Cup Series race preview: Blue Emu Maximum Pain Relief 500

The NASCAR Cup Series competes at the first paved short track of the 2021 season, Saturday. The historic Martinsville Speedway hosts the Blue Emu Maximum Pain Relief 500.

Martinsville is one of the most challenging tracks on the Cup Series schedule, thanks to its paperclip design, low banking and curbs at the apron of the track. It should come as no surprise that Martinsville isn’t kind to the “young guns” of NASCAR. The last time a relative newcomer won at Martinsville was 1981, when a 40-year-old Morgan Shepherd won in just his 15th career Cup Series start.

Martinsville is so difficult, that even the surprise winners have been veterans. Dave Marcis conquered the paperclip in 1975 for his first of five career wins. Bobby Hamilton, John Andretti, Ricky Craven and Clint Bowyer are other past Martinsville winners with 10 victories or less on their resumes.

You can count on a veteran taking home a Grandfather Clock, Saturday. Most likely, that means the NASCAR Cup Series will begin the year with eight unique winners. That is unless Ryan Blaney, Martin Truex Jr. and Joey Logano have something to say about it.

In the last five Martinsville races, Blaney, Truex and Logano each have four top-10 finishes. Blaney hasn’t won a race, but he has finished in the top-five four times. Truex has a pair of victories and one runner-up finish, and he can thank Logano for that second-place finish. Logano out-muscled Truex for a memorable victory in 2018 on route to his first Cup Series Championship. Logano pads his Martinsville resume with three top-fives.

However, neither have the best record at Martinsville over the last five races. Brad Keselowski has dominated the paperclip since the fall of 2018 and he’s still searching for his first win of 2021. Keselowski has five consecutive top-five finishes at Martinsville.

Another driver with great history at Martinsville is Denny Hamlin. He hasn’t exactly dominated at the paperclip recently, but he has four top-fives in the last five races, and he has five career victories. Don’t count out Kyle Busch, Kurt Busch or Chase Elliot either. Each has performed very well at Martinsville throughout their careers. Elliot won at Martinsville last fall to earn a spot in the Championship 4.

Another rain delay?

The forecast doesn’t look good for Saturday. There’s currently a 60% chance of rain for every hour, Saturday. The clouds are expected to part by noon, Sunday. So NASCAR should complete the race before the weekend ends. It’ll just be a bummer if NASCAR and the fans are robbed of a Martinsville night race.

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