Hold on tight: NASCAR about to get down and dirty at the paperclip

Denny Hamlin (11) and Jimmie Johnson (48) are always tough to beat at Martinsville Speedway.

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This weekend we are at one of my all-time favorite racetracks and that’s Martinsville Speedway. I think all the fans better grab hold and hang on tight. I think we are going to see slamming and banging like we haven’€™t seen there in a while.

I think this new handling package is going to allow these race teams to go up there and be better than ever before. Don’t get me wrong: It’s still Martinsville. So if you can keep that car on the left side and make it turn like it needs to in the center of the corner, well, you are going to have one heck of a car for others to have to beat.

It’s going to be fun to watch some of these drivers try to get wide on this racetrack for some fun two-wide racing. The attitude will be "if you want my spot, well, come and try and take my spot." I think the competition is there once again, so you are going to need to be worrying about not knocking the nose off your race car, while at the same time knowing you are going to have to put the bumper to someone if you want to go anywhere this weekend. Again, you have to be careful about it, but I just think you are going to see a bunch of folks getting frustrated as the day goes along, and start gouging cars out of the way.

I think once qualifying is over, we are all going to be scratching our heads about how close the competition is. Come Sunday there are going to be some quick decisions made about how to get around a guy, and sometimes that might not be pretty. Qualifying is going to be paramount, especially this weekend when getting up front and staying up front is so critical. A great qualifying run will allow you a great pit selection which is also critical in keeping you up front.

I think you are going to see the Martinsville Three — Jimmie Johnson, Denny Hamlin and Jeff Gordon — put a major push on winning the pole this weekend and getting that No. 1 pit box. I’d also keep an eye on Kevin Harvick and his boss Tony Stewart. I know that Kevin is looking to redeem himself, and he loves racing at Martinsville. As far as his boss goes, Tony has two top-five finishes these last two weeks, and I look for him to do what it takes to keep that streak going.