Sports & Culture Media

The Paper Clip

So I don’t like to pat myself on the back, only because it’s so hard to reach, but I did pick the winner for Richmond last weekend. Congrats to Denny Hamlin on scoring the first win for Toyota in the Next Gen Era. That was last week, now we move on to one of my favorite tracks on the circuit, Martinsville Speedway. There is no place on earth that is harder to pass, other than maybe Manhattan in the world. 

The banking in the turns is only 11 degrees, and the front and back stretch is only 800 feet long. The braking zone for Martinsville is almost twice the size as the acceleration zone. What you don’t see on TV is the drivers pedal and steering inputs, which are constant. This place wears you down, and with high temps and low speeds, you never really cool down during the race. 

One memory that always stands out to me is Ricky Rudd winning the 1998 NAPA Autocare 500, getting out of his car in victory lane and being so exhausted from the heat and driving the car, he had to be covered in ice bags and lay down on the ground to keep from passing out. That is the toll this race can put on a driver. The only reason a driver has ever wanted to race here is for the win and the grandfather clock that comes with it. I don’t think too many drivers wake up with an option to race anywhere, and choose Martinsville. 

But for the fans, it’s exactly where you pick the race to be. The racing is tough, the passing is notable hard, and if you start at the back on a restart, you have about 15 laps before you see the leader in your rear view mirror. Picking a winner this weekend will come straight from the notebook. Throw out your wheel of guesses, your hat with driver names written on them, and don’t let your six year old pick from the coolest car for victory lane. The winner this weekend will be someone who has won at Martinsville before. 

I will choose four drivers this week, two that I am very confident, and then two drivers that are due a win based on recent performance but I still say it’s a previous winner. My two primary picks are Denny Hamlin and Martin Truex, Jr. I picked Hamlin last week and hit the jackpot, and the momentum that comes with a win cannot be understated. Truex has been excellent in recent years here, and will use that to his advantage. 

My two picks that I will call secondary, because I have hope for these two but I know deep down it will be a primary driver pick to win, is Tyler Reddick and Danial Suarez. Reddick was on fire at the Busch Light Clash before exiting with a problem, and Suarez improves every week like his teammate Ross Chastain did before winning his first career Cup Series race two weeks ago at COTA. It seems odd not to include a Ford driver on this list, but it would seem as if the Ford’s have great short run speed, but give up too much ground on a long green flag run. This weekend should showcase more green flag runs like we saw last week at Richmond, so I will go with the long run cars in Toyota and Chevy camps. 

Hope everyone enjoys the race, and look forward to some really good action. 

Chris Ausburn