Betting News and Notes STP 500

Betting News and Notes STP 500

STP 500 Preview
By Micah Roberts
VegasInsider.com

Denny Hamlin is a four-time winner on Martinsville's flat half-mile track, but he won't be one of the favorites this week because he won't be racing due the scrum he and Joey Logano got into two weeks ago at California Speedway that injured his back. Hamlin surely would have been one of the favorites to win on his home track and also would have moved higher in the standings.

Under past season points scoring, his championship hopes would have been finished by missing a race.

But under the current rules that reward the final two positions of the Chase for drivers within the top-20 who won the most during the first 26 races, Hamlin still has a glimmer of hope. This is why the LVH Super Book still has Hamlin posted at 18/1 odds (Bet $100 to win $1,800) to win the championship. That may seem like low odds considering Hamlin is expected to miss up to five races, but there is that small window of opportunity that makes it a possibility.

The bottom line for Hamlin when he does come back is to simply win as many races as possible and hope he can climb into the top-20. Last season, Hamlin had five wins -- good enough to tie for the most in the Sprint Cup Series.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. currently leads the series in points and is the only driver to finish in the top-10 of all five races. The LVH currently has Junior at 10/1 odds (Bet $100 to win $1,000) to win the title.

This week at Martinsville, Junior won't be one of the favorites, but he should keep his top-10 streak going. He's never won at Martinsville, but does have an 11.4 average finish over his last 20 starts there -- the fourth best average behind Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon and Hamlin over that span.   

Johnson will again be the favorite, and even more so now without Hamlin, but it's for good reason. He's tied with Gordon for the most active wins at Martinsville with seven, including last fall when he won with all kinds of Chase for the Championship pressure on him. That win put Johnson in a tie for the Championship lead with Brad Keselowski.

It's amazing to look at Johnson's career at Martinsville because he's just so consistent. The 5.5 average finish is amazing in itself, but the fact that he hasn't finished worse than 12th in his last 20 starts is one of the more mind blowing streaks in NASCAR. It's hard enough for a driver to just have car that is good enough to compete well over a long haul, but to also not have any kind of engine failure or be involved in a wreck -- that is a special streak.

Gordon has seven wins as well, but none since sweeping the 2005 season. However, he still has been one of the best -- compiling 11 top-5 finishes over his last 14 Martinsville starts. He's currently sitting 18th in points, but we should expect to see him rise up the chart rapidly after Sunday where he should get his first top-5 of the season. Because of Hamlin being out, Gordon's odds will also be lower than in recent races. Sunday will be the Johnson and Gordon show.
 
Drivers who could present a challenge to Gordon and Johnson are Kyle Busch, Tony Stewart and Kevin Harvick. Busch has never won at Martinsville, but was runner-up last fall -- his seventh top-5 finish on the track. Busch also comes off a California win.  Harvick and Stewart each won a Martinsville race during the 2011 season.

The best long shot possibility this week is 2002 Martinsville winner Kurt Busch who will be looking for his third straight top-5 finish on the season. Busch is listed at 100/1, and it's good not that the No. 78 car has finished 16th or better in three straight Martinsville starts.

Top-5 Finish Prediction

1) #24 Jeff Gordon (6/1)
2) #48 Jimmie Johnson (9/2)
3) #29 Kevin Harvick (12/1)
4) #18 Kyle Busch (8/1)
5) #14 Tony Stewart (8/1)

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Re: Betting News and Notes STP 500

Driver's Tale of the Tape at Martinsville


Clint Bowyer (No. 15 RK Motors Toyota)

· Two top fives, eight top 10s
· Average finish of 14.0
· Average Running Position of 13.3, sixth-best
· Driver Rating of 90.8, eighth-best
· Average Green Flag Speed of 90.989 mph, seventh-fastest
· 4,889 Laps in the Top 15 (69.5%), eighth-most
· 421 Quality Passes (passes of cars in the top 15 under green), eighth-most

Jeff Burton (No. 31 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet)

