Jeff Gordon among the handful of wild cards at Martinsville


Sunday’s Goody’s Fast Relief 500 at Martinsville Speedway marks our final short-track race of the year. We all know the focus is going to about these eight remaining Chase for the Sprint Cup drivers.

What can’t be over-looked is the field of non-Chase drivers keeps getting bigger. There are going to be a number of these drivers who aren’t in the playoffs that will try and steal some thunder from the Chase drivers on Sunday.

Do you not think that Brad Keselowski, who is still feels the sting from being eliminated from the Chase last Sunday at Talladega Superspeedway, isn’t going to be a man on mission at Martinsville? You can say the exact same thing about Martin Truex Jr.

Also, don’t forget the other wild card this weekend.

Not only is Jeff Gordon back in the No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet, but Martinsville is the scene of his last win. In all honesty, Sunday probably will be the final-final race of Jeff’s Hall-of-Fame career. How special would it be for Jeff to win one more race at the place he literally won his last race at? He’s going to be in an awfully good race car, so don’t count him out.

While I’m sure we’re going to have some cautions, I would also wager we’re going to have some long green-flag runs, as well. Also, keep your eye on what happens on pit road. It continues to play a huge role in the outcome of races and that is only magnified at a short track like Martinsville.

I think the first one that comes to mind when you talk about pit-road issues has to be Denny Hamlin. He got his ninth pit-road speeding penalty of the year at Talladega, and unbelievably that is their 15th pit-road penalty overall. I keep saying the No. 11 team will eventually go away, but that simply hasn’t been the case as the keep on fighting.

You always hear us talk about how tight pit road is at Martinsville. Just one hiccup on pit road can cost a team the race. It seems the more we go there, the more that fresh tires are the order of the day. The problem is that drivers and teams are on the end of that razor blade when it comes to strategy, where they are balancing out whether fresh tires or track position is more important at the time.

I know the folks at Martinsville have tried to put some things down on the track to make a second groove, but late in that race, you are going to be on bended knee praying that when you line up for the restart that you are on the bottom line. If you aren’t on the bottom, believe me, they are absolutely going to eat your lunch.