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Monday, March 26, 2012

Can Dale Jr. Seal The Deal At Martinsville?

Everyone remember's how last spring's Martinsville race ended: the "closer", Kevin Harvick, rooted past Dale Earnhardt Jr. to get his first Martinsville win.  Although many in Junior Nation were glad to have a second place finish to build on for the rest of the 2011 season, there is still a nagging memory of that finish that makes Earnhardt fans ready for the next Martinsville race.

Earnhardt Jr. comes into this weeks race at the half mile "paperclip" third in the Sprint Cup standings, and has an average finish of 8.8 as he is laying a foundation to again make the Chase.  The focus this week, however, will likely be to do better than just "have a good points day."  Earnhardt will be coming up on 4 years without a win when the series reaches Michigan, so the 88 team is eager to get that monkey off their back, and Martinsville is a better place to do that than most.

As most commentators and fanatics approach the coming week they tend to look at which drivers are hot right now, and which drivers have a history of winning at a track to decide who they think will do well and possibly win.  They also will look at who is "due" at a track or in general as well.  In the area of who is "hot", there is no debate that Tony Stewart and Greg Biffle are at the top of the field.  Stewart has opened the season with 2 wins in five races and has won 5 of the last 9 races, including the last race at this track.  Biffle has seamingly turned his career around and has 4 top tens in the first 5 races this year along with the current points lead.

The obvious choices for those who have a history of winning at Martinsville would have to be Jeff Gordon (7 wins), Jimmie Johnson (6 wins), and Denny Hamlin (4 wins).  These drivers have been the class of the field for the past 8 years or so and are likely to be at the front of the field at some point on Sunday.

Finally, who is "due" to get a win at Martinsville?  By how I began this post, I am sure you know where I am headed, but humor me.  I'm sure you don't know exactly how "due" Earnhardt Jr. is.  First, he has an average finish of 13.0.  That does not mean he has dominated, led laps, or even had a decent car.  It does mean, however, that he manages to be in or near the top ten when the race comes to a close.  His average of 13.0 is best of all non Martinsville winners, including better than Kenseth (16.5), Kyle Busch (16.4), Newman (14.4), and Edwards (16.9).

Junior has also finished in the top 5 at Martinsville more than any other non winner there.  He has three times as many top 5's there as all the Roush Fenway Racing drivers combined (Kenseth [2], Biffle [0], and Edwards [1]). 

Lastly, Earnhardt Jr. has been able to lead at Martinsville.  In fact, he has let more laps at Martinsville than he has led at any other track.  His 865 laps led there is almost as many as all other non (at Martinsville) winning active drivers added together (just under 1,000).

One other thing is certain for this week: although Biffle will probably still leave Martinsville with either the points lead or 2nd in the points, he will definitely take a hit.  Biffle has an average finish of 22.4 and has never finished in the top 5 there.  If he can post a top 5 this weekend, Biffle will be a strong contender for the full year.


matriarch said...

I would like for Jr to get a win for his own satisfaction, but as a fan I don't sweat it. I watch him race for the pure joy of seeing him race. I wish the media was not so hung up on it, but it will never change. As soon as he wins, they'll just start counting all over again. When he wins, I'll be happy, but I'll be happier when the media lets it go and quits putting pressure on him.

Derrick.G said...

Id love nothing more than to see him win, but wouldnt it be funny for him to not win all year, but still pull off a championship by being consistent? It can happen, Kenseth won one race in 03 to win the cup, Edwards won once to tie for the cup, stewart with the tiebreaker of course. But it really can happen.

GEOWOLF2612 said...

JR will not win till he leaves his panties home and wears his boxers. It is more important. To him to be buddies than win a race. Tony will spin out his mom to win. JR. be more like Tony. As for Mark and Jeff way to go Jr. You are headed for the win...keep it up and your fans love it......

Anonymous said...

uh.....????? that would be 3rd in the standings not 4th.

JD said...

Thanks anonymous. Mistake fixed.

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