· One win, 10 top fives, 16 top 10s
· Average finish of 15.0
· Average Running Position of 15.2, 12th-best
· Driver Rating of 87.5, 10th-best
· 284 Fastest Laps Run, seventh-most
· 803 Green Flag Passes, eighth-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 90.907 mph, 10th-fastest

Kyle Busch (No. 18 M&M’s Toyota)

· Seven top fives, eight top 10s
· Average finish of 16.8
· Average Running Position of 14.1, seventh-best
· Driver Rating of 95.3, sixth-best
· 350 Fastest Laps Run, sixth-most
· 5,345 Laps in the Top 15 (66.5%), sixth-most
· 483 Quality Passes, fifth-most

Dale Earnhardt Jr. (No. 88 Diet Mountain Dew Chevrolet)

· 10 top fives, 14 top 10s
· Average finish of 13.0
· Average Running Position of 10.9, fifth-best
· Driver Rating of 99.8, fourth-best
· 445 Fastest Laps Run, fourth-most
· Series-high 917 Green Flag Passes
· Average Green Flag Speed of 91.180 mph, fourth-fastest
· 6,179 Laps in the Top 15 (76.9%), third-most
· 524 Quality Passes, third-most

Jeff Gordon (No. 24 Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet)

· Seven wins, 25 top fives, 32 top 10s; seven poles
· Average finish of 7.1
· Average Running Position of 6.2, second-best
· Driver Rating of 120.9, second-best
· Series-high 925 Fastest Laps Run
· Average Green Flag Speed of 91.500 mph, second-fastest
· 7,243 Laps in the Top 15 (90.2%), second-most
· 549 Quality Passes, second-most

Kevin Harvick (No. 29 Budweiser Chevrolet)

· One win, three top fives, 10 top 10s
· Average finish of 16.7
· Average Running Position of 14.3, eighth-best
· Driver Rating of 92.3, seventh-best
· 194 Fastest Laps Run, eighth-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 90.919 mph, ninth-fastest
· 5,023 Laps in the Top 15 (62.5%), seventh-most
· 397 Quality Passes, ninth-most

Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet)

· Seven wins, 15 top fives, 19 top 10s; two poles
· Average finish of 5.5
· Series-best Average Running Position of 6.2
· Series-best Driver Rating of 122.3
· 802 Fastest Laps Run, second-most
· 747 Green Flag Passes, 12th-most
· Series-best Average Green Flag Speed of 91.503 mph
· Series-high 7,349 Laps in the Top 15 (91.5%)
· Series-high 583 Quality Passes

Brad Keselowski (No. 2 Miller Lite Ford)

· Three top 10s
· Average finish of 12.2
· Average Running Position of 15.0, 11th-best
· Driver Rating of 84.5, 12th-best
· Average Green Flag Speed of 90.858 mph, 11th-fastest

Mark Martin (No. 11 FedEx Freight Toyota)

· Two wins, 12 top fives, 25 top 10s; three poles
· Average finish of 13.3
· Average Running Position of 14.7, 10th-best
· Driver Rating of 87.0, 11th-best
· Average Green Flag Speed of 90.954 mph, eighth-fastest

Jamie McMurray (No. 1 Novo Nordisk Chevrolet)

· One top five, 10 top 10s; one pole
· Average finish of 17.0
· Driver Rating of 82.8, 13th-best
· 4,075 Laps in the Top 15 (50.7%), 12th-most

Ryan Newman (No. 39 Quicken Loans Chevrolet)

· One win, seven top fives, 11 top 10s; three poles
· Average finish of 13.6
· Average Running Position of 14.5, ninth-best
· Driver Rating of 89.5, ninth-best
· 133 Fastest Laps Run, 12th-most
· 840 Green Flag Passes, fifth-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 90.834 mph, 12th-fastest
· 4,688 Laps in the Top 15 (58.4%), ninth-most
· 430 Quality Passes, seventh-most

Tony Stewart (No. 14 Rush Truck Centers/Mobil 1 Chevrolet)

