Podium Preview: Blue-Emu Maximum Relief 500

Certainly, Joey Logano wants to win the Blue-Emu Maximum Relief 500. (Photo Credit: Jonathan Huff/TPF)

Certainly, Joey Logano wants to win the Blue-Emu Maximum Relief 500. (Photo Credit: Jonathan Huff/TPF)

All things considered, Martinsville Speedway plays host to an interesting midweek race for the NASCAR Cup Series, the Blue-Emu Maximum Relief 500. On the surface, this beloved, charming short track appears as calming as the beautiful Virginia scenery encompassing this storied venue.

However, racing at this short track will drive one incredibly frustrated with pursuing a grandfather clock. Ultimately, this prize serves as the absolute badge of honor and conquest of NASCAR’s toughest paperclip.

By all means, Round 11 of the NASCAR Cup Series season proves quite challenging and tasking for the drivers and teams. Man and machine face an incredible challenge between aggression and patience.

Each week, The Podium Finish’s panelists, Ashley HobbsCody ShoppeIsabelle Beecy, Kobe LambethMatteo MarcheschiMatt SisolerSean FolsomStephen ConleyTerra Jones, and yours truly will share their thoughts on the latest happenings in NASCAR.

First, we consider NASCAR’s support for racial equality and Black Lives Matter along with our expectations of Martinsville’s first nighttime Cup race.

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Question 1

Black Lives Matter...always. (Photo Credit: Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

Black Lives Matter…always. (Photo Credit: Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

NASCAR racers and officials voiced their support for racial equality and Black Lives Matter. How pivotal is it for NASCAR, as an industry and sport, to speak out against racism and supporting inclusion?

Sisoler :  Given the fact that a large part of the world looks at NASCAR as a Southern sport, it is imperative that NASCAR steps up and becomes a leader in the sports world for racial equality. Hopefully the movement keeps resonating throughout the sport, its drivers, teams, and fans. 

Marcheschi :  It’s huge, given that NASCAR’s reputation is a southern sport that is behind the times. Being this involved in the Black Lives Matter will hopefully set them on a course to be at the forefront of more social movements, and hopefully a leader in diversity. While the programs they have underway, like the Drive For Diversity, have been a step in the right direction, NASCAR has still struggled to be inclusive and welcoming to everyone. If NASCAR keeps this up, hopefully this can turn the tide and smash the stereotypes.

Hobbs :  It is no secret that NASCAR promotes diversity and inclusion – after all, they have the Drive for Diversity program. It is also no secret that the sport is primarily white men; but the sport has grown and changed so much in the past years. We’ve had Bill Lester, Danica Patrick, Kyle Larson, and Darrell “Bubba” Wallace Jr. bring a different attention to the sport and NASCAR looks for ways to get more diversity into the sport. While many folks will continue to believe NASCAR is a redneck sport and is not inclusive, the only thing NASCAR can do it keep doing what they are doing.

Jones :  I think it is huge given the birthplace of our sport in the south. NASCAR has talked the talked with programs like Drive for Diversity, but now they’re taking the steps to walk the walk. I can only hope that the discussion, the listening, and the learning continue and the sport can make strides in the right direction.

Tiongson :  As a minority and journalist, I’m happy to see NASCAR and its stars making the effort with inclusion and racial equality. Admittedly, as a minority, there’s been instances in which I’ve encountered acts of racism and bigotry in the past 12 years. At times, I’ve wondered if the sport and country desired to truly improve and evolve

When I watched Ty Dillon and Bubba Wallace’s Instagram conversation, it was a promising start. Certainly, I may not fully relate to the challenges that African Americans experience and endure in our country and world. However, even as a colored man, I still want to do my part to be a catalyst for positive change. I won’t be silent about the battle against racism and exclusion any longer, particularly in NASCAR and motorsports.

My only concern is that the progress from the past week is a temporary aside. This cannot be a conversation that’s had resulting from the George Floyd tragedy last month. Ultimately, this is a conversation that must continue and all of us need to do our part to be there, side-by-side, with our minorities and be positive stewards for changes that’ll make for a better life for our present and future.

Question 2

By and large, it'll be exciting racing at Martinsville. (Photo Credit: Michael Guariglia/TPF)

By and large, it’ll be exciting racing at Martinsville. (Photo Credit: Michael Guariglia/TPF)

Tonight’s Blue-Emu Maximum Relief 500 will be the first true nighttime NASCAR Cup Series race at Martinsville Speedway. What kind of excitement can we expect at the beloved paperclip? 

Lambeth :  Due to aero package changes, I am expecting a decent short track race at Martinsville. The cars have lower downforce, in comparison to last year’s package. Therefore, passing should be much easier and everybody watching on television will be pumped up for the night race. Unfortunately, the fans cannot attend for obvious reasons. If they could be at the track, the atmosphere would be electric. Hopefully, the fans can attend next year and get the full track experience. 

Folsom : I think it will be some close action racing. With past races at Martinsville they have been really good and some good bump and run moves were made. I’m just hoping and looking for some good action-packed racing.

