L2H (Love Like Hate): Goody’s Fast Pain Relief 500

The NASCAR Cup series shifts from its most famous short track, Bristol Motor Speedway, to its shortest short track, Martinsville Speedway, for the Goody’s Fast Pain Relief 500. The track is just 0.526 miles long and uniquely shaped like a paper clip. Although the banking at Bristol is the highest on the circuit, Martinsville is banked just 12 degrees in the turns.

The defending champion of this race is Denny Hamlin. The most recent winner was Jimmie Johnson, who won here in October of last year.

The top-three average career finishes at Martinsville are owned by the drivers who finished second, third and fourth last week at Bristol:

Jimmie Johnson – (last season: fourth @ Goody’s Cool Orange 500, first @ TUMS QuikPak 500)
Winner of four of the last five races here, Johnson also owns the top career average finish (5.6). In 14 career starts, Johnson has a whopping 10 top-fives. He has finished outside of the top-10 only once– his first career start. Johnson enters this race with a streak of 13 straight top-10s and seven top-fives.

Jeff Gordon – (last season: second @ Goody’s Cool Orange 500, fourth @ TUMS QuikPak 500)
Gordon’s numbers at Martinsville are nearly as impressive as his teammate’s. Who is the better start this week is frankly a toss up. Gordon’s average career finish is 6.9, second-best. Gordon enters this race with a streak of 12 consecutive top-10s and eight top-fives.

Denny Hamlin – (last season: first @ Goody’s Cool Orange 500, fifth @ TUMS QuikPak 500)
Although Hamlin does not boast the body of work on par with Johnson and Gordon, he has been impressive nevertheless. In eight career starts, Hamlin has seven top-eights and an average finish of 7.8, third-best.

I love all three drivers this week. If you can squeeze them under your salary cap, do it.

Owners in allocation leagues should hold nothing back given how dominant these three drivers are at this track. Matt Kenseth and Kevin Harvick hurt a lot of owners last week– go for broke.

To fill out your provisional rosters, there a few likeable drivers out there:

Juan Pablo Montoya – (last season: 13th @ Goody’s Cool Orange 500, 14th @ TUMS QuikPak 500)
Despite a single top-10, Montoya owns the fifth best career average finish (12.8) at Martinsville– albeit in only four starts. Those finishes have ranged from eighth to 16th. Montoya is coming off his best finish of the season and — after bumping Jamie McMurray around — does not appear to be holding anything back.

Ryan Newman – (last season: 19th @ Goody’s Cool Orange 500, 23rd @ TUMS QuikPak 500)
In 14 career starts at Martinsville, Newman has five top-fives and six top-10s. Last season’s October race snapped a streak of 10 straight top-20s. After a slow start and some bad luck to begin the season, Newman finished seventh last week. Oh, his teammate Tony Stewart has the fourth-best average finish here (12.6). He’s a pretty good option this week too– depends on how many starts you have.

L2H results last week @ Food City 500
Loves: Kevin Harvick (30th), Matt Kenseth (33rd) Hey, I’m not the only one who got burned.
Likes: Denny Hamlin (second), Dale Earnhardt Jr. (14th), Tony Stewart (17th) Hamlin looks like a man on a mission to win.
Hate: Carl Edwards (15th) Not bad, but not want you’d want anytime you start Edwards.

L2H 2009 Season Tally:
Love/Like average finish: 17.2