Gibbs needs to solve engine problem

For Denny Hamlin, I think this weekend at Martinsville Speedway is as important as it was one year ago for him. If you go back and look at Denny’s 2010 NASCAR Sprint Cup start, you will see it was as dismal if not worse than his start so far this year.

Last year at Martinsville was the start of Denny’s turnaround when he won the race.

So yes, Martinsville this weekend is pretty important for Denny Hamlin. That said, it’s also a very important race for Joe Gibbs Racing. Other than Daytona, we have not had a race weekend this year where Joe Gibbs Racing didn’t have an engine issue with its three teams.

We all know that Denny can win on any given Sunday. Naturally since he swept both races at Martinsville Speedway last season, everyone will be watching to see if this is once again the track where Denny turns things around.

Because of the new points system this year and the new way they are setting the 12-card field for the 2011 Chase for the Sprint Cup, it is not the time to panic for the No. 11 team. Because there are two wild-card spots in the Chase field, Denny knows if he puts a couple wins on the board, despite where he may be in points, he will most likely qualify for the Chase.

Joe Gibbs Racing obviously has three great drivers and they have great cars. Right now it’s the engines that are giving them problems. We know the organization will get these engine woes behind it. There is no question it will. The teams know they are running well and as soon as they can get their engine combinations corrected, they will be in Victory Lane.

This weekend is 500 laps at Martinsville, but historically it is never that hard on engines. They know they have to get to the bottom of the engine issue because in two weeks we are at Texas Motor Speedway, which is one of the hardest places we go to on engines. The thing to also remember about the Texas race is that it is 500 miles and that’s brutal on engines.

Back to Martinsville for a second, in the last nine races there only Denny or Jimmie Johnson have won. Since neither has won in 2011, it would not surprise me in the least if next week we are talking about six different winners in six different races.

We always love going to Martinsville. Short-track racing is the backbone of our sport. It’s where we all got our start. We only have three short tracks left on our NASCAR Sprint Cup schedule every year – Bristol Motor Speedway, Martinsville Speedway and Richmond International Raceway.

Everybody, from the driver on down, loves going to a short track. The goal this weekend at Martinsville for those other 41 drivers is to see if they can wrangle Victory Lane away from Denny or Jimmie.