After an off week, the NASCAR Cup Series returns to action on Saturday for the Blue-Emu Maximum Pain Relief 500 at Martinsville Speedway. Beginning at 7:30 pm, it’ll be the first night race of the season and just the second in the track’s history. The event is 500 laps and 263 miles long with Joey Logano leading the field to green. Here are three drivers to watch in Saturday’s race.
Over his career, Denny Hamlin has always performed well at Martinsville. He’s won there five times in the Cup Series and won three straight races there from 2009-2010. Hamlin’s average finish at Martinsville is an impressive 9.9 with 70% of his starts at the track resulting in a top-10.
Through seven races this season, Hamlin leads the points standings despite not yet winning a race. He already has six top-10s and his worst finish of the season is just 11th. Expect Hamlin to contend for the victory on Saturday.
Martin Truex Jr.
At one point, short track racing was an Achilles heel for Martin Truex Jr. But now, after winning two of the last three races at Martinsville, Truex Jr. has asserted himself as one of the best short track racers in the sport. He has 7 top-5s at the track and 13 top-10s for an average finish of 17th.
Truex Jr. secured his first win of the 2021 season a few weeks ago at Phoenix, and he’s looking for more. After winning just one race in 2020, the 40-year-old wants to bounce back in 2021 and become the first driver with multiple victories this season. Truex Jr. should most certainly run up front on Saturday.
2021 has been a season to forget thus far for Aric Almirola. Currently 28th in points, the 37-year-old has failed to place in the top-10 in this year with his best finish being 11th at Phoenix.
Historically at Martinsville, Almirola has been up and down. He has four top-5 finishes in his career, however, his average finish is 22nd thanks in part to several accidents and car failures throughout the years. To turn his season around, Almirola needs a strong run on Saturday, and he has the potential to do so.