It really is hard to believe that we are at Race No. 6 already in the 2015 season, but we are here this weekend at Martinsville Speedway. I’m really excited about it because it will be our first short-track race of the season, plus everyone loves Martinsville. I’m not sure all the new rules will rear their head like we’ve seen in races two through five simply because it’s more about handling than mechanical grip.
When I look at drivers to watch Sunday, there is no question at the top of the list are the Hendrick Motorsports teams. I mean, every time we go to Martinsville you have to watch that No. 24 of Jeff Gordon and the No. 48 of Jimmie Johnson to be your major players. Don’t forget who won the last time we were there. It was their teammate, Dale Earnhardt Jr., who was hugging his very first grandfather clock.
After how he has performed in only his first two races back in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series after serving a suspension, Kurt Busch is a driver you had better keep an eye on. He has a fifth- and a third-place finish these past two races. He also has two wins at Martinsville, and with the roll he’s on right now, don’t discount him winning Sunday.
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I think the one rule change that will come into play that I see as a potential storyline is the gear rule. NASCAR has reduced the gear substantially, and that is huge at a place like Martinsville. Not only does the gear help you get up off the corner, but it also helps you get into the corner. With a lower gear, you can use it to slow your car down and save your brakes, but now the available gears you can run have been reduced.
Naturally in this day and age, everyone will have good brakes at Martinsville. So while I don’t think it will be a big concern, I do believe with NASCAR’s gear reduction, it certainly will be in the back of everyone’s mind up to and including the Sunday of the race.