Something about going to a track that is less than a mile in length just speaks old-school racing. It's what the sport of racing was built on, and has been the center of some great controversy, fights, and even some strange moments.
Six times a year, NASCAR travels to such tracks only six times a year. The final event of that schedule happens this weekend.
It would be appropriate that the shortest track on the circuit could see some big moments, and some big moves in the standings. It's two drag strips, with tight corners. Call it a paper clip, or call it NASCAR's version of rush-hour traffic. Speeds may be slow, but the action will be intense.
Welcome to Martinsville, where the only time the cars are clean are on the pace laps. By the time 500 laps are complete, each car will have a dent, a cracked body panel, donuts, or some form of damage.
It is appropriate that both the real Chase and the fantasy Chase are tight races. It could be a race that everyone can say, "This is where we won it" or "I knew it was over at this point." Just ask Tony Stewart, as this race he made it clear to his closest contender it was going to be a fight to the end, saying "He (Carl Edwards) better be worried."
The writers better be worried themselves, as their picks are locked in. Take a look at who they will go with in the Tums Fast Relief 500:
Misan Akuya: Denny Hamlin
I have been saving this guy for Martinsville. He said on twitter that is time for max points. He is 20 points back with four races to go. He can for sure win the championship.
But he needs to stop losing points. A dominating win at the paperclip will help that effort. Look for him to win the pole too.
James Broomhead: Jeff Gordon
Kelly Crandall: Jeff Gordon
We've gotten to the point in the Chase where most of the drivers we'd love to pick have been used up. At least for me, Johnson and Hamlin are off the table so Gordon it is.
I think he's also won here a time or two.
Billy Fellin: Tony Stewart
I already used Denny Hamlin and JJ this year, both probable winners this weekend. But, I'll have to go with Tony Stewart. He won this race last year, one of his three wins at the Paperclip.
Michael Hirshbein: Tony Stewart
Christopher Leone: Jimmie Johnson
Kara Martin: Denny Hamlin
Ryan O'Hara: Denny Hamlin
Its time to go all out. Bring it on Rob!
Dustin Parks: Jeff Gordon
No other track would do for this pick. Pick him at Chicago...nope, not his best track. Pick him at Talladega...too risky, although he did finish runner-up. Pick him at Charlotte...never had much luck at that track, at least in the fall.
No, this had to be it. He's among the winningest active drivers at Martinsville, and is still trying to claw his way to the front in the Chase. There is no better track to gain maximum points at than at the track he should have won at earlier in the year.
This weekend, the flat and gloss black colors of Pepsi Max will adorn his car, my preferred beverage no less. The stars are lined up...bring it home Big Daddy!!
Patti Rodisch: Jeff Gordon
Honestly, I haven't chosen him and of the remaining races this is his best oppurtunity. Everyone is talking about Hamlin and Johnson this weekend, as the "kings" of Martinsville.
Nobody is talking about Gordon who should have won this race in the spring. Gordon gets win number two of 2012 on Sunday.
Sal Sigala Jr: Jeff Gordon
Rob Tiongson: Jeff Gordon
This one's a no brainer for me - gotta go with Jeff Gordon. Been saving him up all Chase long for this race and without a doubt, he is "Mr. Martinsville."
Don't be surprised if Gordon celebrates with some Papa John's Pizza, Pepsi Max, and a greasy grandfather clock in Victory Lane on Sunday....all the while avoiding 5-Hour Energy unlike in April.
Standings following Kansas:
Rob Tiongson (2241) Brad Keselowski finished 8th (4)
Ryan O'Hara (2235) Kasey Kahne finished 4th (2)
James Broomhead (2226) Brad Keselowski finished 8th (3)
Dustin Parks (2226) Brad Keselowski finished 8th (2)
Kelly Crandall (2221) Brad Keselowski finished 8th (4)
Sal Sigala Jr. (2221) Greg Biffle finished 27th (3)
Patti Rodisch (2204) Clint Bowyer finished 6th (2)
Kara Martin (2197) Jimmie Johnson finished 9th (3)
Misan Akuya (2197) Jeff Gordon finished 10th (1)
Christopher Leone (2192) Martin Truex Jr. finished 2nd (3)
Michael Hirshbein (2187) Clint Bowyer finished 6th (1)
Billy Fellin (2185) Greg Biffle finished 27th (5)
Final Thoughts: It's clear that the writers all have the same idea in order to make the run to the front. Goes to show that great minds do think alike.
Now, the time has come to put them to the test, as NASCAR's version of bumper cars will indeed make or break some Chasers.
Coverage kicks off at 1 p.m. ET on ESPN.
Summary of Picks: