Tiny Martinsville Speedway, the oldest and shortest track in NASCAR, is one of the most vexing for drivers.
For the few who master the tiny 0.526-mile paper clip, wins come in droves: Richard Petty won 15 times here, Darrell Waltrip 11 and Jeff Gordon nine.
Among active drivers, seven-time Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson has nine victories here and Denny Hamlin five more, making those two the favorites to win today’s STP 500 (coverage starts at 12:30 p.m. ET on FS1).
Because qualifying was rained out on Friday, points leader Kyle Larson will start on pole, which is a huge advantage here. And defending race winner Kyle Busch, Hamlin’s teammate at Joe Gibbs Racing, has been fast all weekend, so those two will be in the discussion about who wins.
But the squad to keep an eye on today might just be Team Penske.
While it’s true that neither Brad Keselowski nor Joey Logano has ever won at Martinsville, they’ve come close a bunch of times.
Consider the following:
Keselowski has finished second twice in the last four Martinsville races. On top of that, he has seven finishes of ninth or better in the last 10 races here.
Logano, meanwhile, has led laps in each of the last six Martinsville races — something neither Johnson nor Hamlin has done. In that period, he’s had three top fives and he should have won in the fall of 2015, when he led 207 laps before getting drilled into the wall by Matt Kenseth.
The Penske Fords have been fast this weekend, too.
In Saturday’s final Happy Hour round of practice, Logano was third and Keselowski fourth in best 10 consecutive lap average speeds. In the earlier practice on Saturday, Keselowski was second and Logano fifth in that measure.
Oh, and one other thing: Today is team owner Roger Penske’s 1,000th NASCAR Premier Series race.
So keep an eye on the Penske Fords this afternoon.
There will be a lot of competition, but one of these two just might step up and win for the first time at Martinsville.