Sunday, October 30, 2011

Rating the TUMS Fast Relief 500: 5 Stars *****

The Sprint Cup Series visited the shortest track on the schedule at Martinsville Speedway, but it had just as much action as the previous week’s race at Talladega Superspeedway, the longest in NASCAR. The race at Martinsville continued to jumble the Chase standings and receives a 5 Star Rating.

This race took components from several of the other 5 Star races this season. It began with hard driving from the drop of the green flag that resulted in several early wrecks, similar to the September race at Richmond, and around lap 100 the top five included drivers such as A.J. Allmendinger and Casey Mears. Those type of names don’t usually show up that high on the scoring pylon unless it’s at Talladega or Daytona.

And Brian Vickers wrecked.

After the initial scramble, the race settled down and big-name drivers such as Kyle Busch, Jeff Gordon and Denny Hamlin led for long stretches.

Until Brian Vickers wrecked.

Finally, after a day that included a season-high 18 cautions, Jimmie Johnson and Tony Stewart found themselves at the front of the field and had a good battle to the finish line where Stewart notched his third win of the Chase.

After Brian Vickers wrecked.

Overall, Sunday’s race at Martinsville had more of the type of racing the sport had lacked through much of the Chase. Early on non-Chasers were in the mix and nobody held back and rode around. Nearly every car in the field had fairly significant damage not only at the end of the race, but most of them had torn up cars before the halfway mark.

Especially Brian Vickers, who barely had a car left after he was involved in five of the 18 cautions.

The points standings also took another crazy turn after the messes at Martinsville grabbed many of the title contenders. Matt Kenseth looked to be in great position to take over the points lead and Brad Keselowski would be within 10 points of the leader. But, both wrecked late in the race and now find themselves fifth and fourth, respectively.

Instead, Carl Edwards slipped out of Martinsville with a ninth-place finish and his points lead still intact despite running in mid-pack for much of the race and falling a lap down a couple of times.

Next up is Texas. Last year’s race at Texas was one of the most memorable of the season as Jeff Burton and Jeff Gordon fought on the backstretch, Kyle Busch flipped off an official and a myriad of other weird, but entertaining events throughout the race.

Plus, the Chase is as wide open at this point in the season as it has been in many years. By the way, Johnson is now back to within one race’s worth of points out of the lead. Right now it looks impossible, but so did a World Series title for the St. Louis Cardinals when they were 10-and-a-half games out of a playoff spot on Aug. 25.

Might this be the year of incredible comebacks?


  1. NASCAR take note: Short track (bull ring) racing is great! Even jmayer agrees! Now for a Phoenix sandwich. Texas and Homestead (YUK!) on either side of a resurfaced track that hopefully still has a measure of uniqueness...

    Guess who's in the catbird seat? Cousin Carl! Tony can issue warnings all he wants but the fact remains Edwards in particular and Ford drivers in general seem to thrive on the cookie cutters...

    Thanks jmayer!

  2. Dwindy1 - Edwards is in a good spot for the title now. Kenseth would have been there if it had been a 400-lap race.

    I'm also hoping they didn't ruin Phoenix with the new surface. Some of the reports of there being a major lack of grip concern me.