In a sense, NASCAR needed a break for Easter.  But then again, it certainly wasn't a quiet week off for the sport.  One of the favorite drivers among fans and a respected one in the garage now is on the sidelines, thanks to injury.

The way California ended left a sour taste in the mouth for some, but the injury to Hamlin took away any celebration, and any fight.  With up to a six-week layoff, the title hopes for the No. 11 team have taken a big hit, at least when it comes to the driver's title.

Now that NASCAR is back to work, some drivers are ready to take out some aggression, some anger, and take it out on another driver's equipment.

The track is just a half mile, with the tightest corners on the circuit.  Speeds are fast, and slow, but the traffic jam it causes makes rush hour on the 405 Freeway seem like child's play.  It's a track famous for the racing it holds, as well as the amount of hot dogs it sells.

Welcome to the "Paper Clip" that is known as Martinsville.

The writers certainly are anxious to get back into the race, especially with some big races looming.  The picks are in, and the time has come to go short-track racing.  Here's a look at who the baker's dozen chose to win the STP Gas Booster 500:


Misan Akuya:  Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Maybe this is his year.  Points leader, worst finish is 7th.  Five straight top tens at Martinsville.  Junior is looking good for a championship run.

Rob Blount:  Jimmie Johnson

It's Martinsville and Denny Hamlin is hurt.  Need another reason why Johnson will be the man to beat?

James Broomhead:  Clint Bowyer

Must admit, I was little bit for a gut feeling on this one, given the guy I would normally pick has his feet up and his back in a brace.

With him out of the equation, I'll go for Clint to add to his personal Martinsville highlight reel (at the mostly him bumping Jeff Gordon out of the way) with a win Sunday.

Kelly Crandall:  Dale Earnhardt Jr.

It's not the norm when it comes to Martinsville, but the short track has become one of his best tracks.  He just needs to break through and for some reason, his name kept coming to me this week.

Billy Fellin:  Jimmie Johnson

With Hamlin out of commission, I'm going with the other Martinsville master.  Johnson owns at the Paper Clip, and I don't see that changing Sunday.

Michael Hirshbein:  Kyle Busch

No reason.

Christopher Leone:  Mark Martin

Lets go with the least likely pick out of the front runners, just for kicks. I figure my title shot, like Denny Hamlin's, is out of reach already anyway.

Kara Martin:  Jeff Gordon

No reason.

Ryan O'Hara:  Jeff Gordon

Picking the 7-time winner at this track to win. The last spring race here run on the old car was 2006. The race was dominated by both Tony Stewart and Jimmie Johnson with Stewart winning.

But,Stewart made an ***  of himself at Auto Club and JJ finished behind Jeff, so I need some points. Win please.

Dustin Parks:  Jeff Gordon

Considering I've not had the best of luck so far this season, and also the fact that through five races, just two victories have been achieved by any writers, I needed a sure-fire winner at Martinsville.

So, went with what doesn't lie, and that's statistics and history.  Seven-time winner, and someone that just loves this place.  Here comes #24.

Patti Rodisch:  Jeff Gordon

I have a feeling this is one driver who will be driving a little angry on Sunday.  Should have won this race a year ago; he was within half a straightaway from the checkered flag.

It is Martinsville and Gordon will finally close the deal here for the first time since 2007.

Sal Sigala Jr:  Brad Keselowski

​No reason.

Rob Tiongson:  Jeff Gordon

Before Jimmie Johnson got the deed to Martinsville, it was JG who owned the paperclip speedway. Since then, he's been SO close to winning but to no avail. Look for him to return back to VL on Sunday.


Standings following California:

Patti Rodisch (197) Matt Kenseth finished 7th (0)

Rob Tiongson (189) Jimmie Johnson finished 12th (1)

Sal Sigala Jr. (164) Jimmie Johnson finished 12th (0)

Michael Hirshbein (163) Kyle Busch WON (1)

Billy Fellin (163) Matt Kenseth finished 7th (0)

Kelly Crandall (159) Matt Kenseth finished 7th (0)

Rob Blount (159) Jimmie Johnson finished 12th (0)

Dustin Parks (148) Kevin Harvick finished 13th (0)

James Broomhead (145) Matt Kenseth finished 7th (0)

Ryan O'Hara (144) Greg Biffle finished 5th (0)

Misan Akuya (140) Matt Kenseth finished 7th (0)

Kara Martin (140) Jimmie Johnson finished 12th (0)

Christopher Leone (138) Jimmie Johnson finished 12th (0)


Final Thoughts:  It's no surprise that with Hamlin out who would be the top pics for Sunday.  But then again, everyone knows that on short tracks, emotions certainly get the better of people.  Last year's race was evident of that, with one corner changing the way the outcome would be.

It would not surprise anyone that this race could have a similar outcome.

FOX returns to it's broadcasting duties beginning at 12:30 p.m. ET, with the race going green about 45 minutes afterward.


Summary of Picks:

Jeff Gordon-5

Dale Earnhardt Jr-2

Jimmie Johnson-2

Clint Bowyer-1

Kyle Busch-1

Brad Keselowski-1

Mark Martin-1