· Three wins, nine top fives, 15 top 10s; three poles
· Average finish of 13.7
· Average Running Position of 10.8, fourth-best
· Driver Rating of 99.7, fifth-best
· 375 Fastest Laps Run, fifth-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 91.099 mph, sixth-fastest
· 5,856 Laps in the Top 15 (72.9%), fifth-most
· 383 Quality Passes, 11th-most

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Re: Betting News and Notes STP 500

NASCAR Odds – Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon Have Dominant Histories at Martinsville
By: Micah Roberts   
Sportingnews.com

LAS VEGAS -- Three drivers have combined to win 15 of the last 20 races at Martinsville’s flat half-mile track, which should immediately alert the betting public that the odds on the favorites will be short. The numbers get even lower when one of those three drivers misses the race.

Four-time Martinsville winner, and native Virginian, Denny Hamlin will miss racing on his best track because of a back injury suffered during his wreck with Joey Logano two weeks ago at California. With Hamlin out of the mix, the expectancy rates of the other two Martinsville giants went up even higher.

Jimmie Johnson has won at Martinsville seven times at his career, including last fall, which tied him with Jeff Gordon for the most among active drivers. Because of Hamlin’s absence, Johnson’s opening odds at the LVH SuperBook shrunk from what was expected to be about 5-to-1 down to 7-to-2. Instead of Gordon being 6-to-1, he’s been posted at 5-to-1.

Gordon hasn’t won at Martinsville since sweeping the 2005 season, as Johnson and Hamlin have hogged up most of the wins up. Since then, however, Gordon has finished in the top five in 11 of his last 14 starts at the track.

Johnson has quite a ways to go to catch Richard Petty’s track record of 15 wins, but in this era, what he’s been doing is pretty impressive stuff. Consider that in 22 career starts, Johnson has placed in the top five 15 times for a 5.5 average finish. Over his last 20 races, his worst finish has been 12th. He’s defied NASCAR’s law of averages that says anything can happen to any driver at any time. Somehow, Johnson has been able to walk on water in Martinsville.

When you see a driver at 7-to-2 odds who has to beat 42 others, it typically doesn’t sound like too good of a proposition. But in Johnson’s case – without Hamlin to contend with – it might be generous.

The interesting look this week is 2002 Martinsville winner Kurt Busch, at 100-to-1, who’s aiming for his third straight top-five finish on the season. The No. 78 has finished 16th or better in three straight Martinsville races.

Favorites winning has been the name of the game at Martinsville over the last decade, but it wasn’t that long ago when Martinsville was the big equalizer for lesser-funded teams. Driver skill was at the forefront just as much as the set-up of the car.

In the late 1990s and early 2000s, there were multiple payouts of over 25-to-1 at Martinsville, including Bobby Hamilton (1998), Ricky Rudd (1998), John Andretti (1999) and Rickey Craven (2001). The largest payouts since have been Bobby Labonte at 18-to-1 in 2002 and Kevin Harvick at 16-to-1 in 2011. Every other race has been chalky.

Here’s a look at the complete list of LVH odds for Sunday’s STP Gas Booster 500:

JIMMIE JOHNSON 7-2
JEFF GORDON 5-1
KYLE BUSCH 6-1
BRAD KESELOWSKI 6-1
KASEY KAHNE 12-1
DALE EARNHARDT JR 12-1
KEVIN HARVICK 12-1
CLINT BOWYER 12-1
TONY STEWART 18-1
MATT KENSETH 20-1
CARL EDWARDS 20-1
MARTIN TRUEX JR 25-1
MARK MARTIN 25-1
JOEY LOGANO 25-1
RYAN NEWMAN 25-1
GREG BIFFLE 40-1
BRIAN VICKERS 50-1
JEFF BURTON 50-1
JAMIE McMURRAY 60-1
ARIC ALMIROLA 60-1
RICKY STENHOUSE JR 75-1
KURT BUSCH 100-1
PAUL MENARD 100-1
MARCOS AMBROSE 100-1
JUAN MONTOYA 100-1
REGAN SMITH 500-1
DANICA PATRICK 500-1
FIELD 100-1

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STP Gas Booster 500: Martinsville Chassis Selections

#2-Brad Keselowski: Primary Chassis: PRS-837 New chassis. Backup Chassis: PRS-834 - Backup chassis from Bristol (not used).

