Jimmie vs. Jeff? Martinsville could come down to Hendrick pair

Jeff Gordon (left) and Jimmie Johnson are among the favorites in Sunday's Sprint Cup race at Martinsville speedway.

Jerry Markland/Getty Images

Sunday at Martinsville Speedway we’ll have our final short-track race of the year. Although we always look at and approach Phoenix like it’s a short track, too, it’s actually a one-mile track.

Of course, you look back at the spring race here at Martinsville and the winner was not the guy we expected to be in victory lane. And that was Kurt Busch. Kurt beat the best there — he beat Jimmie Johnson, who is an eight-time winner at the .526-mile track.

I think this time it will be a Hendrick Motorsports battle. In particular, I think it will be a battle between Jeff Gordon and Johnson, both of whom have eight victories here.

The unique thing about Martinsville is it’ll be back to one of those deals where strategy will make our heads spin, because you almost want to be off-sequence from everybody. We’ll see guys pitting this caution, guys staying out, guys pitting the next caution, guys staying out. It’s a real mixed bag.

Could this be a place where anger rears its head again? Absolutely. Even if this wasn’t a Chase race in the Eliminator Round of eight drivers, it’s a place where people tend to get upset with one another.

But you know what? And I’m going to digress for a second — but how interesting is it that the two guys who were at each other the hardest at Charlotte were kind of quasi-working together at the end of the Talladega race Sunday? And, of course, that was Brad Keselowski and Matt Kenseth, who finished one-two at ‘Dega.

So, I don’t know that we’ll see any carryover from Charlotte now that we are back at a short track. But I would not be surprised to see other folks mad at other folks. Because a lot of drivers, Denny Hamlin in particular, knows this is probably his best shot out of these three races to really make some noise and go ahead and lock in to that Championship Round of 4.  

I just think that we have so many drivers who aren’t Chasers now who could win Sunday — even Dale Earnhardt Jr., who was eliminated from the Chase along with Johnson after the Contender Round and has never won at Martinsville, but he runs real well there. I think it’s a long list of guys that truly could win Sunday who aren’t among the eight Chasers left.

VIDEO: Handicapping the Eliminator 8 in the Chase War Room

 

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