Track Talk: First Data 500 at Martinsville Speedway

With three victories in 2018, can Chase Elliott win today's First Data 500 at Martinsville?

With three victories in 2018, can Chase Elliott win today’s First Data 500 at Martinsville?

Each weekend, our panel provides their thoughts on the latest stories in NASCAR while predicting the winner of the First Data 500 at Martinsville Speedway, the upcoming Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race!

Today, our panelists Ashley Hobbs, Ashley HullCody ShoppeJose Acero JrKatie Copple, and Matt Sisoler consider Chase Elliott’s timely win at Kansas, winning at Martinsville, those who may not make the Championship 4 field, and our picks for the win at this paperclip-shaped icon!

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Question 1
I am the king of the asphalt arena! Let there be a clubhouse feast of meats and cheeses for all my teammates! (Photo Credit: Jeremy Thompson/TPF)

I am the king of the asphalt arena! Let there be a clubhouse feast of meats and cheeses for all my teammates! (Photo Credit: Jeremy Thompson/TPF)

Chase Elliott picked up his third win of the 2018 season, supplanting himself and his No. 9 team as the sole Chevrolet representative in the Round of 8.  Might this team be flying under the radar as a potential team for the Championship 4 at Homestead-Miami?

Acero :  Chase Elliot is en fuego. No turning back for him. All sights set on Homestead and the Cup! All the other drivers should really be worried and pick up the pace!

Copple :  If his momentum continues through these final few weeks, I don’t see why not. They seem to be the only He stock team that had their act together this season. The great, or not so great thing about the playoffs is that a driver or team can be dominant all season, but if they fail to run well in the Playoffs, they won’t win. But someone who was consistent all season, maybe didn’t win, but consistently finished well, and then dominates the playoffs – they win it all. I don’t think any of us thought Elliott would be a dominant driver in the Playoffs, but here we are!

Hobbs :  If he can keep this momentum up, I don’t see why not. He has been on fire since the Playoffs began and he does not seem to be slowing down. The thing about Chase in the Playoffs is he’s either run top 5, or has finished outside the top 30. With 3 different tracks coming up in this third round, if he wants to be there in the fight at Homestead, those sub 30th-place finishes cannot happen.

Hull :  Never thought that I would be saying this, but yes, Chase Elliott has found his groove. If he keeps this up, he will probably be a contender for the Championship. But these next few races will be tricky. I think that he is more than capable of handing it though.

Shoppe :  Who would have thought that the first repeat winner in the Playoffs would be Chase Elliott and the No. 9 team? As of now they have more momentum than anyone as well as the fourth most Playoff points among remaining contenders! While Kevin Harvick may still be the favorite, Chase Elliott is a strong contender come Homestead, provided he doesn’t have any bad luck!

Sisoler : I think Chase isn’t even an under the radar candidate anymore. Winning two races in the playoffs, not to mention two races in the past three, that is gonna put the other seven drivers in the Round of 8 on high alert that that the driver and crew of the No. 9 Camaro are not messing around anymore.  

Question 2
If you think this resembles I-35 in Austin, Texas, well...

If you think this resembles I-35 in Austin, Texas, well…

Martinsville Speedway tends to be an action packed track where tempers flare and one driver and team claim the famous grandfather clock.  Which of the NASCAR Playoffs drivers and teams has the makings to absolutely win this Sunday?

Acero : I wouldn’t say we will have a team or certain teams who have to absolutely win. Expect the typical beating and banging. I see the Playoff racers and teams making desperate moves to secure a win but I think a non-Playoffs entry will take the grandfather clock home!

Copple :  I think all bets are off this weekend at Martinsville. Yes, we have our select drivers who consistently run well at Martinsville, but we also have drivers who have to win to make it to Homestead. They might not be someone who can usually take the win, but they will try this weekend to guarantee them a spot in the Final Four. I’m excited to see some action on the track, more than I think we usually get from most other places.

Hobbs :  There is no such thing as absolutes in our sport, especially in the Playoffs. We have seen drivers do anything to win a race in the regular season, and there have been occasions we have seen them do whatever it takes in the Playoffs as well. There is no room for error these next three races. Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick has a pretty comfortable cushion thanks to all the Playoff points they have accumulated, but they still need to get the job done and not find themselves in a fight during or after Martinsville.

Hull :  This will most definitely be a crapshoot race. We will have people with short tempers and a drive to win. It could be anyone at this point, and there could be some guys who struggle. We will see what goes down Sunday!!!!

