After a week off for Easter, NASCAR will head to Martinsville Speedway on Apr. 10 for Blu-Emu Maximum Pain Relief 500. Saturday night's event is just the second time the Cup Series will have raced under the lights at the famed paperclip-shaped race track. The Blue-Emu 500 is the first of two events at the Virginia venue; the next one will take place on Oct. 31 to decide the Final Four for the NASCAR title.
Up for grabs is one of the most unique trophies in all of motorsports. The 37 drivers entered will do battle for the seven-foot-tall "Grandfather Clock" or the Ridgeway Clock, first presented in 1964 to NASCAR Hall of Famer Fred Lorenzen.
The 2021 NASCAR Cup Series has produced seven different winners in as many races. If a new winner emerges after 500 laps, it will be just the third time in modern NASCAR history (1972-present) that there has not been a repeat winner, after 2000 and 2003. The overall record is ten straight to open the season, in 2000, and that streak ended when NASCAR Hall of Famer Dale Earnhardt Jr. won race No. 11 at Richmond Raceway. Earnhardt had previously won in Texas.
Every rookie is Chase-ing Briscoe
He has yet to find the winner’s circle but Stewart-Haas Racing first-year premier series driver Chase Briscoe has opened up a 46-point advantage over Anthony Alfredo in the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series Sunoco Rookie of the Year standings. Between the two, however, Briscoe will enter the Blue-Emu 500 as the only one to have had prior experience at Martinsville, when he started fifth and finished seventh in an Xfinity Series start last season.
The NASCAR Blue-Emu 500 will have no practice or qualifying
After the pandemic halted the 2020 season, NASCAR canceled all pre-event practices, and the only qualifying session was for the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. This year, the racing body has selected just eight races where practice and qualifying will be allowed, including the just-completed Food City Dirt Race at Bristol Motor Speedway.
Whether or not there will be weather
NASCAR is staring at yet another race weekend that could be impacted by rain. Back-to-back days of inclement weather forced a Monday doubleheader for the Xfinity and Cup Series two weeks ago at Bristol. Thunderstorms are predicted for most of Saturday, but NASCAR has an open Sunday, should a postponement be needed.
There is a bit of irony here because NASCAR and Goodyear recently held a rain tire test at Martinsville. The idea was to use tires similar to those for road courses but for small tracks. The reviews were called “promising,” but it is only in the testing stage at this point.
Here is a look at the NASCAR Cup Series Blue-Emu 500, by the numbers
RACE: Number 8 of 36
WHAT: Blu-Emu Maximum Pain Relief 500
WHERE: Martinsville Speedway, Ridgeway, VA
WHEN: Saturday, April 10 @ 7:30 p.m.
TV/RADIO: Fox Sports 1 / MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
TRACK SIZE: 0.526-mile paperclip-shaped oval, asphalt/concrete
FRONTSTRETCH / BACKSTRETCH: 800-feet each
BANKING: 12° in corners / 0° on straights
RACE LENGTH: 263 miles (500 laps)
STAGES: 130 / 260 / 500
WEATHER: Thunderstorms during the evening followed by occasional showers overnight. Low 57F. SSW winds at 5 to 10 mph. Chance of rain 90%. (via Weather.com)
ODDS (From VegasInsider):
11/2 Martin Truex Jr.
6/1 Chase Elliott, Brad Keselowski
7/1 Denny Hamlin, Joey Logano
FIRST RACE: Sept. 25, 1949 (Red Byron won the inaugural event)
OWNER: International Speedway Corporation
NICKNAMES: The Paperclip