NASCAR & Auto Racing

Win at Martinsville would be perfect timing

Race winners kiss the bricks at the Brickyard 400. They fire the six-shooters at Texas. And in Martinsville, it’s all about the coveted grandfather clock.

Martinsville Speedway is celebrating its 50th anniversary of what they dub “our iconic grandfather clock trophy” and several drivers would love to get their hands on it by the end of Sunday’s race.

“That trophy is extremely special,” said veteran driver Jeff Gordon, who has won it eight times in his career.

“It’s unique and a one of a kind. When you get the opportunity to have that clock delivered to your home or to the shop, it’s very special. I cherish every one, and I look forward to that opportunity, and we’ve got a great opportunity this weekend.

“Everybody always says, ‘Oh, man, do you ever have trouble finding places for those? No. We can win more and more and more and we’ll never have a problem finding a good place for it, where it’s going to be well respected and displayed properly.”

It would mean even more for Gordon this weekend as it would assure himself a spot as one of the four championship contenders at the season-ending race at Homestead-Miami.

He’ll have plenty of competition for it, though, from fellow Chase contenders as well as non-Chase drivers.

Jamie McMurray, a non-Chase driver, won the pole and would love nothing more than to become the first non-Chase driver to win a Chase race this season. So would defending champion Jimmie Johnson.

“I’ve been lucky enough to win three or four Chase races, not being in the Chase, so it wouldn’t be totally new to me,” McMurray said. “This is a track that I’ve really run well at. I would love to be able to get a victory at and actually get a clock this time.”

It should be interesting to see how it all unfolds. Martinsville is the shortest track on the circuit and known as a track that rewards the most technically sound drivers.

As Matt Kenseth said, “Everything about it makes it challenging. You have to have the car turning good, your car has to do everything right. It’s not a track where you can do much extra to make it go fast.”

Two favorites

Jeff Gordon. He has a history of success at the track and this is arguably his best bet to lock in a championship spot.

Denny Hamlin. He’s starting fifth and is going for his fifth win at Martinsville. He couldn’t ask for better tracks this round.

Two dark horses

Ryan Newman. He’s still in the Chase, but no one seems to expect him to do anything. But he has a career win at the track and has a decent starting position at ninth.

Tony Stewart. Despite not being in the Chase, he had a solid qualifying run, starting fourth, and is one of five active drivers with multiple wins at this track. But has he fully recovered from the tragic dirt-track accident earlier this season?

Quotable

“The goods of it is it’s way better than where we were in the spring. That is a big gain, especially where we are this year. That is what I’ve said as far as from our standpoint, we just need to make improvements on where we were in the spring. We have done that. We were a better race car than we were a qualifier in the spring. Hopefully, we can take a better qualifying effort and turn it into an even better race car.” — Newman, who finished 20th at Martinsville this past spring

Telling number

.526 Miles, the track length at Martinsville, the shortest track on the Cup schedule

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