The action on the race track was getting heated right before the off-weekend for the Easter holiday, but now NASCAR is back. The Sprint Cup Series takes on the half-mile paperclip of Martinsville Speedway. Let’s take a look at the drivers you should take at this historic race track.
A-List Must Haves:
Jimmie Johnson: There is nobody better at Martinsville Speedway than Jimmie Johnson. He has seven wins at the paperclip. He is the most recent winner here. The only driver that has put up a fight against Johnson at Martinsville recently has been Denny Hamlin. But Hamlin isn’t racing for the time-being due to a compression fracture of the L1 vertebrae that he suffered in the last-lap crash two weeks ago in California. With Hamlin out it’s tough to see anybody beating Johnson.
Jeff Gordon: Gordon is the only active driver with as many grandfather clocks as Johnson. But Gordon’s most recent win at Martinsville came way back in 2005. However, that doesn’t mean that Gordon has been bad at the paperclip recently. Gordon finished a close second to Johnson in 2007, and dominated this race a year ago before he was taken out by Clint Bowyer on the final restart while leading.
A-List Wild Card:
Tony Stewart: Stewart is a fantastic driver at Martinsville. Stewart has three wins here; his most recent win coming during his historic title run in the fall of 2011. But the reason Stewart is in the wild-card category is because of his performance so far this season. He has only one top-10 in five races so far this season and has led only 18 laps. He was fighting for the win near the end of the California race but faded way back to 22nd after he was blocked by Joey Logano.
B-List Must Haves:
Dale Earnhardt Jr.: Martinsville has turned into one of Earnhardt’s best tracks recently. He was leading here in the spring of 2011 with five laps to go before Kevin Harvick bumped him out of the way and took the win. He finished seventh in the fall 2011 race, and third in the spring race here last year. His worst finish in the last four Martinsville races was 21st in the fall race of last season. Earnhardt has gotten off to the best start of his career this season and is currently leading the points. Ride this hot streak that Earnhardt is on and maybe he’ll get you a win this weekend.
Brian Vickers: Vickers is back in the Michael Waltrip Racing 55 car this weekend filling in for Mark Martin. Ironically, Martin is actually running this race but he’s doing so as a fill-in driver for the injured Hamlin. Vickers ran well in both Martinsville races in the 55 car last season. It’s also a good idea to use him when he races to save starts of other drivers that race every weekend.
Kyle Busch: The younger Busch is a great driver at Martinsville even though he has yet to win here. He finished third in this race in 2011 and led 151 laps on the day. He finished second to Johnson in the fall race here last season. He’s off to a great start this season. He sits sixth in points and won the week before the break in California.
Aric Almirola: I don’t think I’ve ever listed Almirola in the must-have list before, but he deserves to be in this category this week. He’s ran well in most races so far this season but hasn’t got the finishes he’s deserved. Almirola finished in the top 10 in both Martinsville races last season. I truly believe that Almirola will get his first Cup win this season, and Martinsville might be the place that it happens.
B-List Wild Card:
Bobby Labonte: This might be the only time you see Labonte’s name listed in my fantasy preview all season long. When the driver lists came out at the start of the season I was floored to see Labonte listed as a B-List driver. I still don’t believe that he belongs in the B-List, but that is where he is. But Martinsville is a track that Labonte has always been good at. He knows how to stay out of trouble, and that’s a great skill to have a track where trouble happens often. Labonte finished 17th and 9th in the two Martinsville races last season. Those finishes are pretty good considering the team he races for. If you take him and he gets a top-15, be happy with it and run off to Texas.
As usual, the C-List is a toss-up. It’s so hard to pick for this list because so many of the decent drivers in the category don’t run the full season. You really have to pay attention to the entry list when it comes out for this list (Or pay attention to my preview. The choice is yours.).
AJ Allmendinger is not racing for Phoenix Racing this weekend because he will be racing for Roger Penke at the IndyCar race at Barber Motorsports Park in Alabama. So Allmendinger will be replaced by Regan Smith. Smith is worth taking because he has experience at Martinsville in the past.
As usual, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. should be on your list. The first year Cup driver continues to impress. Martinsville will be a challenge for him though because I believe this will be his first ever race at the paperclip.