MARTINSVILLE, Va. — Will there be payback?
The last time NASCAR Cup series drivers competed at Martinsville Speedway, they did a lot more taking than giving late in the race with playoff positions potentially on the line.
Chase Elliott got into Brad Keselowski. Denny Hamlin got into Elliott. Ryan Blaney and Kevin Harvick had their issues and postrace discussion.
Hamlin, who certainly lost the battle of public opinion for punting Elliott, isn’t trying to think about last October.
“Those type of incidents have happened for a long time in the course of NASCAR history by a lot of different people, and I think it really had a lot to do with the people in play,” Hamlin said.
“Maybe if the shoe was on the other foot, there would have been cheers. It’s part of short-track racing. … It was just bad to be a part of it on that particular night.”
Keselowski hasn’t forgotten.
“I expect that will come back the other way somewhere down the line,” Keselowski said about the way Elliott drove him on a late restart. “We’re both going to be racing for hopefully for a long time, and I’ll make sure it does.”
Will that be at Martinsville? Maybe. Many believe Elliott got Hamlin back at Phoenix two weeks after that Martinsville race last year.
“It’s very difficult to move guys out of the way,” Elliott said. “It’s easy to make a mistake and to wreck them. I’m probably not good enough to move them out of the way and not wreck them.
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“For me, I just better figure out a way to pass them without touching them, would probably be the best option. But there are going to come times when you are going to be racing hard and you are going to touch and you are going to move guys and people aren’t going to be happy, and that is part of it.”
Here is the breakdown for the STP 500, scheduled for Sunday at 2 p.m. ET (weather permitting) at Martinsville Speedway:
1. Martin Truex Jr. (Furniture Row Racing No. 78 Toyota): Coming off his first win of the season, the series points leader heads to a track where he has three career top-5 finishes. One of those was in October, when he started second and finished second.
2. Kyle Busch (Joe Gibbs Racing No. 18 Toyota): It’s about time for him to win, considering he posted finishes of second, second and third in the West Coast swing. In his last five Martinsville starts, he has two wins (including last October), five top-5s and led 813 laps.
3. Joey Logano (Team Penske No. 22 Ford): Penske drivers are 3-4-5 in the points. Now they just need a win.
4. Brad Keselowski (Team Penske No. 2 Ford): Keselowski won this race a year ago and has four consecutive top-5 finishes at Martinsville.
5. Ryan Blaney (Team Penske No. 12 Ford): Wonder what people remember more about last October — Blaney’s eighth-place finish or the fact that he got under Kevin Harvick’s skin?
6. Denny Hamlin (Joe Gibbs Racing No. 11 Toyota): Hamlin won four out of six Martinsville races from 2008 to 2010 but has won just once in the last 13. He was 39th and 30th in the last two Martinsville springs races and still has an average finish of 10th at the track. He might have gotten into a few heated confrontations after the race last October.
7. Kyle Larson (Chip Ganassi Racing No. 42 Chevrolet): Martinsville is one of only five tracks where he has averaged worse than a 20th-place finish. Larson was third in this race two years ago but has a 23.6 average finish in eight career Martinsville starts.
8. Kevin Harvick (Stewart-Haas Racing No. 4 Ford): Believe it or not, Kevin Harvick is eighth in the standings. He has three wins but a 20-point penalty and only earned two points last week at California.
9. Clint Bowyer (Stewart-Haas Racing No. 14 Ford): Bowyer has five top-5 finishes at Martinsville and was third in the race in October.
10. Aric Almirola (Stewart-Haas Racing No. 10 Ford): He has seven consecutive finishes outside the top-10 at Martinsville but is part of a Stewart-Haas Racing lineup that is 8-9-10-11 in points.
11. Kurt Busch (Stewart-Haas Racing No. 41 Ford): Busch has finished 13th or worse — an average of 25.4 — in the last seven Martinsville races since winning in April 2014.
12. Austin Dillon (Richard Childress Racing No. 3 Chevrolet): He hopes that hanging with Florida Georgia Line in Indianapolis on Thursday wasn’t the highlight of the week.
13. Erik Jones (Joe Gibbs Racing No. 20 Toyota): Doing what he needs to do so far this year as Jones started and finished in the top-10 in all three West Coast races.
