Saturday, October 24, 2009

NASCAR Sprint Cup: Flyin' Ryan Rips Off Fastest Time at Martinsville

Rounding the track at a speed of 96.795 miles per hour, the #39 US Army sponsored car of Ryan Newman topped the top chart for the Tums Fast Relief 500 at Martinsville Speedway. Nicking Jeff Gordon by just 0.056 seconds, this is Ryan Newman's second pole of the Sprint Cup season. Seated behind an outstanding 3rd place qualifying effort posted by Martin Truex Jr in the #1 Chevrolet, Mark Martin's #5 Kellogg's Chevrolet is ready to mount a resurgent effort to close the 90 point gap between him and Hendrick Motorsport teammate Jimmie Johnson. Martin posted the fastest speed earlier in the day in the NASCAR Sprint Cup's practice

Providing tight quarters racing for 43 cars, this short track of Martinsville Speedway is the first of two races expected to be wild cards for the 2009 NASCAR Sprint Cup's Chase (the AMP 500 at Talladega next week is likely to be the other major challenge). Qualifying for the Tums Fast Relief 500 lap race at the 0.526 mile short track supplied a sampling for what could be a pending shake-up to the Chase of the Cup. While chase runners Newman, Gordon, and Martin had all positioned themselves in the top 4, the next highest chase contending driver could only muster 13th place. That car was the #14 Old Spice/Office Depot Chevrolet of Tony Stewart who will need to start 7 rows behind his team car on Sunday. Rounding out the top five for the Tums Fast Relief 500 at Martinsville Speedway is the #00 Aarons Toyota of David Reutimann, effectively breaking Chevrolet's bowtie brigade a chance to dominate the first five spots in pole qualifying.

In 15th place (in a run that is playing up as struggling) Jimmie Johnson will have full intentions of dulling the 2009 Chase for the Sprint Cup. Having 6 prior wins and a career finishing position average of 5.3 at Martinsville Speedway, Johnson and his #48 Lowes Chevrolet are hardly in distressing shape for Sunday's 500 lap race. Chase participants Denny Hamlin (winner of the last Sprint Cup short track event at Richmond) as well as Chase cat Juan Pablo Montoya will start 17th and 21st facing much less optimistic odds for the 2009 Sprint Cup following recent race events.

Posting a comparably better qualifying effort than last week at Lowes Motor Speedway in Charlotte, Johnson's Hendrick Motorsports teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr posted a solid 12th place at Martinsville. Traditionally running well at the tight quarters of this flat Virginia short track, the major obstacle for the #88 Chevrolet will be to finish the event in a spot fitting their race run. Rare Hendrick Motorsports mechanical Gremlins coupled with getting caught by other drivers' mistakes have ruined Earnhardt Jr's races for much of the 2009 season.

Deeper in the Sprint Cup field but expected to eventually post a serious challenge at the Martinsville short track are the Roush-Fenway Racing Ford of Jamie McMurray in 23rd. Driving what is believed to be the final Martinsville race in the #26 Crown Royal Ford, McMurray's performance has often been spectacular. Starting in 28th, Carl Edwards enters what is considered to be has worst performing race track scoring just 2 top 10 finishes in 10 previous events.

Set to go 500 laps around Martinsville Speedway Sunday, race start is slated at 1:30PM Eastern time.

Tums Fast Relief 500 at Martinsville Speedway Qualifying Results

Top 10

1. Ryan Newman #39 Chevrolet (C)
2. Jeff Gordon #24 Chevrolet (C)
3. Martin Truex Jr #1 Chevrolet
4. Mark Martin #5 Chevrolet (C)
5. David Reutimann #00 Toyota
6. Casey Mears #07 Chevrolet
7. Joey Logano #20 Toyota
8. Bobby Labonte #96 Ford
9. Reed Sorenson #43 Dodge
10. Kevin Harvick #29 Chevrolet

Other Notables

12. Dale Earnhardt Jr #88 Chevrolet
13. Tony Stewart #14 Chevrolet (C)
15. Jimmie Johnson #48 Chevrolet (C)
17. Denny Hamlin #11 Toyota (C)
20. Greg Biffle #16 Ford (C)
21. Juan Pablo Montoya #42 Chevrolet (C)
24. Brian Vickers #83 Toyota (C)
26. Kasey Kahne #9 Dodge (C)
29. Carl Edwards #99 Ford (C)
32. Matt Kenseth #17 Ford
37. Kurt Busch #2 Dodge (C)
47. Kyle Busch #18 Toyota

'(C) Denotes Chase contender'

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