Four and Fuel: Takeaways from Martinsville

Four and Fuel: Takeaways from Martinsville

Each week, Greg Atkins and I examine our hot takes from the previous weekend’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race and any burning topics leading up to the next week’s event.

Four takeaways from the STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway:

Biggest takeaway from Martinsville:

Atkins – Joe Gibbs Racing has shown flashes of speed this year but they have yet to convert their performances into a stage win. They will need to get the ball rolling to set themselves up for the upcoming playoff push.

Painter – There were plenty of big name teams that struggled at Martinsville. At times, there were a lot of “unusual suspects” at the front of the field. Stewart-Haas Racing and Hendrick Motorsports had less than desirable days from an organization standpoint. Chase Elliott was the highest finishing driver at HMS, while Clint Bowyer scored a top-10 finish for SHR, coming home in 7th.

Stage racing made it’s debut at a short-track for the first time this season, what were thoughts on that?

Atkins – It was electric. This is exactly what the powers-that-be had in mind when stage racing was formulated. It might even be on full display next week at Texas due to the reconfigured track.

Painter – I love it! I think that it brought so much more excitement to the racing action, especially with how the cautions flew in the first stage. It brought an intensity out in stage 2 that we haven’t seen this year, when four drivers were vying to stay on the lead lap and leader Kyle Busch was routed out of the way so a driver could get their lap back.

Most impressive young driver at Martinsville Speedway?

Atkins – Chase Elliott won the Truck Series race on Saturday and followed that up with a third-place finish on Sunday. He’s currently second in the points and, as I’ve said numerous times, it’s only a matter of time before he wins a Cup Series race.

Painter – Erik Jones continues to impress me each and every week and Martinsville was no exception. While many people would look at 12th place as a mediocre finish, given the amount of cautions and accidents, I’d say that is pretty good for a rookie. He kept his nose clean for the most part and was able to finish in his first Cup Series start there.

Biggest surprise at Martinsville?

Atkins – As I stated in the first topic, Joe Gibbs Racing as a whole is struggling to finish where they ran for the majority of the day. For such an experienced team, that’s a bit puzzling at this point. There’s time to right the ship, but they need to start bringing home solid results over the next month.

Painter – Neither Joe Gibbs Racing or Hendrick Motorsports had a driver win the race. These two teams have been so dominant in recent years at Martinsville but were unable to close the deal. Kyle Busch was one of the dominant cars all day but eventually fell victim to the Ford of Brad Keselowski, late in the race. Chase Elliott was impressive as usual, stealing a win in stage 2 and ultimately finishing third.

Fuel (bold prediction or statement) – Kyle Busch and Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. made contact, costing Busch a win in Stage 2. Will this come back to haunt Stenhouse, Jr.?

Atkins – Probably not. The Gibbs and Roush programs are on two different levels at the moment. Any retaliation on track would potentially do more damage to Busch than Stenhouse. However, that doesn’t mean that Busch would cut him a break should the No. 17 need it.

Painter – My first reaction is no. Largely, with all due respect to Stenhouse, but he and Kyle Busch don’t usually have to race around each other at most tracks. That said, anything is possible moving forward with Bristol and Richmond on the horizon.

Photo Credit: Greg Atkins