NASCAR betting: Goody’s Fast Relief 500 preview and picks
Welcome to the world according to Tony Stewart. As the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series heads to the smallest track on the circuit, Martinsville Speedway for Sunday’s Goody’s Fast Relief 500, Stewart aims to continue his early-season momentum.
Stewart’s season thus far though has a lot of people wondering just what he’s up to. Based on his past history, Stewart shouldn’t be winning this early in the season. Of his 46 career victories, only six came before June and only four came prior to race No. 10.
Yet, he rolls into Martinsville with two wins in the first five races this season. Overall, Stewart has now won seven of his last 15 starts.
Last week, Stewart was our spoiler at California and that’s exactly what he did, charging to the front and winning the rain-shortened race. Expect him to repeat that at Martinsville, where he takes over the role of favorite this week.
Stewart staged an amazing pass late in October’s race there and went on to victory, giving him three wins at the .526-mile track. Stewart says he loves racing old school-style at Martinsville.
“It’s still that old short-track feel. That’s what I like,” Stewart said. “We run a lot of 1.5-mile tracks during the year and it’s the only place that races like this. We’ve got two half-mile tracks that we race on. This one’s quite a bit different than Bristol, and that’s what makes it fun. You can out-brake guys and you can run the outside if you get a shot. It’s racing the way we all grew up racing.”
Just because Stewart is on top of the world right now doesn’t mean he can’t be knocked off it. In the other three races this season, his average finish is 17.3. Should he be off his game Sunday, there is a driver ready to pounce.
Jimmie Johnson is the guy Stewart passed in those closing laps to win at Martinsville in October. Johnson is second among all active drivers in wins there with six and is looking for redemption Sunday.
“I do have a lot of success at Martinsville, “Johnson said. “I certainly want to get back to my winning ways there. When I think of how close we were to victory last fall; it didn’t happen, but we led a lot of laps and was a factor in the end. I’m looking forward to going back and trying to win there again.”
This week’s spoiler is Denny Hamlin. The Virginia native considers Martinsville his home track and he’s just behind Johnson in wins among active drivers with four. Hamlin has a victory this season and has won three of the last five races at Martinsville. He has a solid shot at joining Stewart as the only other double winner in 2012.
Head to Head
Dale Earnhardt Jr. vs. Jeff Gordon: The Hendrick Motorsports drivers are this week’s primetime matchup. Gordon leads all active drivers in wins at Martinsville with seven. However, his last win here came in 2005 and he seems to be somewhat off his game this season.
Earnhardt has never won at Martinsville, but seems to be building momentum. While the odds to win are against both drivers this Sunday, look for Earnhardt to continue moving forward and finish ahead of Gordon.
Brian Vickers vs. Kevin Harvick: Vickers returns to the seat for Michael Waltrip Racing Sunday. His last outing came at Bristol, where he finished a surprising fifth. Harvick is the defending winner of this race but has been slow out of the gate. Harvick will become the 50th driver to start 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup races Sunday and will at least finish ahead of Vickers Sunday.
Kurt Busch won the 2002 fall race from the 36th starting position - the furthest back a race winner has started.
Jimmie Johnson (+500)
Denny Hamlin (+500)