14. Ryan Newman (Richard Childress Racing No. 31 Chevrolet): Newman did filming this week for a new eBay Motors deal. Hopefully he doesn’t see any of his engines being sold on eBay.
15. Paul Menard (Wood Brothers Racing No. 21 Ford): Menard has two top-10s in 21 career starts at the track.
16. Alex Bowman (Hendrick Motorsports No. 88 Chevrolet): It could be a learning weekend for Bowman. His only experience at the track is four Cup races in 2014-15, with no finish in the top-20.
17. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (Roush Fenway Racing No. 17 Ford): Stenhouse has back-to-back top-10 finishes at Martinsville but will move to the rear of the field for the start after wrecking his primary car in practice.
18. Jimmie Johnson (Hendrick Motorsports No. 48 Chevrolet): He has nine wins at Martinsville, and it could be the place where he snaps his longest winless streak (28 races) or second-longest non-top-5 drought (12) of his career.
19. Darrell Wallace Jr. (Richard Petty Motorsports No. 43 Chevrolet): He won twice at Martinsville in a truck and led 261 laps in four starts. Cup will be way different, but at least he has confidence there.
20. William Byron (Hendrick Motorsports No. 24 Chevrolet): Raced twice at Martinsville in a truck in 2016. Just getting 500 laps under his belt will be important Sunday.
21. Chase Elliott (Hendrick Motorsports No. 9 Chevrolet): He led 123 laps in October, and it ended, well, if you don’t know how it ended, we have two words for you: Denny Hamlin.
22. Chris Buescher (JTG Daugherty Racing No. 37 Chevrolet): Buescher gets married next week, so he has something to look forward to if he doesn’t run well. But he might run well — he finished 11th in this race a year ago.
23. Daniel Suarez (Joe Gibbs Racing No. 19 Toyota): He has one top-10 in five races this year and probably had expected more.
24. Michael McDowell (Front Row Motorsports No. 34 Ford): His career-best at Martinsville is 18th in 14 career starts.
25. AJ Allmendinger (JTG Daugherty Racing No. 47 Chevrolet): Allmendinger has two career top-5s at Martinsville, including finishing second in this race two years ago.
26. Jamie McMurray (Chip Ganassi Racing No. 1 Chevrolet): It has recently been very good or very bad for McMurray at Martinsville. He has three top-10s and three finishes outside the top-20 in his last six Martinsville starts.
27. Trevor Bayne (Roush Fenway Racing No. 6 Ford): He has steadily improved at Martinsville, including a sixth-place finish in October.
28. David Ragan (Front Row Motorsports No. 38 Ford): If you predict he will finish somewhere 22nd-25th, you have a good chance of being right. That’s where he has finished in the last four Cup races.
29. Kasey Kahne (Leavine Family Racing No. 95 Chevrolet): The last couple of weeks have been frustrating, with back-to-back 24th-place finishes.
30. Harrison Rhodes (Rick Ware Racing No. 51 Chevrolet): It will be the second career start for Rhodes.
31. Matt DiBenedetto (Go Fas Racing No. 32 Ford): The team has started a program that if a fan produces a lead/contact for what turns into a race sponsorship, the fan can get passes and special access for a race.
32. Ty Dillon (Germain Racing No. 13 Chevrolet): Dillon hasn’t had many good days on the track, but his YouTube videos have been interesting to watch.
33. Ross Chastain (Premium Motorsports No. 15 Chevrolet): He finished seventh in the Martinsville truck race last April, his first start at Martinsville in any series since 2014.
34. Gray Gaulding (BK Racing No. 23 Toyota): Team owner Ron Devine is still in charge for now. A court hearing Thursday will be resumed this Wednesday to determine whether to appoint a trustee to operate the finances of the team as it goes through bankruptcy.
35. Cole Whitt (TriStar Motorsports No. 72 Chevrolet): He has finished 28th in all three of his starts this year.
36. Landon Cassill (StarCom Racing No. 00 Chevrolet): Cassill replaces Jeffrey Earnhardt in this ride for at least for two weeks.
37. D.J. Kennington (Gault Brothers Racing No. 96 Toyota): He has raced just twice at Martinsville, in a truck in 2010 and again in 2016.
38. J.J. Yeley (Premium Motorsports No. 55 Chevrolet): Yeley is making his first Cup start of the season.