The NASCAR Cup Series finds itself amid a short track swing on the 2021 season schedule, tasking the teams to find the best setups for the Next Gen cars on three similar tracks in length (less than a mile) but vastly different competitive arenas.
From last week’s 0.75-mile asphalt paved Richmond Raceway, to this weekend’s historic Martinsville Speedway that stretches 0.526-mile in length with asphalt paved straights and concrete corners, to next weekend’s 0.5-mile Bristol Motor Speedway dirt track, the challenge through this portion of the schedule is immense.
Martinsville Speedway is the longest continuously running track on the NASCAR Cup Series schedule, and the only currently active track that was a part of the inaugural NASCAR Cup Series season in 1949. Martinsville Speedway was originally a dirt track and the facility hosted 12 NASCAR Cup Series races on the then dirt surface before paving the track in the late summer months of 1955, between the track’s two Cup races of that season. In total, there have been 146 NASCAR Cup Series races at Martinsville Speedway, one in the inaugural year (1949) and two races per year since 1950. The first 500-lap event at Martinsville Speedway was in 1956 and the concrete corners were added atop asphalt in 1976.
The 146 NASCAR Cup Series races at Martinsville Speedway are the second-most points-paying series events run at a facility behind Daytona International Speedway’s 150 races.
Martinsville’s 146 races have produced 61 different pole winners and 55 different race winners; nine of the Cup Series Martinsville Speedway race winners are entered this weekend.
|Active Race Winners (9)||Wins||Seasons|
|Denny Hamlin||5||2015, 2010 sweep, 2009, 2008|
|Martin Truex Jr||3||2021, 2020, 2019|
|Brad Keselowski||2||2019, 2017|
|Kyle Busch||2||2017, 2016|
|Kurt Busch||2||2014, 2002|
The first NASCAR Cup Series race at Martinsville Speedway was on Sept. 25, 1949 and won by NASCAR Hall of Famer Red Byron driving an Oldsmobile for car owner Raymond Parks. NASCAR Hall of Famer Richard Petty leads the NASCAR Cup Series in wins at Martinsville Speedway with 15 victories (1960, 1962, 1963, 1967 sweep, 1968, 1969 sweep, 1970, 1971, 1972 sweep, 1973, 1975, 1979) – the most any driver in the series has won at a single track; he also won 15 races at North Wilkesboro. Joe Gibbs Racing’s Denny Hamlin leads the NASCAR Cup Series among active drivers in wins at Martinsville Speedway with five victories (2008, 2009, 2010 sweep, 2015).
This weekend’s Blue-Emu Maximum Pain Relief 400 on Saturday night, April 9, at 7:30 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio (Channel 90) will be 400 laps (210.4 miles) and broken up into the three stages. The first stage is 80 laps, the second stage is 100 laps, and the final stage is 220 laps.
All the NASCAR Cup Series action at Martinsville Speedway begins this Friday, April 8 at 4:30 p.m. ET followed directly by Busch Light Pole Qualifying at 5:05 p.m. ET both will be televised on FS1.
NASCAR Cup Series
Next Race: Blu-Emu Maximum Pain Relief 400
The Place: Martinsville Speedway
The Date: Saturday, April 9
The Time: 7:30 p.m. ET
The Purse: $6,917,073
TV: FS1, 7 p.m. ET
Radio: MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
Distance: 210.4 miles (400 laps); Stage 1 (Ends on Lap 80),
Stage 2 (Ends on Lap 180), Final Stage (Ends on Lap 400)
Hot Streak: Trend of different winners to start the season could reach eight
Joe Gibbs Racing’s Denny Hamlin gave Toyota its first win of the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series season and in the process kept the streak of different winners to start the season alive making the 2022 season the sixth different year in the NASCAR Cup Series’ Modern Era (1972-2022) to start with seven different drivers in Victory Lane; joining 2021, 2014, 2003, 2000 and 1991.
Now the NASCAR Cup Series is heading to the historic Martinsville Speedway to see if the streak can make it to eight different winners. If the 2022 season sees an eighth different victor this weekend it will become just the third different season in the NASCAR Cup Series Modern Era (1972-Present) to start with eight different winners in the first eight races; joining 2003 and 2000. Last season, Martin Truex Jr. snapped the different winners streak to start the year by winning his second race of the 2021 season at Martinsville (Race No. 8).
