Posted: Thursday, March 27th 2014 at 3:00am
NASCAR Preview: 6-For-6? Sounds about right
By NASCAR Media
Jimmie Johnson comes into Sunday's NASCAR Sprint Cup raced at Martinsville Speedway looking for his first win of 2014. / Photo: NASCAR via Getty Images
MARTINSVILLE, VA - Five different drivers have won the first five races of the 2014 season. That happened last year, too.
But what hasn’t happened in the 10-year history of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup – six different winners in the first six races.
The way the beginning of this season has unfolded, a record seems ready-made. Here are the last six winners at Martinsville: Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson (twice), Ryan Newman, Tony Stewart, Kevin Harvick and Denny Hamlin. Of that group, only Kevin Harvick has won a race thus far in ‘14.
That suggests one thing: Get ready for 6-for-6.
And the really unique part of all this: If the winner comes from, say, Michael Waltrip Racing or Richard Childress Racing … it’ll also be six different winning TEAMS in the first six races.
And for the record, the record for most unique winners to start a season: 10 in 2000.
Statistically, Johnson, Gordon and Hamlin look like the obvious choices to extend the streak of different winners to start the 2014 season. But Matt Kenseth might be the most intriguing candidate.
During his decade-plus career with Roush Fenway Racing, Kenseth’s best finish at Martinsville was fifth. He led a combined 73 laps during that span. But last year alone, with new team Joe Gibbs Racing, Kenseth led a total of 298 laps – and finished second in the October Martinsville race.
Kenseth, after winning a series-high seven races in 2013, has a best finish of fourth this season (last Sunday).
WDUN will have live MRN Radio coverage of the STP 500 from Martinsville Speedway in Martinsville, VA on Sunday beginning at noon on 102.9 FM and at 1 PM on 550 AM.
NASCAR Nationwide: Smith, Bayne Knotted At The Top
Regan Smith and Trevor Bayne each had one goal when the 2014 NASCAR Nationwide Series season began – bring home the championship trophy. Both drivers came close in 2013, but were unable to complete the mission. This year things could end differently for one of the two current frontrunners.
After the first five races of the season and heading into the series’ first off weekend, Smith and Bayne are tied atop the points standings. Ty Dillon (six points back), Chase Elliott (-eight) and Elliott Sadler (-11) round out the top five.
Smith has held or shared the lead after all five races this season and technically leads the standings due to his victory in the season opener at Daytona International Speedway. The only other time he’s been atop the standings was for 10 consecutive weeks in 2013, beginning at Talladega. Bayne shares the points lead for the first time in his six-year career.
When the series returns to action at 1.5-mile Texas Motor Speedway on April 4, Bayne has experienced success at the track and could possibly take sole possession of the points lead for the first time in his career. Bayne scored his first Nationwide Series win at the track in November 2011. He’s posted top-15 finishes in six of his seven series starts in Texas. His one finish outside the top 15 came in last year’s spring race where he finished 26th.
In seven series starts at the Texas track, Smith’s best finish is sixth, coming last fall. He finished seventh in the spring event last season. In three of his starts, Smith finished lower than 30th.
Smith scored his third consecutive 10th-place finish at Auto Club after his season-opening win and eighth-place showing in Phoenix. He arrived at Auto Club with a one-point advantage over Bayne.
NASCAR Camping World Trucks: Darrell Wallace Jr. Returns For More History
Darrell Wallace Jr. made history last October with his win at Martinsville, becoming the second African-American to win a NASCAR national series event – and the first in 50 years. And now, the 21-year-old looks to make more history in his return trip to the .526-mile track.
After his win in October, Wallace celebrated with family members of the Wendell Scott family who live in nearby Danville. Scott was the first African-American driver to win a national series event, in 1963. Wallace also comes to Martinsville looking to improve his place in the standings after getting collected in a mid-race accident at Daytona.
While Wallace enjoyed the significant accomplishment in the fall, he also looks to become the first driver to win back-to-back races at the paper-clip shaped track since Mike Skinner swept in 2007.
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