The 2016 season at Martinsville Speedway will conclude on November 12th. A total of six NASCAR Cup Series events will take place over the course of the regular season. The playoffs and the championship will be decided at Homestead-Miami Speedway. The regular season will consist of five Saturday night events and one Sunday afternoon race. The most recent race was the Food City 500. This year, the longest race in the series will be the Sharpie 300. In 2015, the most memorable event was the Federated Auto Parts 400. There were 36 lead changes among 10 different drivers. This year could be even more exciting.
The Track Layout
In 2004, NASCAR had a mile-and-a-half tri-oval built in the middle of the track. Over the years, the track has changed its layout multiple times. Today, the track layout looks like this:
- Pit rows line both sides of the tri-oval
- The straightaways are relatively long – ranging from just under a mile to a mile-and-a-half
- The infield is sloped
- There is a large grandstand along the backstretch
- The track follows a natural curve
- The banking in the turns matches that of a normal road course
- There is a roof above the seats in the infield
The track offers great views of the entire field from any point. Fans can enjoy the speed and action from any seat.
Since 2012, Martinsville has had a strong showing in the Cup Series. The track had one of the highest average racing speeds when compared to the other Sprint Cup Series tracks. In the 2015 season, Martinsville had the 18th highest average car speed in the series. This season, the competition looks particularly strong. Several top-tier drivers will look to stake their claim for the title. Here are the drivers to watch out for:
- Michael McDowell – The veteran driver has over 200 career wins. He is a three-time Cup Series champion. He won the 2014 race at Martinsville with an average speed of 181.233 mph. He will be looking to build on that success this year.
- Ty Dillon – The popular grandson of NASCAR Hall of Famer Bill Dillon will be looking to prove his talent on the big stage.
- Austin Dillon – The twin brother of Ty Dillon will be looking to follow in his grandfather’s footsteps and make his presence felt in the Cup Series.
- Dale Earnhardt Jr. – Junior leads the series in wins with 43. He won the 2016 race at Martinsville with an average speed of 161.833 mph. This year, he will be focused on regaining the top spot in the standings.
- Xfinity Series Champion Matt Crafton – The 22-year-old from Riverside, California leads the series in wins with 11. He will be looking to make his presence felt in the higher-profile series.
- Arrow Emblem 500 Winner Kyle Larson – The 2010 NASCAR Rookie of the Year is coming off a strong season in which he finished 12th in the standings. He won the Pure Insurance 300 with an average speed of 162.871 mph.
- Joey Logano – The reigning series champion and 2015 NASCAR Cup Series Most Popular Driver will be looking to keep his momentum going into the next season.
- Chase Elliott – The 2015 NASCAR Cup Series Rookie of the Year will be looking to build on last year’s success and stake his claim as one of the top rookies in the series.
- Justin Wilson – A crew member on the No. 77 Carlin NASCAR team, Justin Wilson often races with a paint scheme reminiscent of Dale Earnhardt’s famous No. 88 car. He scored his first professional win in July 2016. This year, he will be gunning for a shot at the Cup Series championship.
There are several other promising young drivers looking to make their mark in the sport. With a new direction for the track and increased competition, anything can happen. This year will be a must-see for fans of the sport.
The Food City 500
The 2015 food city 500 was the culmination of a solid season for Martinsville. The race was won by Kevin Harvick with a last-lap pass of Kyle Busch. The two finished virtually tied in points, but Harvick had the slight edge in wins. Busch scored two wins in the season finale at Richmond to close out the year. That gave him four for the season.
A year later, the rivalry is back. This year’s edition will be one for the record books. The last lap will feature at least one car running at a crazy speed. This could make for great television.
The Finishing Order
The traditional order of finish for NASCAR is as follows:
- Gap (in position)
Points are awarded based on these rankings. The race winner gets 30 points, the runner-up gets 29 points, and so on.
Here is what the finishing order for the Carfax 400 looked like in 2015:
- Jimmie Johnson
- Kevin Harvick
- Kyle Busch
- Dale Earnhardt Jr.
- Brad Keselowski
- Martin Truex Jr.
- Tony Stewart
- Kyle Larson
- Matt Kenseth
- Jeff Gordon
- Greg Biffle
- Danica Patrick
- Joey Logano
- Ryan Newman
- Charlie Brewer
- Kurt Busch
- Arrow Emblem 500 Winner Kyle Busch
- Denny Hamlin
- Jamie McMurray
It will be interesting to see how the order turns out this year. There are several new faces mixed in with some familiar ones.
Possible Shift In Weather
The weather is another factor that could impact the outcome of the season. The air seems to be coming in from multiple directions, creating very unstable air conditions. Some of the drivers predict that there could be rain at some point during the season. It would not be a shocker if some of the early races had to be postponed due to bad weather.
The worst case scenario is that showers begin early in the season, putting a damper on the speed of the cars. If that happens, it could mean that the end of the year races are affected as well. However, if the weather continues to be this unstable and unpredictable, then there is always the possibility that the season could be called off entirely.
Rivals & Resentments
The drivers are often quick to their rivals’ corner. They will be looking to gain an advantage over their competitors. Sometimes this manifests itself in kindhearted pranks. Kyle Larson and Charlie Brewer swapped paint jobs in 2015. The result was a shocking sight:
- NASCAR CUP SERIES: SHARPIE 300 (SUNDAY, OCTOBER 4TH)
- The green flag will wave at 2:00 p.m. EDT with multiple cars on the track at once!
- Your announcers for the day are Mike Massaro and Marty Snider.
- Livestreaming is available
Most of the rivalries come from a place of good will, though. The drivers usually do their best to be courteous to their counterparts. Despite the friendly competition, there is still a desire to beat the hell out of each other sometimes.