2022 NASCAR Cup Series Season Recap:
|Location||Pole Winner||Race Winner||Points Leader||Pts Lead|
|1||Daytona||Kyle Larson||Austin Cindric||Austin Cindric||0|
|2||Auto Club||Austin Cindric||Kyle Larson||Austin Cindric||8|
|3||Las Vegas||Christopher Bell||Alex Bowman||Kyle Larson||6|
|4||Phoenix||Ryan Blaney||Chase Briscoe||Joey Logano||4|
|5||Atlanta||N/A – Weather||William Byron||Chase Elliott||7|
|6||COTA||Ryan Blaney||Ross Chastain||Chase Elliott||13|
|7||Richmond||Ryan Blaney||Denny Hamlin||Ryan Blaney||0|
The Modern Era record of different winners to start a NASCAR Cup Series season is 10 set back in 2000. NASCAR Hall of Famer Dale Earnhardt Jr. snapped the different winners streak by winning his second race of the 2000 season at Richmond (Race No. 11).
|2000||1||Dale Jarrett||Daytona||Sunday, February 20, 2000|
|2000||2||Bobby Labonte||Rockingham||Sunday, February 27, 2000|
|2000||3||Jeff Burton||Las Vegas||Sunday, March 5, 2000|
|2000||4||Dale Earnhardt||Atlanta||Sunday, March 12, 2000|
|2000||5||Ward Burton||Darlington||Sunday, March 19, 2000|
|2000||6||Rusty Wallace||Bristol||Sunday, March 26, 2000|
|2000||7||Dale Earnhardt Jr||Texas||Sunday, April 2, 2000|
|2000||8||Mark Martin||Martinsville||Sunday, April 9, 2000|
|2000||9||Jeff Gordon||Talladega||Sunday, April 16, 2000|
|2000||10||Jeremy Mayfield||Auto Club||Sunday, April 30, 2000|
The next longest streak of different winners to start a season in the NASCAR Cup Series Modern Era belongs to 2003 with nine consecutive different winners. Kurt Busch snapped the streak of different winners by winning his second race of the 2003 season at Auto Club Speedway (Race No. 10).
|2003||1||Michael Waltrip||Daytona||Sunday, February 16, 2003|
|2003||2||Dale Jarrett||Rockingham||Sunday, February 23, 2003|
|2003||3||Matt Kenseth||Las Vegas||Sunday, March 2, 2003|
|2003||4||Bobby Labonte||Atlanta||Sunday, March 9, 2003|
|2003||5||Ricky Craven||Darlington||Sunday, March 16, 2003|
|2003||6||Kurt Busch||Bristol||Sunday, March 23, 2003|
|2003||7||Ryan Newman||Texas||Sunday, March 30, 2003|
|2003||8||Dale Earnhardt Jr||Talladega||Sunday, April 6, 2003|
|2003||9||Jeff Gordon||Martinsville||Sunday, April 13, 2003|
In the Modern Era (1972-2021), the record for the most different NASCAR Cup Series winners in a single season in its entirety is 19 set back in 2001. The series has also seen a total of 18 different winners (second-most) in a single season twice – in 2002 and 2011. Last season, the series produced 16 different winners.
Short Track Showmen
Since the first NASCAR Cup Series season in 1949, short tracks – a track less than a mile in length – have graced the competitive schedule and been part of the fabric that makes up the sport.
NASCAR Hall of Famer aptly nicknamed ‘The King,’ Richard Petty scored 138 of his record 200 NASCAR Cup Series victories on short tracks – the series-most short-track wins all-time. He also holds the record for the most wins at a single NASCAR Cup Series track posting 15 victories at this weekend’s venue – Martinsville Speedway and North Wilkesboro.
Among the active drivers this weekend, 10 have posted wins on short tracks in the NASCAR Cup Series, led by Joe Gibbs Racing’s Kyle Busch with 16 short-track Cup victories. Team Penske’s Joey Logano is the only driver to win at all four of the currently active short tracks on the NASCAR Cup Series schedule with his victory last season at Bristol Dirt.
|Active Short Track Winners||Total||Martinsville||Richmond||Bristol||Bristol Dirt|
|Martin Truex Jr||6||3||3||0||0|
Seven of the 10 active NASCAR Cup Series short track winners entered this weekend are looking for their first victory of 2022, and all seven are former winners at Martinsville – Kyle Busch, Kurt Busch, Brad Keselowski, Kevin Harvick, Joey Logano, Chase Elliott and the track’s defending spring race winner Martin Truex Jr.