#5-Kasey Kahne: Crew chief Kenny Francis will unload Hendrick Motorsports Chassis No. 5-787 for Sunday's event at Martinsville. This is a new chassis.

#9-Marcos Ambrose: The No. 9 team has prepared chassis No. 728 for Martinsville. The team competed with this chassis at Martinsville last fall.

#10-Danica Patrick: Chassis No. 10-535: This car (formally No. 14-535) debuted in April 2009 with Tony Stewart at the wheel at Phoenix International Raceway, where Stewart used it to qualify sixth and lead once for 19 laps before finishing second. Chassis No. 10-535 returned to another flat track with Stewart in June via New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, but its time on the racetrack was short after it crashed in practice. It was repaired with new front and rear clips for its return trip to New Hampshire in September. There, Chassis No. 10-535 led four times for 52 laps before a loose axle cap forced an unscheduled pit stop, which resulted in a 14th-place finish for Stewart. The November trek to Phoenix marked the car's third career start, where it qualified eighth and went from a possible top-10 performance to a disappointing 25th-place result when Stewart was caught up in a multi-car accident on lap 171 of the 312-lap race. With a new body, Chassis No. 10-535 returned to Phoenix with Stewart in April 2010 and had a quiet outing in its fourth start, qualifying 11th and finishing 23rd. The car was quickly turned around and tested by Stewart on April 26, 2010 at Gresham Motorsports Park in Jefferson, Ga. The last outing for Chassis No. 10-535 was in November 2010, when Stewart started 20th and finished 17th at Phoenix. The car was on standby for the No. 14 team throughout many race weekends in 2011 and 2012 but was never pressed into service. Since the end of the 2012 season, it was updated to the sixth-generation (Gen-6) Chevrolet SS configuration and transferred to the No. 10 GoDaddy.com team of Danica Patrick and crew chief Tony Gibson.

#14-Tony Stewart: Chassis No. 14-710: This car debuted in April 2012 in the Capital City 400 at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway. It qualified 22nd and led four times for 118 laps before a late-race caution canceled Tony Stewart's two-and-a-half second lead and forced him to settle for a third-place finish. It was then tested June 6-7 at Pocono (Pa.) Raceway and again during a Goodyear Tire Test June 12-13 at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway. The Lenox Industrial Tools 301 in July at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon marked Chassis No. 14-710's second career start. There, a new tire compound from Goodyear confounded Stewart and crew chief Steve Addington, and they labored to a 12th-place finish. The car returned to Richmond in September for its third career start via the Federated Auto Parts 400, where it rallied from its 28th-place starting spot to lead 15 laps before finishing fourth. Its last start of 2012 came in October at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway where in its fourth career start, it qualified seventh and finished a disappointing 27th. With 2013 Chevrolet SS bodywork covering it, Chassis No. 14-710 returns to Martinsville for the STP Gas Booster 500.

#15-Clint Bowyer: Primary chassis No. 761 is new. The backup chassis (No. 741) led 154 laps last fall at Martinsville and finished fifth.

#16-Greg Biffle: Chassis RK-822 was brand new when it kicked off the 2012 Chase for Biffle at Richmond earning him a ninth-place finish. The team then took the same car to Loudon last fall, but had to settle for an 18th-place finish. RK-822 finished out 2012 with a 10th-place finish at Martinsville and will once again be back on track this weekend. Backup Chassis:RK-844 Last ran Phoenix finished 17th.