Shoppe : I understand there aren’t any fans in the stands but we are talking about how it will look for all of us at home. Just thinking about the past action under the lights at the paperclip like the 2017 ending in the fall when Hamlin took out Elliott, the action just looks more exciting at night!

With a short half-mile you don’t have to worry about the night time having as much as an effect on the available grooves like you do at an intermediate track so why not add to the aesthetic? Tonight’s race will be a great test run for possible future short track races under the lights on a Wednesday night!  

Conley : Honestly, without the fans in the stands to take in this historic moment at the legendary track…it’s just another race. But, it is Martinsville, short track beatin’ and bangin’ always gets fans engaged. A mid-week, short track night race. If nothing else, it’s a great experiment for the future. And personally, I’m still not sold on lights at Martinsville, but I wasn’t sold on them at Wrigley Field all those years ago, and that turned out OK.  

Beecy : I always love night races, so I’m hoping for a good, action-packed race. Since it’s also Martinsville, it’ll definitely likely to deliver on that. Add in Martinsville at night in the middle of the week, wow what an exciting race! It’s a lot of firsts, so the hype will be real.

Two laps around Martinsville might make you want a grandfather clock! Oh wait, that’s the actual prize! Before dropping the hammer, let’s review last Sunday’s Atlanta race and points reports!
The machine and its disciple won at Atlanta.

The machine and its disciple won at Atlanta.

Basically, the machine owns us all.

Basically, the machine owns us all.

Now, Ashley Hobbs provides the numbers that’ll make you smart for Wednesday night’s Blue-Emu Maximum Relief 500!
First, how does your favorite team fare at Martinsville?

First, how does your favorite team fare at Martinsville?

Since 2004, the race winner has an average starting spot of 10.1, led an average of 149.1 laps, started within the top-five 37.5% of the time, and started within the top-10 62.5% of the time.

Since 2004, the race winner has an average starting spot of 10.1, led an average of 149.1 laps, started within the top-five 37.5% of the time, and started within the top-10 62.5% of the time.

Tell Joey Logano that it's just short track racing.

Tell Joey Logano that it’s just short track racing.

Now, here's your race trends since 2010.

Now, here’s your race trends since 2010.

Next, feast your eyes on the Martinsville trends since 2015.

Next, feast your eyes on the Martinsville trends since 2015.

The machine fancies Kevin Harvick.

The machine fancies Kevin Harvick.

Last but not least, here’s our picks for the Blue-Emu Maximum Relief 500 at Martinsville!
Lastly, here's some winning picks for the Blue-Emu Maximum Relief 500!

Lastly, here’s some winning picks for the Blue-Emu Maximum Relief 500!

Conley :  Who would have thought we’d call him a short track king. Backing up last year’s win, Martin Truex Jr takes home another grandfather clock?

Folsom :  My pick for this race is Ryan Blaney cause he has been doing really good this season. And in the past few races, he has been finishing just short of a win. I think he will do well and finish in the lead!

TPF Stats :  It is hard to count this guy out right now, so let’s see if Martinsville will continue Kevin Harvick’s hot streak.

Hobbs :  There are so many good options for this night race at Martinsville Speedway; and I feel like that hasn’t been said in such a long time. But Brad Keselowski has really proven himself on the short tracks and will lead to another victory.

Shoppe :  This panelist chooses Brad Keselowski.

Jones :  I said last week, Atlanta wasn’t going to be his week. But Martinsville will be his race. In 36 starts, he has led over 2800 laps and only has two DNFs. Jimmie Johnson will overcome all the obstacles he has battled in recent seasons and find victory lane at the Paperclip, claiming a grandfather clock for the 10th time.

Tiongson :  He’s been competitive and his team has been known to get the job done at Martinsville! Look for Jimmie Johnson and his No. 48 Ally Chevrolet back in the winner’s circle at Martinsville.

Lambeth :  Virginia native Denny Hamlin will deliver a sixth grandfather clock to his collection and score his third win of the 2020 season.

Marcheschi :  Denny Hamlin has two wins already this season, and he’ll be back with a vengeance at Martinsville. With 5 wins to his credit at the track, Hamlin has the second-most victories of any active driver, and he’s been quietly strong this season.

Sisoler :  There’s not a lot to say here. Home state race for Denny Hamlin, Martin Truex Jr. not doing as well as in years past, I think it will be the 11 taking the flag at the Paperclip.

Beecy :  I’m going with Denny this week because he’s got a solid track record (ba dum tiss) here, so this week should be no different. Plus, as others have said, it’s his home track. While there may not be fans in the stands, he’ll still want to do well here.

Race fans, thanks for joining us for our preview of the Blue-Emu Maximum Relief 500!

We’re ready for some racing. How about you? What do you think are the biggest storylines heading into Wednesday night’s race? 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!  Let’s stay connected as we focus on getting back together on the track soon!  

The opinions and thoughts expressed in Podium Preview 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. Ultimately, they 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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