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Mar 30, 2013 - 07:22 AM
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Excitement Level High For STP Gas Booster 500 At Martinsville Speedway
Posted by: newsla on Mar 30, 2013 - 07:17 AM
NASCAR News
Excitement Level High For STP Gas Booster 500 At Martinsville Speedway


Could the excitement and anticipation level be any higher for next Sunday’s STP® Gas Booster™ 500 at Martinsville Speedway?

Let’s count the reasons.

The target on Joey Logano’s rear bumper after last Sunday’s wild finish.

 

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Tony Stewart’s temper. (See above).

Dale Earnhardt Jr. is off to his best start ever in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series and comes into the STP® Gas Booster™ 500 as the points’ leader.

The new Gen-6 cars have proved exciting everywhere this season, but drivers have pointed to Martinsville Speedway as the track the new cars may be best early in the season.

And the list goes on.

Like Danica Patrick earning the distinction of the first woman to ever start a Sprint Cup race at Martinsville. Women have raced in every other major division at the half-mile track.

Then there is Jeff Gordon trying to get his season back on track. He’s mired back in 18th in points, but Martinsville could help turn that around. He’s won here seven times, and even though his last Martinsville win came in 2005, he has led laps in the past 13 Martinsville races.

And of course the news of the week: Mark Martin replacing injured Denny Hamlin in the No. 11 Fed Ex Toyota for the next few races, starting here at Martinsville Speedway.

With all the chatter about some wild on-track antics the past two weeks, Earnhardt Jr. has sort of flown under the radar into the Sprint Cup points lead.

The STP® Gas Booster™ 500 at Martinsville will mark Earnhardt’s 475th NASCAR Sprint Cup start. Although he’s never won at the 0.525-mile track, Earnhardt has finished in the top five on 10 occasions, including third in last year’s spring race, a race he had a shot to win right up to the closing lap. He has finished second on two occasions at Martinsville.

Gordon and Johnson are tied among active drivers with most Martinsville wins, seven. Gordon led the most laps here last spring and seemed to be on his way to victory when Clint Bowyer tried to make it three-wide on a restart late in the race and created a multi-car wreck that included Gordon and Johnson. It was the start of a feud between Gordon and Bowyer that hasn’t been settled yet.

With 14 wins between them, Gordon and Johnson obviously have been dominant here. At one point in his career Johnson had 17 straight top-10 finishes while Gordon once had a 15-race top 10 streak. Johnson got back on track at Martinsville last fall with a victory.

Hamlin is the other recent master of Martinsville, but is on the sidelines for next Sunday’s race. Martin, his replacement, hasn’t been too shabby at Martinsville. In 48 starts at Martinsville, the 54-year-old Martin has two wins, two poles and a career-average finish of 13.3.

While Logano has drawn a lot of attention from his late-race collision with Hamlin a week ago and a similar situation two weeks ago, his success this season, his first with team-owner Roger Penske, has been overlooked. He’s ninth in the Sprint Cup points’ standings, a spot behind Paul Menard, who has been the top driver out of Richard Childress Racing so far this season.

Rookie Ricky Stenhouse has also been a surprise in 2013, sitting 12th in points headed into the STP® Gas Booster™ 500. The other top rookie-of-the-year candidate Danica Patrick hasn’t fared well after the Daytona 500 and sits outside of the top 25 in points. Interestingly enough, neither Stenhouse nor Patrick have ever turned a lap at Martinsville Speedway in any division.

Action kicks off at Martinsville Speedway next Friday with practice and qualifying for both the NASCAR Sprint Cup and Camping World Truck series. Fan gates open at 9 a.m., the same time that the trucks hit the track for their first practice. After a full day of practice for both divisions, Sprint Cup qualifying is set for 3:40 p.m. with Camping World Truck Series qualifying at 5 p.m.

There will be two Sprint Cup practice sessions Saturday morning with the Kroger 250 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race taking the green flag at 1:30 p.m.
The STP® Gas Booster™ 500 is set to begin at 1 p.m. on Sunday April 7.

Fan gates will open at 9 a.m. each day.


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