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NASCAR Cup Series: Martinsville Predictions and How To Watch

Credit: MARTINSVILLE, VIRGINIA - APRIL 09: Chase Elliott, driver of the #9 LLumar Chevrolet, leads the field during the NASCAR Cup Series Blue-Emu Maximum Pain Relief 400 at Martinsville Speedway on April 09, 2022 in Martinsville, Virginia. (Photo by Meg Oliphant/Getty Images)

One driver is suspended and another one returns this week for the NASCAR Cup Series’ first trip to Martinsville this season.

We’re off the dirt and back on to the asphalt this weekend with the NASCAR Cup Series keeping with the short track theme and heading to Martinsville for the annual spring race. Ahead of the weekend action though, news broke of one driver’s suspension from the Cup Series as well as another’s return.

Cody Ware, who had driven the No. 51 Ford this season for Rick Ware Racing, his father’s team, was arrested on Monday in Iredell County, North Carolina on a felony charge of  “assault by strangulation — inflict serious injury” and a misdemeanor charge of assault on a woman. Ware’s alleged assault was classified as domestic violence and he was released on a $3,000 bond. As a result of these allegations, NASCAR suspended Ware indefinitely on Monday.

A statement released by Rick Ware Racing indicated that the team is “aware of the incident” and that they “understand NASCAR’s position on this matter and accept their decision.” The team announced that Zane Smith, the 2022 Craftsman Truck Series champion, will take over the No. 51 for this weekend’s race in Martinsville.

As for who will be returning this weekend, it’s none other than Chase Elliot. The Hendrick driver missed the last six races as he recovered from a broken left leg sustained in a snowboarding accident back in March. Josh Berry held his own while filling in for Elliott, achieving a best finish of second at Richmond. IMSA’s Jordan Taylor took the car over for the race at COTA and finished 24th.

Thanks to an offseason rule change, Elliott does not have to finish in the top 30 in the standings to maintain postseason eligibility, though it’s likely he’ll do so anyway. If he secures the win(s) necessary, he’s good to go for the NASCAR playoffs.

The Track

Martinsville Speedway is one of NASCAR’s oldest tracks and is a staple on the calendar. This weekend marks the first of two annual races for Martinsville on the schedule, an honor it has held since 1950, just one year after its NASCAR debut. Richard Petty won an astounding 15 times at the track, claiming the track record. Among active drivers, Denny Hamlin’s five wins rank the most.

Coming in at just 0.526 miles in length, Martinsville is the shortest track on the regular season calendar. The straights have no banking, while the turns have 12-degree banking, and those turns must be used properly this year with Ross Chastain’s video game move from last year’s playoffs outlawed moving forward. For the driver that can legally navigate his car to victory, he’ll also get a pretty sweet trophy. As is tradition, the Martinsville winner receives a seven-foot-tall grandfather clock, up there among the most unique and coveted trophies in sports.

For Sunday’s race, Stage 1 will be the first 80 laps while Stage 2 will cover the next 100 laps. Stage 3 will consist of the final 220 laps of the race. The weather forecast calls for high temperatures of around 80 degrees with partly cloudy skies and a 25% chance of precipitation. Let’s hope things stay nice and dry for the drivers this weekend.

Martinsville Speedway -

Points Standings

Let’s see where things stand after the first eight races as NASCAR heads to Martinsville.

  1. Christopher Bell*, Joe Gibbs Racing – 281 points
  2. Ross Chastain, Trackhouse Racing – 268 points
  3. Kevin Harvick, Stewart-Haas Racing – 255 points
  4. Kyle Larson*, Hendrick Motorsports – 242 points
  5. Tyler Reddick*, 23XI Racing – 235 points
  6. Kyle Busch*, Richard Childress Racing – 234 points
  7. Martin Truex Jr., Joe Gibbs Racing – 232 points
  8. Joey Logano*, Team Penske – 223 points
  9. Brad Keselowski, RFK Racing – 216 points
  10. Ryan Blaney, Team Penske – 211 points

*= 2023 race winner


The pre-race odds suggest a tight battle at the front, but the one I’m picking out of the bunch is Christopher Bell. He’s fresh from his first win of the season and I think he’ll become the second driver this year to win multiple races. He conquered Martinsville last fall and I’m backing him to also take the spring race this weekend.

  1. Christopher Bell, Joe Gibbs Racing
  2. Kyle Larson, Hendrick Motorsports
  3. Ryan Blaney, Team Penske
  4. Kyle Busch, Richard Childress Racing
  5. William Byron, Hendrick Motorsports

How To Watch – NASCAR at Martinsville

  • Practice: Saturday, April 15 – 4:35 p.m. – FS2
  • Qualifying: Saturday, April 15 – 5:20 p.m. – FS2
  • NOCO 400: Sunday, April 16 – 3:00 p.m. – FS1

Featured Image Credit: Meg Oliphant/Getty Images.


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