The Martinsville Secret

Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Freight Toyota, practices for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Goody's Fast Relief 500 at Martinsville Speedway on March 30, 2012 in Martinsville, Virginia. (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)

MARTINSVILLE, Va. — Why do some drivers develop a mastery of Martinsville and others seem clueless at the .526-mile track?

“I just think that it’s either you get it, or you don’t,” says four-time Martinsville winner Denny Hamlin, who has posted 11 top-10s in his 13 starts at the paper-clip-shaped track. “It’s very few times you see someone who used to be terrible at this place that is now running good.”

Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Freight Toyota, practices for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Goody's Fast Relief 500 at Martinsville Speedway on March 30, 2012 in Martinsville, Virginia. (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)

Martinsville is similar to the some of the short tracks that provided the foundation for Hamlin’s career, but it’s unlike any other venue in the Sprint Cup Series. Flat and narrow with tight corners, Martinsville favors drivers who can develop a rhythm and save their equipment for the end of a race.

“Usually, it’s just you’ve got it from the beginning or you don’t,” Hamlin said. “This track races different than any track we go to on our circuit. I don’t know what it is and why some drivers struggle or why some drivers are better. I know why the drivers that are better — I know why they’re better — but I’m not going to say that and tell you why.

“It’s just a tough race track to figure out. Even though it’s as small as it is, there are so many little things you can do to have good speed and have good speed over the long run here. It’s hard to teach that.”

About Greg Engle 7420 Articles
Greg is a published award winning sportswriter who spent 23 years combined active and active reserve military service, much of that in and around the Special Operations community. Greg is the author of "The Nuts and Bolts of NASCAR: The Definitive Viewers' Guide to Big-Time Stock Car Auto Racing" and has been published in major publications across the country including the Los Angeles Times, the Cleveland Plain Dealer and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He was also a contributor to Chicken Soup for the NASCAR Soul, published in 2010, and the Christmas edition in 2016. He wrote as the NASCAR, Formula 1, Auto Reviews and National Veterans Affairs Examiner for Examiner.com and has appeared on Fox News. He holds a BS degree in communications, a Masters degree in psychology and is currently a PhD candidate majoring in psychology. He is currently the weekend Motorsports Editor for Autoweek.