The Starr Report · Cami Starr · Tuesday April 4, 2006
Another short track race has come and gone at Martinsville. The quaint old track in Virginia produced great racing, and even better, this week seemed to pass without the uproar and controversy that followed at Bristol. Still, the race saw some teams get their momentum stopped, while others got back on the steam train of success. Who’s left Martinsville on the right track, and who has derailed? Read this week’s Starr Report to find out.
Dale Earnhardt, Jr.: It seemed like anything that could go wrong, did go wrong for Junior on Sunday… except he still ended the race on top. He and his team were able to battle through wrecks and missing fenders to score a fourth place finish, moving him to sixth in the standings. With five races out of six in the Top 11, it seems like Junior has put last year’s problems behind him…for now.
Jeff Gordon: Gordon had to be drooling on the last restart of the race, with his Hendrick posse behind him and only Tony Stewart in between him and his first win of the season. It just wasn’t meant to be, but Gordon’s run was impressive, as he battled through traffic to regain the positions he lost due to a flat tire and speeding penalty early on to earn his best finish of the season. With three Top 5 finishes in the last four races, Gordon is on a roll. But will it be enough to snap his winless streak in the Lone Star state?
Jimmie Johnson: So much for the Chad Knaus jinx. Johnson returned to top form this weekend at Martinsville, winning the pole and leading 195 laps on his way to his fourth Top 5 finish of the season. His third place run, coupled with problems for Kasey Kahne and Matt Kenseth, puts Johnson in his familiar spot atop of the standings once again.
Jamie McMurray: After a three-week slide, McMurray returned to the Top 10 at Martinsville this Sunday. He was strong this weekend, with a spot on the outside of the front row and a 9th place finish. Now 17th in the standings, he is a long way from the 35th place position he found himself in following the Daytona 500.
Reed Sorenson: Martinsville is a tough track for any driver, but it’s especially rough on rookies. It didn’t seem that way for Reed Sorenson, though. His 12th place finish was tops among the rookie class, and his second top 15 finish in the last three races has pulled him back up to 24th in points. The finish also helped to tighten the race for Rookie of the Year honors, with second to fifth place separated now by only four points (Clint Bowyer continues to lead all rookies).
Kevin Harvick: Back-to-back short track races have helped Harvick make his way back up the standings. With a runner up finish at Bristol and a 7th place finish at Martinsville, Harvick finds himself 12th in the rankings headed to Texas this week. But can he continue this momentum on the larger tracks on the circuit?
Ryan Newman: Newman has qualified in the top 10 the last three races, but has turned that into only one Top 10 finish. It seems like Newman keeps shooting himself in the foot. Sunday’s race at Martinsville is a good example. He faded out of the Top 10 in the first 150 laps, then got socked with a penalty for intentionally causing a caution when he got a flat tire late in the race. When the day ended, he was in 18th place, 2 laps behind, for another mediocre finish.
Casey Mears: Mears started off the season on a roll with three straight Top 10 finishes. But things have gone steadily downhill since then. Three straight finishes of 20th or worse have Mears on the verge of falling out of the Top 10 in the standings for the first time this year.
Clint Bowyer: Bowyer is taking the lead in the ROTY battle into Texas this weekend, but if his finishes don’t start to improve it won’t be his lead for long. Three straight finishes of 22nd or worse have dropped him to 16th in the points. Not bad for a rookie, but he’s shown that he can do better.
Michael Waltrip: After "buying" a guaranteed spot in the first five races of the year, Waltrip hasn’t put his free pass to very good use to build up much of a cushion for his new team. With only two Top 20 finishes, Mikey sits 35th in owner points and sits on the bubble for that all important position in the standings. The bright spot for Waltrip is that Talladega is only three races away.
David Stremme: While the Rookie of the Year race is starting to heat up, Stremme is quickly losing touch with the rest of the field. With no finish better than his 28th place start to the season at Daytona, Stremme is buried 37th in points, and now has the added pressure of qualifying on speed until he can dig himself out of this hole.
This weekend we head back to the bigger tracks with Texas. Will someone this week become the first two-time Texas winner and add another cowboy hat to their collection? Can Jeff Gordon break his Texas drought and bring home his first win of the season? Will Dale, Jr. purposely knock off his fenders this week at a superspeedway, since it seemed to work so well at Martinsville? Can Ryan Newman get out of his slump in the Intrepid, or will he finally see the light and make a move to the Charger? Only time will tell, and I can’t wait to find out the answers.
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