Podium Preview: Blue Emu Maximum Pain Relief 500

Above all else, the Blue Emu Maximum Pain Relief 500 at Martinsville is a can't miss race. (Photo: Rob Carr/Getty Images)

Above all else, the Blue Emu Maximum Pain Relief 500 at Martinsville is a can’t miss race. (Photo: Rob Carr/Getty Images)

Following an Easter weekend reprieve, the NASCAR Cup Series returns with the Blue Emu Maximum Pain Relief 500 at Martinsville. Certainly, this race will be an exercise in patience for those seeking a grandfather clock.

By all means, drivers like Denny Hamlin, Martin Truex Jr and Chase Elliott come to mind as favorites in this 500 lap race. However, do not discredit folks like Brad Keselowski, Kyle Busch and William Byron as potent challengers at the paperclip.

Each race weekend, The Podium Finish’s panelists preview each NASCAR Cup Series points-paying race. This weekend, Adam LucasAshley HobbsCody ShoppeKobe LambethLuis TorresMatt SisolerMichelle RaynorStephen Conley, Taylor KitchenTerra Jones and yours truly consider the possibility of an eighth different winner in 2021 and a new king at Martinsville.

Podium Preview: Blue Emu Maximum Pain Relief 500 at Martinsville
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Question 1
(Photo: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

(Photo: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

Will we see our eighth different race winner in Saturday night’s Blue Emu Maximum Pain Relief 500 at Martinsville?

Lambeth : Yes, I believe that the streak of different winners will continue this weekend at Martinsville Speedway. It has been very surprising to see so much parity this early in the season. Referring to the NASCAR On FOX promotion, we might be witnessing the best season ever!

Torres : No question, we’ll see an eighth different winner. The question is which team will be the one who’ll make it happen? At the moment, I do think it could be as many as four teams who’ll have a shot. Those being Penske, Gibbs, Hendrick and yes, Stewart-Haas Racing. This season has been unpredictable, so if SHR were to get their mojo back, Martinsville is crucial to get it going. 

Sisoler :  I’d say it’s more than likely. But who will it be, given that Martinsville is an absolutely insane race track. There are a lot of really good short track drivers in the field, and this track is almost an equalizer in terms of speed, so the list of possible winners is, while not quite as high as on a superspeedway, higher than normal.

Shoppe :  There is such a good chance to keep this streak going this weekend. Like anyone would say, Hamlin and Keselowski are on the top of the list with their Martinsville success! The most recent winner at the paper clip, Chase Elliott comes to mind, Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick, Alex Bowman or even Kurt Busch all could keep the different winners streak going beyond tonight!

Raynor :  I think we will with Denny Hamlin or Brad winning this Saturday. Both have been good at this track and both are still looking for their first win this season. 

Lucas : Heck, this season has been full of surprises, but I think we will break the streak. Or, maybe not. I think a Joe Gibbs Racing car will win, but which one will it be? 

Question 2
(Photo: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

(Photo: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

With Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson previously being the kings of Martinsville, which current Cup driver has the best chance of being a master of this track?

Conley :  I think it might just be the same guy that struggled at short tracks until getting his first one at Martinsville. The man with the name, Martin”sville” Truex Jr. Outside of Dover, Martinsville has become one of his most consistent and successful tracks. I don’t see any reason, as long as he’s in the Cup Series, he will be a regular contender and likely winner at the Paperclip.

Hobbs : If Clint Bowyer did not retire, he’d be near the top of the list. The only way to answer this question is with statistics.

Overall at Martinsville, Denny Hamlin reigns supreme with an average finish of 9.97, five wins, only one DNF, 15 top fives, and 21 top 10s in 30 races. He does have some close competition in Brad Keselowski, Ryan Blaney, Joey Logano, and Kyle Busch; but these four drivers will have to battle it out for the Prince of Martinsville title before they can challenge King Hamlin.

Jones :  Can I pick two drivers that I feel are on their way to claiming this title? I think Martin Truex, Jr. is sitting pretty. At the same time, I feel Chase Elliott is on his heels. While their wins are currently few at the track, I think they’re honing in on what it takes to become a Paperclip Pro.

Tiongson :  Of the drivers who’ve previously won at Martinsville, I think Joey Logano and Chase Elliott seem like the next heir to the thrones of this short track. Logano’s aggressive but knows how to extract the most out of his cars at this venue.  Logano would’ve likely won the 2015 fall race if he hadn’t drawn the ire of a certain driver in Matt Kenseth.

Meanwhile, Elliott has the benefits of driving for Hendrick and a great resource in Jeff Gordon. Elliott’s track stats are a bit like Gordon in the early years of competing at this track. Gordon didn’t exactly learn to master Martinsville until 1996 and he didn’t look back. I’m confident Elliott can follow in his footsteps particularly as he’s also quite savvy at another Gordon speciality in road course tracks.

Kitchen :  Though HMS has a good track record at Martinsville (Elliott, in particular, is showing noticeable success at the track recently), two other drivers are statistically rising to the top that I want to point out.

Martin Truex Jr. has put the “Martin” in Martinsville. With back-to-back wins from the 2019 season into 2020, this track is quickly becoming his wheelhouse, and the stats back that up.

If we look at the numbers back to October 2017, Martin Truex Jr. has had only one finish outside the top ten and only two outside the top five. That is six out of eight races inside the top five! Recently, no other driver can seem to match that success unless you look to young gun Ryan Blaney.

