Short-track season in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series starts Sunday at Martinsville Speedway, with the running of the STP 500 (coverage starts at 12:30 p.m. ET on FS1) at the sport’s oldest and shortest track.
With five races in the books already on the 2017 season, it’s still too early to panic.
But it isn’t too early to want to run better.
Here are five drivers in need of a good finish — and in line to possibly get one — this weekend at Martinsville:
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The expansion to two cars hasn’t gone especially well for JTG Daugherty Racing, where Allmendinger is 30th in points and new teammate Chris Buescher is 32nd. The good news for the ‘Dinger is that he finished second in this race in both 2012 and again last year.
Aaron DosterAaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports
Now in her fifth full season at NASCAR’s top level, Patrick continues to struggle to post good finishes. She’s 29th in points now, with a best 2017 finish of 17th at Atlanta and two DNFs. She finished seventh in the spring Martinsville race two years ago and 12th here in her rookie season.
Last year at this time, Johnson already had two race victories. In 2017, he has a best finish of ninth in the first five races of the season. Then again, Johnson has nine race victories and 19 top fives at Martinsville, so he should be good this weekend.
Yes, Busch scored a huge, huge victory for himself and Stewart-Haas Racing when he won the Daytona 500 to start the season. Although Busch is all but guaranteed to make NASCAR’s playoffs now, his last three races have produced finishes of 30th, 25th and 24th. Busch does have a pair of race victories at Martinsville.
John David MercerJohn David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports
The 2003 NASCAR champion has had fast Joe Gibbs Racing Toyotas, but he’s also encountered every possible plague short of locusts, frogs and boils this season. He got wrecked by his Toyota teammates at Daytona and Auto Club Speedway and blew a tire at Phoenix. That’s three DNFs in just five races. Fortunately for Kenseth, he’s finished sixth or better in five of the last seven Martinsville races.