NASCAR Drives Into Martinsville

Nascar OddsNASCAR bosses must be screaming at the idea of fighting with March Madness odds coverage for an audience after having their ratings fall in each of the first three races while battling the Olympics including the Canada-USA mens hockey gold medal game. That’s the reality however as the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drives in to Virginia, and Martinsville Speedway for the sixth race of the season. The shortest track on the Cup schedule has an even shorter list of winners over the past few years. Only five different racers have captured the checkered flag at Martinsville since 2003, with three of them capturing 12 of 14 first place-finishes.

Online betting enthusiasts already know that two of those three price per head winners belong to Hendrick Motorsports including who else but four-time Sprint Series winner Jimmie Johnson and teammate Jeff Gordon. The list of winners becomes even shorter when looking at the last seven races. The 48-car has won five of the last seven races at the half-mile paper clip the other two were won by Denny Hamlin including the most recent race there last October. Beyond Johnson, Gordon, and Hamlin, only Rusty Wallace and Tony Stewart have sped to victory at the only original track still on the schedule, over the past seven years.

JJ48 has already accomplished something that no driver ever has in winning four-consecutive Sprint Cup Series titles since 2006, and is looking like the favorite to win again this year. Johnson and crew chief Chad Knaus have already captured the checkered flag at three of the first five races including last week at Bristol Motor Speedway, a track comparable to Martinsville in regards to contact, although not nearly as fast. Johnson is in the lead on the list of this year’s money list, and in third place in points, just 17 back of the lead.

Kevin Harvick currently leads the sportsbook Sprint Cup Series standings despite having not one a race this year. Harvick has placed in the top-10 in four of the first five races, but holds just a one point lead over Matt Kenseth, who has yet to finish outside of the top-10 this year. While Harvick placed ninth in points earned at Martinsville last season, Kenseth has driven to an average finish of 16.6 in 20 races. Both could fall down a spot after Johnson earned 365 points in two races combined at the 526-mile oval in 2010.

This race couldn’t come sooner for Hamlin, who has not finished in the top-10 in any of the first five races. Joe Gibbs Racing’s top dog was expected to contend with Johnson for the Cup title after an excellent 2009, but has struggled with his best finish coming back at the opener in Daytona where he placed 17th. Hamlin ranks 19th in the standings, but after registering the most points at Martinsville a season ago could benefit from driving on one of his favorite courses.

Still, Jimmie Johnson will be the favorite to win his fourth race of the season this weekend at Martinsville Speedway, in the midst of NCAA March Madness.

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