NASCAR’s schedule is just about perfect this time of the year. As the weather starts cooling, NASCAR Sprint Cup goes from the circuit’s fastest and longest track to its slowest and shortest.
The just over half a mile (.526 mi to be exact) paperclip of Martinsville Speedway signifies go time for a lot of drivers both in and out of the 2014 Chase for the Sprint Cup.
Though the fall Martinsville race has always been part of the Chase, 2014’s adds a little bit more pressure and want for a win for those still in the hunt. A win in the 2014 Goody’s Headache Relief Shot 500 gives one lucky driver a pass-through, that is if it ends up being one of eight drivers eligible.
But they’ll have a lot of competition on the way to Martinsville’s victory lane — 8 former Chase contenders proving they’ve still got it, along with a bunch of drivers looking to make a good showing for sponsors.
But on top of wins, there could be some other business to attend to. After the drama ending the Charlotte race two weeks back, there will be some anticipation on the part of both fans and drivers on whether some drivers see fit to retaliate on No. 2 driver Brad Keselowski within the tight confines of the Virginia short track. But that 2014 Chase Cup will be quite enough of a dangling motivator to keep them in line — Kenseth or Hamlin aren’t in the running.
The one to watch though is the No. 10. After Danica Patrick was turned late in the Charlotte race by an over-aggressive Joey Logano, Logano and his spotter better keep an eye out for the pink highlights of the No. 10. As cliche as it is, while you can’t win the Sprint Cup at the Martinsville race, you can lose it. Unlike Hamlin and Kenseth, Patrick has nothing to lose by being aggressive to settle a score.
Reports came in this week that Logano tried to extend an olive branch to the No. 10 driver, and in his mind, things are settled, but I wouldn’t be too confident.
Even if Logano is right, and things are cool, the pressure of the beginning of the Eliminator round and just drivers and teams going for broke as the season is winding down.
My son and I head up in the morning for a full day of Camping World Truck Series and Sprint Cup practices culminating with Cup qualifying — our first experience seeing it live. While we won’t be there for Sunday’s race, we’ll get a good flavor for the drama on Sunday — and we plan on enjoying every bit of the NASCAR weekend in person and on TV.