#17-Ricky Stenhouse Jr.: Primary Chassis: RK- 814 2012 No. 99 chassis -last ran at Dover - finished 26th. Backup Chassis: RK-801 - 2012 No. 99 chassis

#22-Joey Logano: Primary Chassis: PRS-835 Backup chassis from Las Vegas (not used). Backup Chassis: PRS-836 Backup chassis from Phoenix (not used)

#27-Paul Menard will pilot chassis No. 419 at Martinsville Speedway. This No. 27 Chevrolet SS is a new addition to the Richard Childress Racing stable this season.

#29-Kevin Harvick: will pilot chassis No. 420 from the Richard Childress Racing NASCAR Sprint Cup Series stable in the STP Gas Booster 500. This Chevrolet is new to the RCR line up and will run its first competitive laps this weekend at Martinsville Speedway.

#31-Jeff Burton will race chassis No. 421 this weekend at Martinsville Speedway. This is a brand new No. 31 Chevrolet seeing its first on-track action during Friday's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series practice session.

#39-Ryan Newman: Chassis No. 39-783: Newman will pilot Chassis No. 39-783 at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway. Built new for 2013, Chassis 39-783 will see its first laps of competition this weekend at Martinsville.

#43-Aric Almirola: The No. 43 team has prepared chassis No. 850 for Martinsville. The team built the chassis in the off-season.

#48-Jimmie Johnson: will drive chassis No. 749, at Martinsville. Chassis No. 689 serves as the backup.

#88-Dale Earnhardt Jr. Crew chief Steve Letarte will unload Hendrick Motorsports Chassis No. 88-789 for this weekend's race at Martinsville Speedway. This is a brand new chassis that has not been raced.

#99-Carl Edwards: Primary RK- 819 last ran at Kansas and Michigan test fall 2012. RK 790 backup car for Bristol and last ran in Spring Martinsville race 2012.

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Re: Betting News and Notes STP 500

Driver Handicaps: Martinsville
By: Jeff Wackerlin
Racingone.com

This weekend, the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series heads to Martinsville Speedway for Sunday's STP Gas Booster 500.  To help you make your fantasy racing picks, MotorRacingNetwork.com brings you our weekly analysis to help steer you toward Sunday's 500-lap event.

Who's HOT at Martinsville

• Jimmie Johnson, who is coming off his seventh win, leads all drivers with a 5.5 average finish.
• Seven-time winner Jeff Gordon leads all drivers in top 10s (32) and laps led (3,515).
• Dale Earnhardt Jr. has posted an 8.0 average finish in his last five starts.
• Defending event winner Ryan Newman has posted a 7.3 average finish in his last three starts.
• Kevin Harvick, winner of this race in 2011, has finished in the top five in three of the last five races.
• Tony Stewart, winner of the 2011 fall race, has posted four top 10s in eight starts with Stewart-Haas Racing.

Who to Keep an Eye On at Martinsville

• Mark Martin, who will drive the No. 11 Toyota for Denny Hamlin while he recovers from an injury, has posted 25 top 10s - including four in his last six starts.
• Aric Almirola has posted a 6.0 average finish in his last two starts.
• Brad Keselowski (12.2), Carl Edwards (12.8) and Matt Kesneth (14.0) each rank in the top 10 among all drivers that have raced in the last five events at Martinsville.
• Kyle Busch has finished in the top five in four of the last seven races at Martinsville.
• Kasey Kahne, who has led 223 laps in the five races with the Gen-6 car, is coming off a third-place finish at Martinsville.
• Martin Truex Jr., who has finished in the top 10 in two of his last three Martinsville starts, was among the drivers that participated in the Gen-6 Martinsville Goodyear Tire test last year.
• Kurt Busch has finished in the top five in the last two races of the season.
• Clint Bowyer has finished in the top 10 in his last two Martinsville starts.
• Brian Vickers, who will be back in the No. 55 Toyota, is coming off an eighth-place finish at Martinsville.
• Joey Logano, who will make his first track start with Penske Racing, finished in the top 10 in both races in 2010.
• Jeff Burton ranks in the top 10 in driver ratings over the past 16 races at Martinsville.

