There has been no shortage of excitement in the first five races of the 2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup season, and today's Goody's Fast Relief 500 at Martinsville promises to provide 500 more laps of the same.
Jamie McMurray won his first-ever pole at Martinsville yesterday, edging out Ryan Newman for the top spot. It is McMurray's eighth-career pole, but he has never converted one of those fast qualifying efforts into a victory. If he is to win today, the man starting two rows behind him in fifth, Virginia native Denny Hamlin, is likely to be his chief competition. Hamlin is chasing his fourth-straight and fifth overall victory at Martinsville.
Jimmie Johnson is another likely contender, but the six-time Martinsville winner has to race his way from 17th place if he is to tie teammate Jeff Gordon's mark of seven wins among active drivers. Carl Edwards, the point leader entering today's race, has never led a single lap at Martinsville, one of only two tracks - and the only oval - he has failed to do so.
On top of the competition among drivers, there are also concerns about the tires. A new compound for this weekend has failed to lay rubber in the groove through the first two days of on-track action, instead wearing the tires to the cords and and leaving large balls of tire debris that create treacherous conditions in the groove. Kevin Harvick deemed his Goodyears "pieces of crap" after yesterday's Camping World Truck event, and complaints have been rampant amongst his peers. Goodyear, citing cooler weather as the reason for the issues, believes that today's warmer temperatures will help limit any more wear issues.
Whoever avoids car contact and tire troubles to snare the checkered flag today, in addition to bagging a nice paycheck, will earn what is arguably the coolest trophy in all of racing: a Ridgeway Grandfather Clock. Johnny Sauter picked up the first clock of the weekend, winning the Camping World Truck Series race on Saturday. Who's side will time be on today? The green flag is scheduled to drop at 1:13 p.m.
TV Coverage: 1 p.m. on FOX, beginning with the NASCAR on FOX Pre-Race show at 12:30.
Radio: 12 noon on MRN Radio/Sirus 128. Find your preferred MRN Radio affiliate.
The Goody's Fast Relief 500 will re-air this Wednesday, April 6, at noon on SPEED.