NASCAR

NASCAR at Martinsville 2014: Start Time, Date, TV Schedule, Live Stream and More

MARTINSVILLE, VA - OCTOBER 27:  Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Drive To End Hunger Chevrolet, celebrates in victory lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Goody's Headache Relief Shot 500 Powered By Kroger at Martinsville Speedway on October 27, 2013 in Martinsville, Virginia.  (Photo by Rainier Ehrhardt/Getty Images)
Rainier Ehrhardt/Getty Images
Mike ChiariFeatured ColumnistMarch 29, 2014

Martinsville Speedway may be the smallest track on NASCAR's Sprint Cup circuit, but as racing fans will witness on Sunday, drivers tend to go big or go home in an effort to tame "The Paperclip."

The STP 500 will emanate from Ridgeway, Va., where the racing is sure to be both chaotic and exciting. The half-mile track makes for some interesting situations that aren't often encountered at most other tracks, and that is what often makes Martinsville one of the year's best races.

It takes a special kind of driver to thrive at Martinsville, which explains why Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson have won there on 16 occasions combined. That would seem to suggest that Hendrick Motorsports has this race in the bag, but there are plenty of intriguing contenders who can potentially spoil the party.

Here is everything you need to know about when and how to watch the STP 500, along with a glance at the top contenders looking to pull out a victory.

 

Where: Martinsville Speedway in Ridgeway, Va.

When: Sunday, March 30 at 1 p.m. ET

Watch: Fox

Live Steam: Fox Sports Go

Radio: Motor Racing Network

 

Starting Positions

STP 500 Qualifying Order
PositionDriverNumberBest Speed (mph)
1Kyle Buch1899.674
2Denny Hamlin1199.548
3Joey Logano2299.428
4Jimmie Johnson4899.178
5Jeff Gordon2499.048
6Matt Kenseth2099.048
7Tony Stewart1498.883
8Carl Edwards9998.846
9Jamie McMurray198.625
10Danica Patrick1098.165
11Greg Biffle1697.764
12Clint Bowyer1597.382
13Brian Vickers5598.965
14Brad Keselowski298.929
15A.J. Allmendinger4798.888
16Ryan Newman3198.877
17Marcos Ambrose998.712
18Kevin Harvick498.707
19Alex Bowman2398.661
20Aric Almirola4398.625
21Paul Menard2798.610
22Kurt Busch4198.610
23Casey Mears1398.599
24David Ragan3498.599
25Justin Allgaier5198.430
26Dale Earnhardt Jr.8898.379
27Kasey Kahne598.359
28Kyle Larson4298.333
29Travis Kvapil3298.246
30Ricky Stenhouse Jr.1798.206
31Martin Truex Jr.7898.200
32Michael McDowell9598.002
33Josh Wise9897.957
34Austin Dillon397.886
35Cole Whitt2697.820
36Landon Cassill4097.759
37David Stremme3397.684
38Ryan Truex8397.598
39David Gilliand3897.458
40Michael Annett797.217
41Parker Kligerman3097.078
42Reed Sorenson3697.053
43Joe Nemechek6696.332
NASCAR.com

 

Drivers to Watch

Jeff Gordon

LAS VEGAS, NV - MARCH 07:  Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Axalta Chevrolet, practices for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Kobalt 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on March 7, 2014 in Las Vegas, Nevada.  (Photo by Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images)
Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images

While it's no secret Jeff Gordon hasn't been dominant in recent years when it comes to winning races, he is always a threat to get the job done at Martinsville. Gordon has taken the No. 24 car to victory lane at Martinsville on eight occasions, including last year's October race.

That marked his first Martinsville win since 2005, but he always manages to run well there. There seems to be a lot of confidence in Gordon's ability to make it two straight triumphs at Martinsville, as Marcus DiNitto of Sporting News, via his Sporting News colleague Micah Roberts, pointed out that Gordon has 5-1 odds on Sunday:

Although Gordon hasn't won a race yet this season, he has been running extremely well and currently sits in third place in the overall standings. Gordon can't afford to rest on his laurels, though, due to the importance of winning races this season.

One win essentially guarantees a spot in the Chase for the Sprint Cup, and Sunday's Martinsville race represents one of Gordon's best opportunities.

 

Jimmie Johnson

FONTANA, CA - MARCH 22:  Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe's Chevrolet, walks through the garage area during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway on March 22, 2014 in Fontana, California.  (Photo by Kevork Dja
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

If Gordon is the king of Martinsville, then perhaps Jimmie Johnson is the czar. The six-time Sprint Cup champion has also won at Martinsville on eight occasions, and he will look to usurp his Hendrick Motorsports teammate in order to cement a Chase spot in his own right.

Qualifying well at Martinsville is paramount, as the short track makes it much easier for top cars to lap those near the back of the field. In fact, no car with a qualifying finish of worse than 20th has won the race since Kurt Busch did it from No. 36 in 2002. With that in mind, Johnson finds himself in an ideal position at No. 4.

According to NASCAR Stats on Twitter, Johnson has been a consistently great qualifier all season long:

At the same time, Johnson's race results have been a bit disappointing due to some bad tire luck. That has put a little extra pressure on him to win a race, but it isn't likely to throw him off his game. As long as Johnson's equipment holds up, he's guaranteed to be in the mix.

 

Denny Hamlin

DAYTONA BEACH, FL - FEBRUARY 21:  Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Express Toyota, stands in the garage area during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway on February 21, 2014 in Daytona Beach, Florida
Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

There hasn't been a great deal of variety in terms of winning drivers at Martinsville over the past decade, and while that is due largely to the dominance of Gordon and Johnson, Denny Hamlin has something to do with it as well. Hamlin has four career wins at Martinsville, including three in a row between the 2009 and 2010 seasons.

Hamlin will start second, but there is some concern regarding his status. Hamlin was a late scratch in Fontana, Calif. last week due to vision issues, which stemmed from a piece of metal being found in his eye, according to Jenna Fryer of the Associated Press:

Hamlin's absence led to plenty of speculation regarding the circumstances surrounding his situation, but Hamlin attempted to silence critics leading up to the Martinsville race, per Jim Utter of the Charlotte Observer.

People who think negatively of me or think that we sidestepped some sort of drug test or something is ridiculous. I'm in one of the top-three cars in NASCAR; I would have to be an absolute moron – moron – to risk that.

After such a strong qualifying run, it seems as though Hamlin is back to normal. If that is the case, he will undoubtedly be a factor.

 

Prediction

As multi-time winners at Martinsville, it is clear that Gordon, Johnson and Hamlin have targets on their backs. While having a good car at Martinsville is paramount, a big part of being successful there is experience. The aforementioned drivers have plenty of that, but they aren't alone in that regard.

Tony Stewart has also won at Martinsville on three occasions, and he'll start cozily in the No. 7 spot. "Smoke" has finished in the top five in consecutive weeks, and he is in position to do so again on Sunday.

Kevin Harvick is a bit of a dark horse after qualifying 18th, but he knows how to win there as well. Harvick took the checkered flag in 2011, and he has had great cars all season long. Mechanical issues have stymied him at times; however, he should have a machine capable of getting to the front.

For those looking at a semi-long shot outside the top 20 in qualifying, look no further than Kurt Busch. As previously mentioned, he is the last driver to qualify outside the top 20 and win at Martinsville. He qualified 22nd, but he should have a great deal of confidence after a third-place showing last week.

It's difficult to pick a winner based on the sheer number of realistic contenders, but due to the fact that Gordon has been running so consistently well this season, he seems due to cross the finish line first.

 

Follow @MikeChiari on Twitter

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