Additionally, Stewart-Haas Racing’s Kevin Harvick is the only NASCAR Cup Series driver to win in all three NASCAR national series at Martinsville Speedway (NCS: 2011, NXS: 2006, NCWTS: 2009, 2010, 2012) and the only active driver with an Xfinity win at the track. Five other drivers entered this weekend have won in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series at Martinsville Speedway – 23XI Racing’s Bubba Wallace has two wins (2013, 2014), Joe Gibbs Racing’s Denny Hamlin (2011, 2012) and Kyle Busch (2016, 2019) each have two wins, Hendrick Motorsport’s driver Chase Elliott has one Truck win (2017) and Team Penske’s Joey Logano also has one win (2015).
Joe Gibbs Racing’s Martin Truex Jr. has won the last two consecutive Martinsville Speedway NACAR Cup Series spring races. In total, Truex has made 32 series starts at Martinsville posting one pole, three wins (2019, 2020, 2021), nine top fives and 15 top 10s. He has also led 1,016 laps at the Paperclip shaped track.
Virginia native Denny Hamlin returns to one of his favorite tracks – Martinsville Speedway
Joe Gibbs Racing’s Denny Hamlin returns to Martinsville Speedway, one of his most successful tracks, just after securing his first win of the 2022 season at Richmond Raceway.
The Chesterfield, Virginia, native leads the NASCAR Cup Series in victories at the historic Martinsville Speedway with five wins (2008, 2009, 2010 sweep, 2015) and has all the intentions of making it six in Saturday night’s Blue-Emu Maximum Pain Relief 400 (April 9 at 7:30 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).
Among active drivers, Hamlin is one of the most prolific active short track competitors in the series. He is ranked second in short track Cup wins with 11 victories.
At Martinsville, Hamlin has made 32 series starts posting four poles, five wins, 16 top fives and 22 top 10s. But his Martinsville Speedway accolades don’t stop there. The NASCAR Cup Series pre-race Loop Data has him leading every category among active drivers heading into Saturday night – Average Finish of 10.156 (series-best), Average Running Position of 9.375 (series-best), Driver Rating of 105.7 (series-best), 1,101 Fastest Laps Run (series-best), 12,917 Laps in the Top 15 (80.5%) (series-most), 1,084 Quality Passes (series-most).
Next Gen car performance is worth noting
The 2022 NASCAR Cup Series season schedule and the debut of the Next Gen have combined for some outstanding on-track performance and the metric are here to back up what the fans are raving about through the first seven races of the year.
Lots of competition parity this season and most notably is the seven different winners in the first seven races; with three of them being first-time winners. The 2022 season is only the sixth season in the Modern Era (1972-Present) the NASCAR Cup Series has started with seven different winners in as many races; joining 1991, 2000, 2003, 2014, 2021. It is also just the second time in the Modern Era and the first-time since 2001 the series has had three first-time winners in the first seven races of a season.
But what is even more impressive is the 2022 season has produced the closest finishes through seven races to start a season since the advent electronic scoring in 1993. The average Margin of Victory of the first seven races of the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series season is 0.458-second; the closest average Margin of Victory through the first seven races of a season since advent of electronic scoring in 1993; next closest was 2001 with 0.486-second. The 2022 season has six of the first seven races concluding with a Margin of Victory of less than a second – just the second time since 1993 it has occurred joining 2001.
2022 has also produced the most passes for the lead during green flag racing since the statistic was invented in 2007; up 136% year-over-year through seven races. Through the first seven races the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series season has produced a total of 387 green flag passes for the lead; the most through the first seven races since the Loop Data statistic was initially tabulated in 2007 (the last 16 seasons). Plus, the 2022 season is up 136% in a year-over-year comparison in green flag passes for the lead – 2021 (164) and 2022 (387).
And on top of all that, the Next Gen car keeps setting new track records in passing providing more action for fans during races. The 2022 NASCAR Cup Series season has set three track records in green flag passes for the lead – producing more green flag passes for the lead than ever before at Las Vegas (57), Atlanta (141) and Circuit of the Americas (30).
