MENCS: Garage Talk Notes for Martinsville


The MENCS heads back to the Heartland this week for a “last chance” race at Kansas Speedway. This is the last race of the Round of 12 so we should expect the racing to heat up as the drivers compete for the eight spots in the next round of the MENCS playoffs. This track is always wild because of the high winds, huge bumps and tire wear. Add in the drama of the playoffs and we should have one of the more exciting races of the season.  The Hollywood Casino 400 can be seen Sunday at 2:30 p.m. ET on NBC.


Track Notes

The cars will have the 550 HP engines with the 2” splitter, 8” spoiler and aero ducts this week. This is the same aero package they have raced at every 1.5-mile track this season. We can expect the speeds to be up in the corners and the draft to come into play on the front and backstretches. Passing has become difficult in the aero package and that should continue Sunday.

Goodyear brought the same tire used in March for the race Sunday. Drivers had a very hard time making a pass and some teams expect it to be worse this week since the temps will be cooler and the track will not take rubber as easily as it did in the first race. Track position will be VERY IMPORTANT Sunday.

Pit Times: The best way to gain track position at Martinsville is through the pits. So which teams have the advantage on pit road? The No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing team of Kyle Busch has clicked off the best average four-tire pit stop in the first six playoff races – 13.783 seconds. The No. 9 Hendrick Motorsports team of Chase Elliott comes in second with an average of 14.029 seconds, followed by the Nos. 12, 11, 19, 4 and 42. The No. 22 Team Penske squad is last among the title contenders with a 15.083 average time. * Brad Keselowski’s pit crew which ranked 3rd will now pit the No. 12 car for the playoffs, the No. 12 pit crew (Ryan Blaney) will move to the No. 22 (Joey Logano) and Keselowski will get some of the members who have been pitting the No. 22 car this season.


Stats from Last 4 Races at Martinsville

Diver Avg. Finish Laps Led

Driver Rating

1. Kyle Busch




2. Brad Keselowski




3. Clint Bowyer




4. Denny Hamlin




5. Joey Logano




6. Chase Elliott




7. Martin Truex Jr.




8. Ryan Blaney




9. Kevin Harvick




10. Kurt Busch




11. Aric ALmirola




12. Daniel Suarez




13. Jimmie Johnson




14. Alex Bowman




15. Ryan Newman




16. Austin Dillon




17. Kyle Larson




18. Paul Menard




19. Ryan Preece




20. Erik Jones




21. Chris Buescher




22. Ty Dillon




23. William Byron




24. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.




25. Michael McDowell




* Martinsville is a unique track. I used the stats from the last 4 races at the track since there is no other track similar. Driver who ran up front in the past should be good picks Sunday.



Driver Notes

Chase Elliott: Elliott has been a beast at Martinsville since his rookie season. If you take away the race when he was winning and Denny Hamlin dumped him in 2017, Elliott would have a 3.6 average finish in the last 5 races at the track. The No. 9 car blew up early in practice. He only completed 5 laps. Elliott will start last and be scored in Fantasy NASCAR from where he qualifies Saturday. Elliott went out in final practice and made some long runs. He said, “I am just trying to find my rhythm but it feels pretty decent. Close to what it felt like last year.”

Jimmie Johnson: Johnson leads the series in laps led (2,863), wins (9), top-5 finishes (19), top-10 finishes (24) and average finishing position at Martinsville (8.49 in 35 races). He has finished between 12th and 15th in the last 5 races, but the No. 48 team has some mojo back after 4 straight top 11 finishes on non-Superspeedway tracks. Johnson made some long runs and said, “I am generally happy with it. I am a bit free but nothing that needs any major adjustments.”

Alex Bowman: Bowman said after the race at Kansas, “I just want to get through Martinsville in one piece. I have no feel for that track.” Bowman has a 12.6 average finishing position at Martinsville since joining Hendrick Motorsports so it is not all bad. Bowman was fighting a tight racecar in practice. He said, “I have to manhandle it to get it to turn in the center. I have no forward throttle on the exit as well.” He was P16 at the time.

William Byron: Martinsville ranks as the 2nd worst track for Byron. He has 3 starts in the MENCS at the paperclip shaped track and his finishes are 20th, 39th and 22nd. His average running position is 21.4 so he has a lot of work to do this week to figure out this track. Byron was sent out to follow Jimmie Johnson in practice. The 9-time Martinsville winner was trying to teach Byron the rhythm to make fast laps.

