The NASCAR Cup Series finds itself amid a short track swing on the 2021 season schedule, tasking the teams to find the best setups for the cars on three similar tracks in length (less than a mile) but for three vastly different competitive arenas. From last week’s history-making half-mile Bristol Motor Speedway Dirt track, to this weekend’s historic Martinsville Speedway that stretches 0.526-mile in length with asphalt paved straights and concrete corners, to next weekend’s 0.75-mile asphalt paved Richmond Raceway.
Martinsville Speedway is the longest continuously running track on the NASCAR Cup Series schedule, and the only currently active track that was a part of the inaugural NASCAR Cup Series season in 1949. Martinsville Speedway was originally a dirt track and the facility hosted 12 NASCAR Cup Series races on the then dirt surface before paving the track in the late summer months of 1955, between the track’s two Cup races of that season. In total, there have been 144 NASCAR Cup Series races at Martinsville Speedway, one in the inaugural year (1949) and two races per year since 1950. The first 500-lap event at Martinsville Speedway was in 1956 and the concrete corners were added atop asphalt in 1976.
The 144 NASCAR Cup Series races at Martinsville Speedway are the second-most series events run at a facility behind Daytona International Speedway’s 148 races. Martinsville’s 144 races have produced 61 different pole winners and 54 different race winners; nine of the Cup Series Martinsville Speedway winners are entered this weekend – Denny Hamlin (five wins), Brad Keselowski (two), Kurt Busch (two), Kyle Busch (two), Martin Truex Jr. (two), Chase Elliott (one), Joey Logano (one), Kevin Harvick (one) and Ryan Newman (one).
The first NASCAR Cup Series race at Martinsville Speedway was on Sept. 25, 1949 and won by NASCAR Hall of Famer Red Byron driving an Oldsmobile for car owner Raymond Parks. NASCAR Hall of Famer Richard Petty leads the NASCAR Cup Series in wins at Martinsville Speedway with 15 victories (1960, 1962, 1963, 1967 sweep, 1968, 1969 sweep, 1970, 1971, 1972 sweep, 1973, 1975, 1979) – the most any driver in the series has won at a single track; he also won 15 races at North Wilkesboro. Joe Gibbs Racing’s Denny Hamlin leads the NASCAR Cup Series among active drivers in wins at Martinsville Speedway with five victories (2008, 2009, 2010 sweep, 2015).
This weekend’s Blue-Emu Maximum Pain Relief 500 on Sunday, April 10, at 7:30 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio (Channel 90) will be 500 laps (263 miles) and broken up into the three stages. The first two stages are 130 laps each (68.38 miles each) and the final stage is 240 laps (126.24 miles). This weekend’s starting lineup was determined by Metric Qualifying. Last week’s winner Joey Logano will start on the pole at Martinsville and Logano will be joined by series standings leader Denny Hamlin on the front row.