Shoppe :  As this Round of 8 is only just beginning, nobody is in a must win situation yet. But I don’t think it will take long for somebody to get to that point! Martinsville will takes toll on the championship contenders like usual. Harvick, Kyle Busch, and maybe even Truex can afford an issue at Martinsville, but anyone else in the final eight needs a great run to start off their round!

Sisoler :  There are no absolutes in the Playoffs. We’ve seen crazy things happen, so the eight drivers left fighting for the championship are gonna have to find the right mix of push and caution in the next three races. Will some of them have to throw caution to the wind in the final race of the round? We’ve seen it in the other rounds of the playoffs, so we will definitely see it. At Martinsville? Maybe not, but that full-bore, no-caution approach will be lurking for drivers.

The Playoffs are heating up and there’s only room for four for the championship fight at Homestead-Miami Speedway!  As good as all of these drivers and teams are, here’s who we think will dream about the title in 2019.
Eliminated Drivers After Round of 8
Seriously, even after I promised bacon for life, y'all?

Seriously, even after I promised bacon for life, y’all?

Acero :  Kurt Busch, Almirola, Logano and call me crazy, but I see Truex getting stuck in this round…

Copple :  Almirola, Kurt Busch, Bowyer, and (sad face) Truex.

Hobbs :  Going on the fact of who I think can win during these next 3 races: Aric Almirola, Joey Logano, Kurt Busch, Clint Bowyer (even though I have him to win Martinsville – we will see if this bites me!)

Hull :  Almirola, Kurt Busch, Joey Logano, and Truex

Shoppe :  Kurt Busch, Aric Almirola, Clint Bowyer, Chase Elliott

Sisoler :  Aric Almirola (despite me picking him before and it not working), Kurt Busch, Clint Bowyer and Martin Truex Jr.

Tiongson :  Aric Almirola, Clint Bowyer, Joey Logano, and Martin Truex Jr.

Before we go for the win, let’s take a look back at the weekend that was at Kansas Speedway!
MTJ aided Lucas at Kansas.

MTJ aided Lucas at Kansas.

Meanwhile, Hobbs vies for her third TPF Track Talk Cup Championship.

Meanwhile, Hobbs vies for her third TPF Track Talk Cup Championship.

The time is ticking away as race day truly sets in!  Let’s make our picks for today’s First Data 500 at Martinsville!
Perhaps one of these six will be adding a grandfather clock to their homes tonight!

Perhaps one of these six will be adding a grandfather clock to their homes tonight!

Tiongson :  Boy, this is tough because we are getting close to the end of the season.  However, as I lost some ground to Hobbs and with Copple passing me, let’s get the advantage over both by going with Kyle Busch.  Spooky times!

TPF Stats :  Kyle Busch will add another Martinsville grandfather clock to his collection.

Hobbs :  Winner earlier this year, sneaking under the radar in the Playoffs, Clint Bowyer will shock everyone this weekend by sweeping Martinsville and nabbing one of the spots for Homestead.

Hull :  I think Clint Bowyer will pull this off!

Acero :  Denny Hamlin.

Copple :  Kyle Larson.

Shoppe :  Joey Logano.

Sisoler :  Call me crazy, but I think Chase Elliott is gonna win again and get redemption from Hamlin punting him here last year.

That wraps this week’s preview, race fans!  Thanks for joining us for another edition of Track Talk!

We’re ready for some racing. How about you? What do you think are the biggest storylines heading into Sunday’s race and who is your favorite to win?  Tweet us now @ThePodiumFinish and tell us now!

Thanks as always to the TPF team for their amazing efforts this week!  We hope to see you at the races.

The opinions and thoughts expressed in Track Talk are solely of the authors. They do not reflect any organizations affiliated with the participants and author outside of TPF. This weekly feature is strictly for entertainment purposes and are not indicative of TPF, the organization, and its staff.

Rob Tiongson

30-something motorsports journalist who enjoys sports like baseball, basketball, football, soccer, track and field, and hockey. A Boston native turned Austinite, racing was the first sport that caught my eye. From interviews to retrospective articles, if it's about anything with an engine and four wheels, it'll be here on TPF, by me or by one of my talented columnists who absolutely have a passion for racing.

Currently seeking a sports writing, public relations, or sports marketing career, particularly in motorsports. I enjoy editing and writing articles and features, as well as photography.

Graduated from Southern New Hampshire University with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication. Proud to be from Massachusetts, just as happy to be a Texan.

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