Kyle Larson: Larson said after his win at Dover, “We can now concentrate on Martinsville. That is my worst track so this win gives us 3 weeks to work with Kurt (Busch) to figure out how to run well there.” Larson has not finished inside the top 15 at Martinsville since 2016 and his average finishing position is 23.6. He will receive the two tire changers from the No. 1 team (Kurt Busch). Chip Ganassi Racing decided to make an All-Star pit crew for Larson. Larson made some long runs and said, “I need to be a lot freer than it is. It is tight all the way around.” The team spent a lot of time making changes to the car.

Kurt Busch: Martinsville ranks as one of the worst tracks for Busch. His average finishing position in his last 5 races at the track is 17.6 with no laps led. The No. 1 team has been in a slump since the playoffs began. Their average finishing position in the playoff races is 19.6. Busch was complaining the car was “locking up the front right into the corner and too tight on exit.” He was P22 at the time. They made a lot of adjustments and Busch went to P3 on the speed chart.

Kevin Harvick: Harvick is a good pick to finish up front but he is not a good pick to lead laps or win the race. Harvick has finished 4 races in a row at Martinsville in the top 10, but he has not led any laps in these races. Harvick only has one win (2011) in his 36 races at the track. Harvick spent the first practice working on hitting his mark and finding his rhythm. After his final run he told Rodney Childers, “That is just not going to cut. It needs a lot more turn in it.” He was P18 at the time.

Clint Bowyer: Martinsville ranks as the 2nd best track (behind Indianapolis) for Bowyer. He has a 7.8 average finishing position and led 216 laps in his last 5 races at the track. Bowyer qualified 10th, scored 6 Stage points and finished 7th at Martinsville in March. Bowyer liked his car in the morning practice. He told the team, “It rotates really well through-out the corner. The speed feels pretty good.” He was P2 on the speed chart at the time.

Daniel Suarez: Suarez has a lot of pressure on him to perform since he is the only Stewart-Haas Racing driver signed for the 2020 season. Martinsville has been one of his better tracks. He finished 9th in this race last year and 10th in March. Suarez liked his car. He said, “Not bad… The balance is good on both ends. Just a little tight off of 4 but 1 and 2 has good rotation.”

Aric Almirola: Martinsville ranks as one of the best tracks for Almirola but he has been in a slump for a while. Almirola has not finished in the top 10 at a non-Superspeedway or Road Course track since the race at Pocono in early June. Almirola liked his car. All of the Stewart-Haas Racing cars started practice with a similar setup that the No. 4 team finished 6th with in March. Almirola was P5 on the speed chart.

Brad Keselowski: Keselowski put on a show at Martinsville in March. He qualified 3rd, won both Stages, led 446/500 laps and won his 2nd Grandfather Clock. Keselowski has a 3.8 average finishing position at Martinsville in his last 7 races at the track. Keselowski made some long laps and he was P20 on the speed chart in the first practice. They made some changes and Keselowski went to the top of the speed chart in final practice.

Joey Logano: It seems like a Team Penske is always dominating at Martinsville lately. Keselowski led 446 of 500 laps in March and Logano led 309 of the 500 laps in this race last year. The word from the Penske garage is that Keselowski is helping Logano and Ryan Blaney to have the setup he had in March since they are both alive in the playoffs. Logano unloaded with a lot speed. He made a lot of long runs and went to the top of the speed chart. They worked on their long-run speed in final practice.

Ryan Blaney: Blaney has been able to hold his own at Martinsville. He scored 13 Stage points and finished 4th in March and he scored 17 Stage points and finished 3rd at this track last year. This is his best track to win and secure a spot at Homestead.

Paul Menard: Menard announced his retirement before the playoffs started and he has stepped up his game ever since. He finished 14th at Las Vegas, 12th at Richmond and 18th last week at Kansas. Menard will have a good chance to run well again Sunday. He finished 15th in the race at Martinsville in March.

Kyle Busch: It is hard to bet against Busch this week. He leads the series in Driver Rating (125.4), average finishing position (2.4) and is 2nd in laps led (582) over the last 5 races at Martinsville. Here are his finishes at the track since 2014: 3rd, 4th, 2nd, 1st, 2nd, 5th, 1st and 5th. Now that is consistent. Busch made some long runs and he told Adam Stevens, “I need to cut better in and off the corner. I can driver well by myself but I need it to rotate better to pass cars in traffic.” Stevens told him, “No problem… bring it in.”

