Denny Hamlin expects the same list of contenders this weekend

Denny Hamlin, who won the most recent Daytona 500 on a 2.5-mile track, is happy to be visiting NASCAR’s oldest and shortest Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series speedway this weekend.

In Hamlin’s view, .526-mile Martinsville Speedway features something else that’s short—the list of potential winners.

“There’s really five guys that are kind of up front in those races,” Hamlin says. “It doesn’t really change much from that.”

In fact, there are only eight active drivers who have won at Martinsville since 2011: Jimmie Johnson three times, Kyle Busch twice and Ryan Newman, Kurt Busch, Hamlin, Brad Keselowski, Clint Bowyer and Joey Logano once each.

Cup drivers will be using the new competition package at Martinsville with roughly 750 horsepower and increased downforce through the implementation of a larger spoiler, leading Hamlin to predict a possible track record due to higher cornering speeds.

But Hamlin doesn’t expect the new rules to change the list of contenders for the coveted grandfather clock trophy.

“It doesn’t really matter what the package is,” Hamlin said. “You always continue to kind of race against the same guys. I think there’s a technique there. Sometimes somebody different will hit it and be in contention, but ultimately, it seems like the race winners are all the same group.”

All told, Hamlin has five victories at the track. Johnson has nine wins, most among active drivers, but he hasn’t finished better than 12th since picking up his ninth victory in the fall race of 2016.

Greg Engle