Bumping and banging was the style of the day at Martinsville Speedway on Sunday. Cars were scrapped, and aggressive driving seemed to be the only thing anyone thought would work to finish well in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Goody's Fast Pain Relief 500.
There was so much contact that the number of caution periods almost worked its way into the double digits before the halfway mark. A hard crash by Kasey Kahne and Martin Truex Jr. even brought out the red flag as track workers fixed the wall and cleaned up the mess. The field then had a rough time getting back to green with multiple cautions following the restart.
The final half of the race saw its fair share of contact as well, and things really started heating up as the laps wound down. For a few laps it looked like it was going to be a duel between Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Kyle Busch to take home the Martinsville clock, and Earnhardt was coming out on top of that dogfight. The problem was that Kevin Harvick was still charging hard through the field, perfecting his car for when it mattered most.
When the checkered flag waved, it was Harvick who crossed the line first for the second week in a row. Harvick and team are right back in the saddle after narrowly missing a championship in 2010, and look like one of the teams to beat in this week's Samsung Mobile 500 at Texas Motor Speedway.
Kevin Harvick - It took Harvick a long time to get his car working on the paperclip, but when he did, he climbed through the field quickly. He closed in the final laps and took the lead from Dale Earnhardt Jr. to claim his second victory in a row, the first multi-race winner of the 2011 season. Happy has been one to watch on the fast Texas oval recently. He chalked up an average finish of 10.4 in the last five races, finishing on the lead lap each of those times. With a top-five and three other top-10s in that time, he should be a worthy fantasy option this week. He could stand to lead more laps at the track, but if he can consistently turn in top-10s, it shouldn't matter too much.
Denny Hamlin - Hamlin turned in a somewhat disappointing performance at Martinsville on Sunday, finishing 12th after running at the front of the pack. Martinsville is Hamlin's house, and he showed speed at times throughout the day, but he was unable to make the impression when it mattered most. He is still far out of the points but could steadily climb back if he continues to perform consistently or win races. This week presents a great opportunity for Hamlin to do just that. His average finish at Texas Motor Speedway in the last five events is 6.6, scoring two wins. Hamlin presents a complete fantasy option for next week's race, and not unlike any other week, Hamlin should serve fantasy owners well.
Greg Biffle - Scoring a 21st-place finish in the rough and tumble Martinsville race piled another disappointment onto the season that is already becoming a thorn in Biffle's side. He is well out of the Chase standings, and he will need to turn in more convincing runs to erase that gap. After a disappointing start to the 2011 season, just one top-10 finish in the first five races, Biffle could turn it around this week. His average Texas Motor Speedway finish is 6.2 in the last five races, with an average qualifying position of 9.2. Biffle notched three top-fives and two other top-10s in those races, and that demonstrates his high potential at the track.
Mark Martin - Despite not having his name called often at Martinsville, Martin quietly turned in his second top-10 finish of the season. He seems like a shadow of the potential he showed just a few years ago, but despite his seemingly lack of performances, he ranks 10th in points. He should be a Chase contender if this continues. For the second week in a row, Martin will line up at a track where he has impressive results. His average finish at Texas Motor Speedway after the last five events is 6.2, with two top-five and four top-10 finishes. He is also the only driver to have finished on the lead lap in each of those events. Martin, again, is another convincing option at Texas.
Matt Kenseth - A penalty at the start of Sunday's race put Kenseth a lap down, giving him a wall to climb the rest of the afternoon. It only took him the next 220 laps to find his way back onto the lead lap. The effort paid off, and the result he scored Sunday was his third top-10 in the row, putting him ninth in points. Kenseth came into Martinsville on the back of consecutive top-fives and is bested in the Roush Fenway Racing stable only by teammate Carl Edwards. His Texas performances have been robust, and his average finish in the last five races is an enviable 7.8. His qualifying at the track hasn't been noteworthy, but his finishes more than compensate for that.
Jamie McMurray - McMurray started from pole Sunday, leading the field to the green flag and leading the opening laps. He faded throughout the race, but rebounded slightly to power home in seventh position. Fantasy owners shouldn't be swept away by the pole that McMurray earned in Martinsville. That performance is unlikely to follow him to Texas, where his average start in the last five races is 20.4 with an average result of 21.4. He scored a top-five at the track in that period, but that isn't enough to counter the DNF and two other runs in which he finished off of the lead lap. Fantasy owners should look elsewhere to rack up the points this week.
Joey Logano - After some time on the Sprint Cup circuit fans would be expecting more out of Logano. Sliced Bread came into the series with gobs of promise and some results to match. He looked competitive at times throughout the Goody's Fast Pain Relief 500, but found the wall, other competitors' cars, and rolled to the hauler with a 13th-place result. Still, that is Logano's best finish of the season to date. His average finish at Texas hasn't reflected that potential yet either. In the last five tries his average finish is just 24.2, with only one lead lap finish. The one good finish did result in a top-five, but until Logano can turn in top results race after race, fantasy owners ought to tread carefully.
Juan Pablo Montoya - Martinsville proved to be a fantastic and encouraging outing for Montoya. He ran among the leaders at the front of the field all afternoon, and was among the top five in the closing laps. He muscled his way to his second top-five result of the season, and now holds down seventh place in the point standings. Montoya, however, has among the worst Texas finishing records in the series. His car control and aggressive nature have not paid off at the oval with just one top-10 finish and two DNFs through the last five attempts. His average finish is disappointing at best at 29.8. Do not look to Montoya to count on any concrete points.
Carl Edwards - Martinsville gifted the No. 99 team its second worst finish of the season to date. Edwards finished 18th after all was said and done, and he ultimately lost his lead in the points as a result. Edwards might be having a fine season to date, but he will need that momentum to carry him through one of his more difficult tracks. His average Texas finish in the last five attempts is very mediocre at 20.4. He knows how to get around the arena, having a qualifying average of 11.6, but that hasn't exactly translated into success here. He does own a top-five and a top-10 in that span, but fantasy owners may wish for something a bit more convincing.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. - Martinsville was yet another strong afternoon for Earnhardt. This team is figuring out what it takes to be in contention at the end of a long afternoon, and results are coming their way. Unfortunately, just one top-10 finish is all Earnhardt has to hang his hat on through the last five Texas events. That result was the only time he finished on the lead lap in that span, and his average finish only tallies 19.6. The trouble for fantasy owners is that Earnhardt has been having a comparatively good season so far in 2011. While he may be off to a better start, his Texas resume just doesn't live up to what players should aim for this week, though he has won at the track.
Martin Truex Jr. - Sunday proved to be a very disappointing afternoon for Truex. Midway through the race he found himself in the wall and on fire, ending any chance of continuing further. A hung throttle forced him hard into the wall, taking out Kasey Kahne along the way. The 40th-place result was Truex's worst of the season. After two top-10 finishes in the last five Texas races, one would think he would be a decent fantasy option for the Samsung Mobile 500, but one glance at his average finish in that time would tell another story. The average finish he mustered was only 18.8, with just two lead lap finishes. Consistency is the name of the game when looking for fantasy options, and Truex just doesn't deliver that at Texas.