The CHASE is well under way. Racing at Richmond sealed the deal for the 16 drivers and teams still in the “chase” for the Sprint Cup Championship. From Richmond the circus has raced through Chicago, New Hampshire and Dover to fill out the “Challenger” round of the CHASE. Denny Hamlin, Matt Kenseth and Kevin Harvick were winners in that set and advance forward with nine others with points to the “Contender” round of three more races at Charlotte, Kansas and Talladega.
Wins or points will advance. Four at the bottom will be out of “Cup” contention after Talladega
This will begin the “Eliminator” round consisting of Martinsville, Texas and Phoenix. There will be over 40 drivers on the tracks but only eight will be on the grid for the Sprint Cup. The others will be along to race for their sponsors, their team, their fans…
When they reach Homestead there will be four going for the “Cup”.
The only short track in the CHASE is Martinsville. The Goody’s Headache Relief Shot 500 is positioned at the start of the “Eliminator” round and could be a wild card on the way to Homestead. Having Talladega close the “Contender” round and Martinsville up next to start the next round is set to shake things up. The danger of the “big one” at Talladega and the challenge of the short track is going to test the patience and the strategy of racing.
For Martinsville the track is getting set to start the three races of the “Eliminator” round with a big regional lead-in as the ValleyStar Credit Union 300 rolls just three weeks before the Cup folks come in. (The VSCU 300 was put off a week as east coast storms battered the original run date)
The general consensus from late model to Cup is that Martinsville is a hard nut to crack. Drivers running for the first few times find it difficult with the low banking, tight lines and rhythm of speed to braking. Veterans are caught up in the traffic of those who can’t quite find a groove. The tight racing causes bumps and pushes and frustration. Keeping the wheel in the center of patience is often key to a good finish but the temptation to push the driver a little harder for the bump that lost you 4 spots 80 laps ago runs hot.
Martinsville is a driver’s puzzle and a fan favorite with good views of the entire race from practically anywhere.
The curbs are pink for October and Breast Cancer Awareness Month. There have been visits by drivers having some fun with the speedway from Clint Bowyer racing go-karts with track President Clay Campbell to Kyle Larson picking up a pink brush and driving cancer survivors around the track. The late model drivers in the region have already had a practice day and the Cup drivers have it in their sights.
Martinsville, and the CHASE, is coming together.