Martinsville Speedway hosts the first scheduled night race of the NASCAR Cup Series season this weekend.
The Blue-Emu Maximum Pain Relief 400 gets underway on Saturday night (7:30 ET, FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) from the shortest track on the points-paying schedule. For the first time since October 1956, the race is scheduled for 400 laps around the 0.526-mile oval instead of 500.
Find everything you need to know for this weekend‘s racing here:
PRACTICE AND QUALIFYING
Cup Series drivers will hit the track for practice on Friday at 4:30 p.m. ET (FS1), with all 36 teams separated into Group A and Group B, determined by a metric that factors results and fastest laps from last week‘s race at Richmond Raceway, in addition to points position. Each group will get 15 minutes of practice.
After practice, each group will go out for single-car qualifying for two laps. The fastest five cars from each group will advance to the second round, in which the 10 remaining drivers will fight for the Busch Light Pole Award.
— Built in 1947, Martinsville Speedway hosted its first race on Sept. 7, 1947, a modified stock car race that preceded NASCAR‘s inception. Bill France Sr. convinced track founder Henry Clay Earles that stock cars were the future of racing and promoted the event for a percentage.
— Martinsville appeared on the first Cup Series schedule in 1949 and is the only track on today‘s circuit that remains from that year.
— The first 12 Cup races at Martinsville were run on dirt.
— Earles partnered with Ridgeway Clock Company in 1964 to begin awarding race winners with a grandfather clock. Fred Lorenzen took the first one home on Sept. 27, 1964. Richard Petty won the most at 12 (not including his three prior victories), Darrell Waltrip won 11, and Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson each won nine.
— The track‘s turns were resurfaced with concrete in 1976, and the track wasn‘t resurfaced again until 2004, after Gordon struck a loose chunk of concrete during that year‘s spring race.
— LED lighting surrounded the 0.526-mile track starting in 2017.
Source: Racing Insights
Because the track‘s surface consists of both asphalt and concrete, Goodyear faces a unique challenge at Martinsville.
The tire provider will supply the same left-side tire compound utilized at the Busch Light Clash at the Coliseum, February‘s exhibition race on the 0.25-mile track built inside the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
“For our setup at Martinsville, we have a challenge to address with both the construction of the tires and the tread compounds,” said Greg Stucker, Goodyear‘s director of racing. “As far as the construction, it has to be robust enough to handle the hard braking and acceleration on and off the corners, which have no banking to speak of to help. What we try to do with the compounds is bring something that will wear and rubber-in the concrete corners in sometimes cool conditions. Rubbering-in the lower groove creates a second lane on the track and gives drivers more opportunity to pass. This Cup setup is very similar to what teams ran in The Clash, including the same left-side tire.”
MARTINSVILLE STORY LINES
— Martin Truex Jr. has been king at Martinsville lately, winning three of the last five races at the paperclip-shaped oval. Truex has also won each of the last two spring races and led 80 laps a week ago at Richmond.
— Kyle Busch leads all active drivers with 16 short-track victories, but his last such win came in the spring of 2019 at Bristol. The two-time champion has two Martinsville wins.
— Joe Gibbs Racing and Hendrick Motorsports have won each of the last six Martinsville races, with each organization winning three races in that span.
— Hendrick Motorsports is just 18 laps away from 10,000 laps led at Martinsville becoming the first team to reach 10,000 laps led at a track.
— Expect more cautions in the final stage at Martinsville. Ten yellows flew in Stage 3 there in November and nine last spring.
— Denny Hamlin and Kyle Larson have won four of the last six night races, each claiming two.
— Denny Hamlin‘s win last week at Richmond ended a 12-race winless streak for himself and a 12-race winning streak for drivers younger than 30 years old. Hamlin is 41.
Source: Racing Insights
MONEY AT MARTINSVILLE
The statistics don‘t lie — Martin Truex Jr. is the man to beat.
A 5-1 favorite, according to BetMGM, Truex has notched each of his last seven wins on tracks 1.366 miles in length or shorter. The 2017 series champion has won in each of the past three seasons at Martinsville and should be in contention Saturday night.
Behind him are Chase Elliott (7-1), Kyle Busch (8-1), Denny Hamlin (8-1) and Ryan Blaney (8-1). Elliott, Busch and Hamlin have all gone to Victory Lane at Martinsville, but Blaney is still seeking that first career win.
At 14-1 odds, keep eyes peeled for both Alex Bowman and Christopher Bell. Bowman won the fall race last year after contact with Hamlin, and Bell enters with top 10s in each of his last two starts in 2022.
RELATED: Odds for Martinsville
Want to manage a team and race your way to the top of the leaderboards? Check out NASCAR Fantasy Live, which is open now. The free-to-play game lets you choose your drivers each week and show off your crew-chief instincts by garaging a driver by the end of Stage 2, and there is a $25,000 prize for the winner.
The 2022 Fantasy Live points leaders are Chase Elliott (235), Ryan Blaney (233) and William Byron (218).
ALSO ON NASCAR.COM
Get additional camera views by logging on to NASCAR Drive, where each week a select number of in-car cameras will be available — as well as a battle cam and an overhead look.
NASCAR has partnered with LiveLike to add fan engagement in the NASCAR Mobile App. Log in to the mobile app during the race for polls, quizzes, the cheer meter and more — and see instant results from NASCAR fans like you.