NASCAR

Non-Chase drivers chasing history

Denny Hamlin
Denny Hamlin (left) and crew chief Darian Grubb (right) are winless this year.
FOX Sports TOM JENSEN
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History could be made in Sunday’s Goody’s Headache Relief Shot 500 at Martinsville Speedway.

If a driver outside the top 12 in points could somehow win at the 0.526-mile Virginia short track, it would mark the first time in the nine-and-a-half-year history of the Chase for the Sprint Cup that three consecutive Chase races were won by non-Chase drivers.

In 2006, half of the 10 races in NASCAR’s playoff round were captured by non-Chasers — Tony Stewart won three, with one each going to Greg Biffle and Brian Vickers. But never have non-Chasers claimed three races in a row.

So, who has the best chance to crash the party on Sunday? Here are five possibilities:

BRAD KESELOWSKI — Like many of his peers, Keselowski struggled mightily in his first few Martinsville races before starting to figure out the fast way around. Keselowski has three consecutive top 10s here and won two weeks ago in Charlotte to end a year-long winless streak. He just could do it again.

DENNY HAMLIN — It’s been a dismal and harrowing season for Hamlin, who is 24th in points and has just one top-10 finish since the June Pocono race. But you can’t overlook his four career victories here. He’s always a threat to win at Martinsville.

ARIC ALMIROLA — Fourth in this race a year ago, Almirola is good and getting better at Martinsville. This weekend he’ll carry 2014 NASCAR Hall of Fame honoree Maurice Petty’s No. 41 in a tribute to the man they call “Chief.” It would be a great story if Almirola could somehow win.

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MARK MARTIN — With two victories and 12 top-five finishes, Martin certainly knows how to get around Martinsville. Although he has struggled to get top finishes since replacing Tony Stewart in the No. 14 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet, it’s only a matter of time until he turns things around.

MARTIN TRUEX JR. — Although both Truex and crew chief Chad Johnston will both leave Michael Waltrip Racing at the end of the season, they are due to have some good luck shine upon them after such a difficult season.
 

Tagged: Tony Stewart, Martin Truex Jr., Aric Almirola, Mark Martin, Brad Keselowski

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