MotorRacingNetwork.com Staff Picks

Jeff Wackerlin: Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Pete Pistone: Kyle Busch
Tony Rizzuti: Jimmie Johnson
John Singler: Jeff Gordon

Top 20 Driver Notes - Ordered by current standings

(All stats/notes are in regards to Martinsville unless noted)

Dale Earnhardt Jr: Has finished seventh or better in last four of his last five starts; Third-best average finish (10.2) in the last 10 races among drivers entered in the race; Fourth-best driver rating in the last 16 races among drivers entered in the race; Will debut a new chassis (No. 789) in the STP Gas Booster 500.

Brad Keselowski: Coming off best finish (sixth) in six starts; Finish was second consecutive top 10; 12.2 average finish; Will debut a new chassis (No. 834) in the STP Gas Booster 500.

Jimmie Johnson: Seven-time winner; Best average finish (4.8) in the last 10 races; Best driver rating (122.3) in the last 16 races; Second among all drivers in laps led (1,981); Participated in the Goodyear Tire test last year that help set the tire combination for this weekend; Will return in the same chassis (No. 749) that he won with at Martinsville last fall.

Carl Edwards: Fourth best average finish (13.0) among drivers that are entered in the race and have competed in the last 10 races; Last of five top 10s came in the 2011 fall race in ninth; Has led 31 laps in 17 starts; Participated in the Goodyear Tire test last year that help set the tire combination for this weekend; Will return in the same chassis (No. 819) which the team tested last year at Kansas Speedway and Michigan International Speedway.

Greg Biffle: Coming off third top 10 (10th) in 20 starts; Has failed to lead a lap in last six starts; Will return in the same chassis (No. 822) that he raced last fall at Martinsville.

Kyle Busch: Coming off best finish (second) in 16 starts; Finish was seventh top five; Combined to lead 277 laps in both races in 2011; Fifth-best driver rating in the last 16 races among drivers entered in the race.

Kasey Kahne: Coming off second top five (third) in 18 starts; Finish was first top 10 since 2006; Defending race pole winner; Finished 38th in that event due to engine issues; Will make third track start with Hendrick Motorsports driving; Will debut a new chassis (No. 787) in the STP Gas Booster 500.

Paul Menard: Has yet to finish in the top 10 in 11 starts; Coming off best finish in 12th; Will debut a new chassis (No. 419) in the STP Gas Booster 500.

Joey Logano: Making first track start with Penske Racing; Posted a 15.2 average finish in previous eight starts with Joe Gibbs Racing; Finished in the top 10 in both races in 2010; Will debut a new chassis (No. 835) in the STP Gas Booster 500.

Denny Hamlin: Will not race this weekend due to injury; Mark Martin will be the substitute driver: Martin hasn't raced at Martinsville since 2011, but does have two wins and an average finish of 13.3 in 48 starts.

Matt Kenseth: Making first track start with Joe Gibbs Racing; Posted an average finish of 15.9 in previous 26 starts with Roush Fenway Racing; Last of eight top 10s came in this event last year in fourth.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr:
Will make track debut driving the same chassis (No. 814) that Carl Edwards finished 26th with last June at Dover International Speedway.

Kurt Busch: Finished 15th last fall in first track start with Furniture Row Racing; Last of four top 10s in 25 starts came in 2005 with Roush Racing - a team he also win the 2002 fall race with.

Clint Bowyer: Finished in the top 10 in both races last season to give him a 7.5 average finish in two track starts with Michael Waltrip Racing; Posted six top 10s in previous 12 starts with Richard Childress Racing; Tied for the fifth-best average finish (13.1) among drivers that are entered in the race and have competed in the last 10 races; Will debut a new chassis (No. 761) in the STP Gas Booster 500.

Kevin Harvick:
Winner of the 2011 spring race; Has finished fourth or better in three of the last five races; 13.4 average finish among drivers that are entered in the race and have competed in the last 10 races; Participated in the Goodyear Tire test last year that help set the tire combination for this weekend; Will debut a new chassis (No. 420) in the STP Gas Booster 500.

