2021 NASCAR Cup Series preview: Martinsville 1

With the conclusion of Easter Weekend, the NASCAR Cup Series will re-fire its schedule grind with a low-downforce date under the lights at Martinsville Speedway Saturday evening. 

While the urgency to win might not yet be on the minds of every driver, a slowly-shrinking playoff field will definitely create more need for risk and urge to capitalize on the parity that is the .5-mile paper clip of Martinsville. 

Joey Logano will start on the pole. The 30-year-old for Team Penske locked in his playoff spot with a win on Mar. 29 at the Bristol Dirt Race. In 24 career starts at Martinsville, Logano has won one race (Oct. 28, 2018) and has finished inside the top five eight times. Dating back to 2018, Logano has finished inside the top 10 in five of his last six races at Martinsville. 

Denny Hamlin, the current leader in season points (327), will start second. Hamlin currently leads the field in top-five and top-10 finishes (six apiece). Hamlin is, additionally, tied for first in stage wins (three) with Kyle Larson. 

Larson, meanwhile, will start 19th. It will be Larson’s lowest starting position this season, with his previous low being 17th at Homestead on Feb. 28. Larson will have to make up ground and also go against his sub-par track record at the paper clip. In 12 career starts at Martinsville, Larson only has two top-10 finishes to his name and an average finish of 22.4. 

Kyle Busch possesses the best average finish at Martinsville among all active drivers in the Cup Series (5.6). Dating back to 2015, Busch has only finished outside the top 10 in two out of 11 Martinsville races. Busch will start in 12th.

Last year’s Martinsville winners in Chase Elliott and Martin Truex Jr. will start the race in fifth and seventh, respectively. Of the pair, Truex possesses the higher average finish mark (6.6 vs. 13.4), while Elliott has more wins (two vs. one). 

Dropping to the rear of the field for the race are Daniel Suarez (inspection violation, crew chief Travis Mack ejected, docked 10 points), Corey LaJoie(multiple inspection failures), Justin Haley(multiple inspection failures), James Davison(multiple inspection failures) and Tyler Reddick(unapproved adjustments).

Stage lengths for the race will be 130-260-500. Coverage is scheduled to begin on Fox Sports 1 on Apr. 10 at 7:30 p.m. EST. 

Starting lineup:

Pit stall assignments:

Goodyear tire notes: https://www.jayski.com/2021/04/06/goodyear-fast-facts-martinsville-6/

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