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Tums Fast Relief 500 Update: Martinsville Master Jeff Gordon in vintage form early

For years, the Martinsville Speedway could have been aptly nicknamed "Gordonville." Jeff Gordon won seven times at the track, including season-sweeps in 2003 and 2005. Then along came Jimmie Johnson and Denny Hamlin, who stole Gordon's thunder at the paperclip, it seemed.

Gordon is in vintage form early on in the Tums Fast Relief 500, having led 53 of the opening 130 laps after starting from the 11th position. Gordon, Kyle Busch, and Martin Truex Jr. all stayed out under the most-recent caution flag for a spin by Travis Kvapil. Brian Vickers, having another strong run in his limited runs in the No. 55 Michael Waltrip-owned Toyota, sits fourth ahead of Hamlin in fifth. Hamlin, third in points, has overcome a pit-road speeding penalty under the first caution that dropped him to 30th place.

The story of the race - aside from Gordon and Hamlin's charge through the field and championship implications with polesitter Jimmie Johnson and Brad Keselowski, who run 11th and 15th, respectively - has been right-front tires. The first two cautions were brought out by blown right fronts on the cars of David Stremme and David Gilliland. Martinsville is typically tough on right-front tires, as the heavy braking needed to slow the cars for the tight turns can cause so much heat that the tires actually melt their bead.

Photographs by coka_koehler used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.