point standings.  The success comes as no surprise here at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, where the Truex family has found a special level of success with six wins, including three by Martin Jr.

The first visit to victory lane by a Truex came on July 9, 1994, when Martin Sr. won the Auto Palace/Slick 50 150 in the series now known as the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East.  The win was the only one on record in a NASCAR-sanctioned series for the driver in over 10 years of racing.  He made it as high as the NASCAR XFINITY Series before retiring in 2000 to focus on advancing his son's career.