Erik Jones: Martinsville ranks as the 19th-best track for Jones. He has 5 starts in the MENCS at the track and his average finishing position is 22.2. He has never led a lap at the paperclip track. Jones will need to find some speed to stay on the lead lap Sunday. Jones started practice with the same setup as the Martin Truex Jr. Both cars had similar speed. Truex was P3 and Jones was P4 on the speed chart.

Denny Hamlin: Hamlin has been the best Fantasy NASCAR pick since July. He has 3 wins (Pocono, Bristol and Kansas) and 11 finishes in the top 6 in his last 13 races. Martinsville is one of his “home tracks”. Hamlin has 5 wins and led 1,536 laps at the track (Both are 2nd only to Jimmie Johnson). Hamlin opened practice with a tight racecar. The team made some major changes to the car. Hamlin went back on the track and went to P3 on the speed chart.

Martin Truex Jr.: Pretty much everything I wrote about Kevin Harvick can be said about Truex. He is very good at finishing up front but not very good at leading laps or winning races at Martinsville (Although he came inches away from winning this race last year). Truex has a 4.25 average finishing position, but has not led any laps in his last 4 races at the track. Truex also has never won at Martinsville, but he has been very close. The No. 19 car was fast in practice. He posted the 2nd fastest lap in the morning practice.

Matt DiBenedetto: DiBenedetto has been much better this season on the short tracks than he has been on the large ovals. DiBenedetto finished 20th at Martinsville in March but he is running a lot better now than he was at the beginning of the season. DiBenedetto spent the most time on track in practice. No driver made more laps then DiBenedetto. He spent a lot of time working on his rhythm and running right along the inside line.

Daniel Hemric: Hemric was just taking up space on the track in his first MENCS race at Martinsville. The No. 8 car qualified 28th and finished 27th. He finished the race 4 laps down. The good news is that Hemric liked his car. He said, “It turns well in the center, a tick free if anything, but overall it is close to what we need.”

Austin Dillon: Dillon could be an interesting sleeper pick in DFS this week. Martinsville ranks as his 8th best track. Dillon started 29th and finished 11th at Martinsville in March. That is a lot of place differential points. He also finished 5th at this track in 2017. Dillon made some long runs and said, “I have no grip in the center and It chatters on entry to 1 and 3.”

Ty Dillon: Dillon has put together back-to-back solid runs at Martinsville. He qualified 23rd and finished 15th in this race last year and Dillon qualified 22nd and finished 13th in March. He will have a lot more value in DFS than he will in season long games. Dillon did not think his car was too bad. He said, “The center of the corner is rotating really good, but the exit is a little tight. I do not want to ruin the center though with the changes.”

Chris Buescher: I remember from the Garage Talk Notes last year that Buescher said he spent a lot of time working with A.J. Allmendinger for the rhythm to get around this track. Buescher has a 17.8 average finishing position at Martinsville since joining JTG Daugherty Racing. Buescher opened up the morning practice with a 10-lap run and said, “By far the best car we have ever had here.” Buescher was P5 on the speed chart at the time.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr.: Martinsville has not been a kind track to Stenhouse. He has 13 races on his resume at the paperclip shaped track and his average finishing position is 27.9. That is not very good. Stenhouse made some long runs and said, “It has absolutely no front turn. Like… none at all.”

Ryan Newman: Martinsville is the hardest track to make a pass and Newman is the hardest driver to pass in the field. That combination makes Newman a good Fantasy NASCAR pick Sunday. He finished 8th in this race last year and Newman is running better in 2019 than he was at this time in 2018. Newman made some 10-lap runs and said his car was way too tight.” The team wanted to work on their long-run speed but spent more time in the garage then on the track.


Favorites to win Sunday: Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch, Martin Truex Jr., Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano, Ryan Blaney and Chase Elliott


Good Sleeper Picks: Clint Bowyer, Aric Almirola, Erik Jones, Jimmie Johnson, Matt DiBenedetto and Ryan Preece




MENCS Final Practice Speeds


MENCS Final Practice 10-Lap Avg.Speeds



Click Here for Saturday 1st Practice Speeds



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