Mar 28, 2014; Martinsville, VA, USA; NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Clint Bowyer during practice for the STP Gas Booster 500 at Martinsville Speedway. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

STP 500 Preview & Picks


Following a wildly entertaining race last weekend at Auto Club Speedway the NASCAR Sprint Cup series heads down to Martinsville for the second short track race of this young 2014 season.

Nicknamed the paperclip for its distinctively unique configuration Martinsville has produced some of NASCAR’s most memorable races of yesteryear.  This weakened 43 of NASCAR’s best will attempt to survive 500 grueling laps of hard nose short track racing, in the hopes of claiming a piece of Martinsville history, and not to mention scoring one of those coveted Martinsville Grandfather clocks.

Presumably the voyage to attaining a first place finish at Martinsville will go through Hendrick Motorsports. Hendrick Motorsports drivers have won three of the last five Martinsville races including supplying horsepower for both of Stewart Haas Racing’s two Martinsville victories in the fall of 2011 and then again in the spring of 2012.   Hendrick Motorsport’s dominance at Martinsville is certainly awe-inspiring. Rick Hendrick scored his first career win as an owner thirty years ago with Geoffrey Bodine behind the wheel of the famous #5 Chevrolet.  Since that break through victory in 1984 Hendrick’s drivers have tasted victory a whopping twenty-one times at Martinsville.  Of those twenty-one victories Hendrick’s two main attractions Jimmie Johnson & Jeff Gordon own eight victories apiece. Considering how well Jeff Gordon is running lately he may very well capture that record braking 9th victory this weekend, after all he is Martinsville’s most recent winner. On the other hand Jimmie Johnson would love nothing better than to finally finish off a good day with a victory. Johnson remains winless this season heading into Martinsville, but you get the feeling he will find a way to rise to the top at one of his favorite tracks.  I predict all four Hendrick Motorsports car will finish inside the top 10 this weekend, with Jeff Gordon leading the way as the highest finisher. Gordon will lead his fair share of laps only to fall out of contention inside the final ten laps mainly from intense pressure applied by a hard charging duo on the rise.

 

Who is this hard charging duo on the rise I’m speaking of?  Well I’m talking about MWR drivers Clint Bowyer & Brian Vickers.  Last weekend I felt like both drivers had a legitimate chance at winning the race until a late race spin trumped what was destined to be Bowyer’s best run of the season.  Bowyer’s teammate Brian Vickers is coming off two back to back top ten finishes, he appears to be heating up going into this weekend’s race at Martinsville. I expect Vickers to extend his top ten streak this weekend since he finished 8th in this race one year ago.  Surprisingly Michael Waltrip’s organization has yet to score a top five finish this season. Expect that to change this weekend in Martinsville.  Not only will MWR net their first top 5 finish of the season, I’m picking Clint Bowyer to win his first race of the season, punching his ticket for the chase minus the controversy.  Bowyer’s last three trips to Martinsville have resulted in finishes of 5th, 2nd, 3rd, you get the feeling he’s finally due to get himself one of those grandfather clocks.

 

Sprint Cup

Clint Bowyer
Jeff Gordon
Ryan Newman
Jimmie Johnson
Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Brian Vickers
Jamie McMurray
Kevin Harvick
Danica Patrick
Kasey Kahne