NASCAR Returns to the Paperclip After Off-Weekend

The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series returns from the first off-week of the season this weekend at Martinsville Speedway, also known as “The Paperclip.” The race will take place Sunday at 1:15 p.m. on Fox Sports 1 from the half-mile short-track located in Southern Virginia. Beating, banging, tempers flaring, and fenders caved in. It’s going down.

Joey Logano will start on the pole for the STP 500 at Martinsville, his third pole in a row at the track, his fifth out of his last seven qualifying efforts on short tracks and 15th of his career. With a speed of 97.043 MPH (19.513 seconds), Logano will be able to use the No. 1 pit stall, a crucial snag for the No. 22 team.

“It’s huge, I say all the time that Martinsville is the most important track to start up front, and that’s when you’ve got to come here and really show what you’ve got.” said Logano in a post-race interview with FS1. “This is a nice little fire for us to get going. We’ve had a good season so far, but you want to break through and get some wins, and this pole is definitely going to help with some momentum.”

Kasey Kahne, Brian Vickers, Paul Menard, and Ryan Newman rounded out the top five. With AJ Allmendinger, Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin, Matt Kenseth, and Chase Elliott rounding out the top ten starting positions for Sunday’s race.

Some notable driver starting positions include Brad Keselowski in 11th, Martin Truex Jr. in 16th, Kevin Harvick in 19th, Dale Earnhardt Jr. in 21st, Jimmie Johnson in 24th, and Carl Edwards in 25th. All but Keselowski failed to advance past the second round in qualifying.

Chris Osborne will be back on the spotters stand for this weekend’s race. Not many NASCAR fans have heard of him, and for good reason. Spotters are rarely mentioned and severely underappreciated. But Osborne hasn’t spotted for his driver, Matt Kenseth and the No. 20 team, in 2016. He’s been recovering from an accident this offseason when he was hit by a drunk driver. Osborne, his wife, and children, were all severely injured, but are doing fine now after months of recovery and being in and out of hospitals in the Charlotte area.

NASCAR Race Hub did a very nice piece on Osborne’s recovery, which chronicled the outpouring of support from NASCAR Nation, which you can watch here.

Another storyline which will be the “drinking phrase” for the weekend, will be the incident that happened last time NASCAR came to Martinsville. Both drivers have since moved on from it, they say, but it will be interesting to see what happens when the No. 20 and No. 22 run into each other on the track.

Hamlin won this race one year ago, and he has collected five grandfather clocks (the trophy for the winner) in his career. Jimmie Johnson has won eight times as well.

Kyle Busch and Kyle Larson are also participating in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race on Saturday afternoon, the Alpha Energy Solutions 250. One of them finding victory lane is more than likely.

Larson, who has now fully recovered from his violent crash at Auto Club Speedway, took the off weekend to recuperate. He actually missed this race one year ago due to a dehydration fainting spell at an autograph session last season.

My pick to win on Sunday, though, is the six-time champion, Jimmie Johnson. If he converts, he will have won three of the six races this season. That would put his batting average at .500, an unbelievable feat. However, he will have to do so from the 24th starting spot, not easy to do at a short track like Martinsville where track position means almost everything.

Be sure to tune in on Sunday at 1:15 p.m. on FS1 for the first half-mile short-track race of 2016. You won’t want to miss this one. Enjoy the races, everybody!