By Jared Turner
Martinsville Should Be Jeff Gordon’s Last Race
When Jeff Gordon won at Martinsville Speedway last fall, it seemed like a fairytale ending to the legendary driver’s illustrious career at the Virginia short track. One year later, Gordon is back for an encore – albeit in a No. 88 car instead of his familiar No. 24. Sunday’s race will likely be the 805th and final start of the four-time champion’s lengthy and extraordinarily fruitful tenure in NASCAR’s top series. Gordon, who had every intention of hanging up his driving helmet for good at the conclusion of the 2015 season, has been one of two drivers who’s spent time in Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s No. 88 this season as NASCAR’s most popular driver recovers from a concussion. It seems appropriate that Sunday’s race will be Gordon’s swan song if all goes according to plan. There’s no current or former Sprint Cup Series track where he’s enjoyed more success than Martinsville, where he’s a nine-time winner and has led a whopping 3,779 laps over his 46 starts. Gordon prevailed at Martinsville for the first time in the fall of 1996 and has been a regular face in Victory Lane at the fabled facility ever since.
And Your Championship Favorite Is …
With Brad Keselowski and Martin Truex Jr. – arguably the two championship favorites – now eliminated from Sprint Cup Series title contention, who among the eight remaining hopefuls is most likely to go all the way? Despite only barely making it into the Round of 8, Denny Hamlin deserves the proverbial nod based on the simple fact that he’s twice come painfully close to winning the championship but never sealed the deal. Racing is no different than, say, the NFL or college basketball in that it seems that narrowly losing a championship or two is a perquisite for winning one. If that holds true this year, it’s Hamlin’s time.