By admin | October 24, 2010
By Richard Allen
The Martinsville Speedway showed the value of not being a cookie cutter race track as the Tums Fast Relief 500 provided some of the best racing seen on the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in some time. Also, the track served to bring the three remaining championship contenders closer together in their race for the title.
All day there was close racing throughout the pack as the trackâ€™s short layout kept competitors jammed together in close proximity. The racing was so close in fact that even a number of teammates became locked in bitter struggles.
Kevin Harvick and Jeff Burton, Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson, and Aric Almirola and A.J. Allmendinger found themselves involved in disputes during the race. And perhaps most intriguing was the late race encounter between Gordon and Kurt Busch which left the four time champion limping to a 20th place result when a top-10 appeared to be a certainty.
The track was at its best on this day. In recent years NASCAR has trended toward so called â€™cookie cutterâ€™ facilities that look alike and provide a great deal of in-line racing with little to get excited about. On Sunday, Martinsville showed the worth of the increasingly less utilized half-mile venues.
In regard to the Sprint Cup, driver Denny Hamlin came into the event needing to gain ground on the track that has proven to be one of his best. After a rough start he was able to recover and do exactly that. His win, combined with Johnsonâ€™s 5th place finish, narrowed the four-time defending championâ€™s lead to just six points with four races remaining in the 2010 season.
Next week the series will head to the Talladega Super Speedway for a restrictor plate race. Anything and everything can happen there which could either make or break the championship contenders. After that, there will be two 1.5 mile tracks at Texas and Homestead and the one mile facility in Phoenix.
The races in Martinsville and Talladega looked to be pivotal in this yearâ€™s Chase and the first of those two lived up to its end of the bargain on Sunday.
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Richard Allen is a member of the National Motorsports Press Association. His weekly columns appear in The Mountain Press and The Knoxville Journal.
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