Jamie McMurray: Last of 10 top 10s came in this event in 2011; 17.0 average finish and 117 laps led in 20 starts.

Aric Almirola: Tied for the best average finish (6.0) in the last two races; Coming off best finish in eight starts in fourth; Will debut a new chassis (No. 850) in the STP Gas Booster 500.

Jeff Gordon: Last of seven wins came in the 2005 fall race; Leads all drivers in laps led (3,515); Coming off 32nd top 10 in 40 starts in seventh; Led 329 laps in this event last year; Second-best average finish (6.7) among drivers that are entered in the race and have competed in the last 10 races.

Martin Truex Jr: 18.3 average finish in six starts with Michael Waltrip Racing; Has finished eighth or better in two of his last three starts; Participated in the Goodyear Tire test last year that help set the tire combination for this weekend.

Ryan Newman: Defending race winner; Tied for the fifth-best average finish (13.1) among drivers that are entered in the race and have competed in the last 10 races; Will debut a new chassis (No. 783) in the STP Gas Booster 500.

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NASCAR Hits Virginia
By Sportsbook.ag

After a week off, the NASCAR field makes its first of two appearances at the short track of Martinsville Speedway when the drivers rev up their engines in the STP Gas Booster 500 on Sunday. This 0.526-mile oval track was completed in 1947 and has banking consisting of 12° turns with completely flat straights, which both measure 800 feet (0.15 miles).
   
Since 2003, only seven different drivers have won the 20 races run on this track. Jimmie Johnson has seven wins in this span, Jeff Gordon and Denny Hamlin have four, Tony Stewart has a pair of wins, and the trio of Ryan Newman, Kevin Harvick and Rusty Wallace has one victory apiece. Newman won the 2012 spring race while Johnson took home the checkered flag in the fall. Hamlin suffered a back injury in the last race in Fontana two weeks ago and is out indefinitely.

Drivers to Watch

Jimmie Johnson (4/1) -
Sure the odds are incredibly unfavorable, but if you're putting money down on just one driver this weekend, the choice would have to be Johnson. The No. 48 car not only has seven victories on this track, but Johnson has a ridiculous 15 top-5's in 22 career starts here and an unbelievable average finish of 5.5. After two straight subpar finishes this year (22nd at Bristol, 12th at Fontana), many expect Johnson to get back in the winner's circle this weekend.

Clint Bowyer (15/1) - In the past four short-track races (Bristol twice, Richmond and Martinsville), Bowyer has finished 7th, 1st, 5th and 5th. He is always racing near the front of the pack at this track, knocking out eight top-10's in his past 11 starts at Martinsville. In the four times he has started better than 12th at this track, Bowyer has finished 9th, 5th and turned last year's two great starts into finishes of 10th and 5th.

Kasey Kahne (12/1) - Of the four drivers garnering 12-to-1 odds on Sunday, Kahne is the best play of the quartet. He won the last short-track race on the circuit (Bristol) and finished third in the most recent race at Martinsville last fall. Kahne actually won the pole last spring at this track, but engine problems took him out of the race, marking the fourth time he's suffered car problems at Martinsville in his career. But with three straight great finishes this season (2nd at Las Vegas, Bristol win, 9th at Fontana), Kahne is showing it's better to be good than lucky.

Ryan Newman (25/1) - The champion of this race last spring has been up-and-down at this track, but seven top-5's in 22 starts isn't too shabby for a driver with darkhorse 25-to-1 odds. Newman also has three top-10's this season, placing 5th at Daytona, 7th at Bristol (also a short track) and 10th in the last race two weeks ago in Fontana.

Paul Menard (75/1) - He has finishes of 10th, 23rd, 12th (at Martinsville) and 9th in the past four short-track races on the NASCAR circuit. He's also started 12th or better in four of his past six starts at Martinsville, showing he can be successful at this track despite the absence of any top-10 finishes in his 11 starts on this short track. His three straight top-10's this season (10th in Las Vegas, 9th in Bristol, 8th in Fontana) is also a good trend for Sunday's race.

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