Circuit of The Americas also produced a NASCAR Cup Series record for green flag passes for the lead on road course-type tracks with 30 green flag passes for the lead. The previous record for total green flag passes for the lead on a road course in the NASCAR Cup Series was held by Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course with 22 green flag passes for the lead in 2021.
Atlanta Motor Speedway produced a NASCAR Cup Series record for green flag passes for the lead on 1.5-mile tracks with 141 green flag passes for the lead. The previous record for green flag passes for the lead on a 1.5-mile track in the NASCAR Cup Series was held by Texas Motor Speedway with 57 green flag passes for the lead in 2019.
Then this past week the NASCAR Cup Series set the all-time track record for the most total green flag passes throughout the field during a race at Richmond Raceway with 3,072 total passes throughout the field during green flag conditions. It was also the most total green flag passes on a short track since the stat has been tabulated in 2007.
NASCAR Cup Series, Etc.
NASCAR Cup Series Featured Matchups: 2022 Martinsville Speedway – Below is a close look at the featured matchups fans can bet on heading into this weekend’s event.
- 9 – Chase Elliott vs. 11 – Denny Hamlin
- o Two of NASCAR’s very best short track racers square off in a rematch of their infamous dustup in the 2017 Martinsville Playoff race, in which Hamlin wrecked Elliott on a late restart, costing Elliott a shot at advancing to the Championship 4 Round of the ’17 Playoffs.
- o Hamlin has the best all-time stat line at Martinsville among active drivers, with a 10.16 average finish and a stout five wins to his credit at the facility.
- o Elliott is no slouch at Martinsville either. Elliott won the 2020 Fall Martinsville race in dramatic fashion – a win which cashed him a ticket to the 2020 Championship 4 Round. Since 2019, Elliott has led the second- most laps at Martinsville (575) among active drivers.
- o Elliott enters the weekend as one of the most consistent drivers in NASCAR in 2022, as he is currently tied for the points lead with Ryan Blaney. Hamlin sits 20th in points and is coming off a short track win this past weekend in Richmond.
- 1 – Ross Chastain vs. 12 – Ryan Blaney
- o This past weekend in Richmond, Blaney and Chastain, two of the hottest drivers in the sport entering the weekend, feuded throughout the race, making contact numerous times with each other battling in the top five throughout the race. With another short track race on deck in Martinsville this weekend, will these two find each other on track again?
- o In the matchup, Blaney would appear to have the early edge, as he has the best average finish among active drivers at the track since 2019 (5.83).
- o Chastain however continues to buck statistics and has run well in nearly every race this season. His limited stat profile for Martinsville shows a 26.75 average finish since 2019, but recent stats have not been a good indicator of results for Chastain in 2022.
- 19 – Martin Truex, Jr. vs. 24 – William Byron
- o Truex and Byron went toe-to-toe over the course of the final stage of last week’s race in Richmond in a battle of tire strategy, with both drivers coming up just short of a victory after Denny Hamlin shocked the field in the closing laps and passed the leaders via a tire gamble.
- o Both drivers figure to be in the mix for the win on Sunday, as both have shown recent speed at Martinsville.
- o Truex in particular is among the best in the series at The Paperclip, having won three of the last five Cup races at the track.
- o Byron has three top-five finishes at Martinsville in his last six starts at the track
- 18 – Kyle Busch vs. 5 – Kyle Larson
- o It’s the Kyle and Kyle Show in the final matchup of the week, in a battle between two drivers who, despite having great records at short tracks, have not seen much success in recent events at Martinsville.
- o Larson has oft-described Martinsville as one of his weakest tracks, but his 11.50 average finish since 2019 at the facility suggests he has a better handle on the track than he gives himself credit for.
- o Busch has two Martinsville wins to his name in his career, but none have come in the last 4 years. He’ll look to change that after a disappointing showing in Richmond in which a strong run was undone by a pit penalty late in the race.
Brief history of the unique NASCAR trophy at Martinsville Speedway – There is nothing else out there like it and that’s what makes it so unique, the Martinsville Speedway trophy that is. The seven-foot-tall trophy is known as the ‘Grandfather Clock’ or the Ridgeway Clock. It was presented for the first time in 1964 to NASCAR Hall of Famer Fred Lorenzen. Back then, and for many years, the trophy was manufactured just down the road from the iconic short track. Clockmakers Howard Miller then bought Ridgeway, who were the manufacturers of the clock, and started making them in their unit in Zeeland, Michigan.