Another driver who is finding a lot of success at the paperclip is Ryan Blaney. If we stop to take a look at his Martinsville history, Blaney has two-second place finishes at the track from last year’s races and has finished inside the top ten in every single race at the track since 2018.

Both Truex Jr. and Blaney can certainly continue that streak this weekend as they both have great track positions and already have a great start to the 2021 season.

Without a doubt, two laps around Martinsville should be rewarded with a grandfather clock. Now, let’s review our Race 7 performances with our points and race report from the Food City Dirt Race at Bristol!
All things considered, Torres survived Bristol.

All things considered, Torres survived Bristol.

Presently, Lambeth continues to lead the points!

Presently, Lambeth continues to lead the points!

Next, Ashley Hobbs crunches the numbers for the Blue Emu Maximum Pain Relief 500 at Martinsville!
First, let's consider how your favorite team fares in the Blue Emu Maximum Pain Relief 500 at Martinsville.

First, let’s consider how your favorite team fares in the Blue Emu Maximum Pain Relief 500 at Martinsville.

Since 2004, the Blue Emu Maximum Pain Relief 500 winner has an average starting spot of 9.8, led an average of 148.1 laps, started within the top five 41.18% of the time and started within the top 10 64.71% of the time.

Since 2004, the Blue Emu Maximum Pain Relief 500 winner has an average starting spot of 9.8, led an average of 148.1 laps, started within the top five 41.18% of the time and started within the top 10 64.71% of the time.

Now, let's consider the past 10 Blue Emu Maximum Pain Relief 500 races at Martinsville.

Now, let’s consider the past 10 Blue Emu Maximum Pain Relief 500 races at Martinsville.

Here's the trends in the past five spring races at Martinsville.

Here’s the trends in the past five spring races at Martinsville.

Will it be a FedEx delivery for Denny Hamlin?

Will it be a FedEx delivery for Denny Hamlin?

Of course, it’s the moment worthwhile in this preview. Here’s our picks for the Blue Emu Maximum Pain Relief 500 at Martinsville!
Quite the quartet for the Blue Emu Maximum Pain Relief 500 at Martinsville.

Quite the quartet for the Blue Emu Maximum Pain Relief 500 at Martinsville.

Tiongson : Not only am I confident about choosing Chase Elliott for Saturday night’s race, I am certain this will happen. Elliott finally learned to master Martinsville last fall. I look for the defending Cup champion to make it two wins in a row in his No. 9 ride.

Conley : After leading nearly a quarter of the race last fall before a late race issue, with two wins and four top 10’s dating back to the fall of 2017, Martin Truex Jr has been a regular at the front of the field. He doesn’t run outside of the top 10 this week unless he’s knocked out early.

Lucas : Can’t bet against a Joe Gibbs Racing car collecting another grandfather clock this weekend. I’ll go fishing with Martin Truex Jr.

Kitchen : Martin Truex Jr is crazy good at this track. With multiple top tens and top fives since 2017, I think Martin Truex Jr can get it done.

Torres : Team Penske are looking for its third straight win this season. The team that came up short are now the ones winning. I don’t expect that ending anytime soon because Brad Keselowski is the next man to visit victory lane. All three drivers have a good shot for that matter. While Joey Logano and Ryan Blaney have a better shot in my eye, Keselowski will prevail and win at “The Paperclip” once again.

Raynor : Brad Keselowski does well at this track and is looking for his first win of the season.

Shoppe : Brad Keselowski has an incredible record of late at Martinsville! You have to go all the way back to 2015 to find the last time BK hasn’t been in the top ten! In those last nine Martinsville races, he won 2 spring races and has only one finish out of the top five! While he may be winless this year to date, he’s a safe pick for tonight!

Sisoler : Brad Keselowski has been one of the best short track drivers to get the past few years, so I think it’ll be the singular two, not the double two (22, Joey Logano) that takes the checkered flag Saturday night!

TPF Stats : While Denny Hamlin has been hit or miss at Martinsville in the Spring, his strength this year will carry him through and promote him to the eighth different winner of the 2021 season.

Hobbs : King Hamlin must fight a hard battle with a few Princes of Martinsville. But in the end, he will keep his crown and add a new clock to his collection.

Jones : Without a doubt, five time Martinsville winner, Denny Hamlin knows how to work his way around this famed short track. Bonus – another new winner in 2021! I am on the “first win of the season” train for as long as I can ride this!

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

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

Thanks as always to the TPF team for their amazing efforts this week!  Stay safe, wear a mask, and wash your hands often. If you’re eligible in your state or country, help yourself, your family, and friends by getting the COVID-19 vaccine! Also, thanks for reading our content throughout this season.

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.

Also, if you are shopping for NASCAR or racing die-casts, be sure to check out our friends at Circle B Diecast! If your order is $20 or more, be sure to use coupon code TPF2021 for free shipping! Tell them we sent you!

Rob Tiongson

Rob Tiongson is a 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 his eyes.

From interviews to retrospective articles, if it's about anything with an engine and four wheels, it'll be here on TPF, by him or by one of his talented columnists who have a passion for racing.

Currently seeking a sports writing, public relations, or sports marketing career, particularly in motorsports. He enjoys editing and writing articles and features, as well as photography. Moreover, he enjoys time with his family and friends, traveling, cooking, working out and being a fun uncle or "funcle" to his nephew, niece and cat.

Tiongson, a graduate of Southern New Hampshire University with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication, pursues his Master of Arts in Digital Communications at St. Bonaventure University. Indeed, while Tiongson is proud to be from Massachusetts, he's just as happy to be a Texan.

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