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Five things to watch for in today’s Sprint Cup race at Martinsville


during qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Goody’s Headache Relief Shot 500 at Martinsville Speedway on October 30, 2015 in Martinsville, Virginia.

Sarah Crabill

MARTINSVILLE, Va. - Jeff Gordon could be going for his third consecutive victory at Martinsville Speedway today had he not been caught for speeding on pit road in each of the last two races at this short track.

Instead, Gordon seeks to snap a winless streak that stretches more than a year.

He led with 40 laps to go when the caution came out and the field pitted in the spring. He was caught speeding on pit road and lost any chance at victory. Gordon also was caught speeding on pit road in this race a year ago but had 300 laps to overcome it. He finished second.

“Trust me, nobody beats himself up more about it than me,’’ Gordon said of those penalties. “The last time, we were trying to accelerate in a zone that we felt like we were safe to do so. And I think we just underestimated the amount of speed that I could carry into the box.

“Prior to that, I would blame it on myself. I came down pit road and I was supposed to be in first gear carrying whatever rpm it was, and I forgot and I was in second gear. And so that one is completely on me.

“I like to think that I learn from my mistakes and don’t make the same ones over, and they’ve all been different scenarios, but they’ve all been related to pit road. So, I feel very confident in what we have planned for this weekend and in executing it.”

If Gordon can avoid pitfalls on pit road he could score his first victory since Sept. 2014 and earn a spot in the championship round at Homestead-Miami Speedway in his final Sprint Cup season.

That’s just among the storylines in today’s Goody’s Headache Relief Shot 500.

AFTER YOU: Watch the action at the end of pit road and see who suddenly slows and lets another car by.

The reason is that drivers want to be in an odd-numbered spot in the lineup so they can restart on the bottom lane. That’s the preferred lane. It’s such an advantage that drivers are willing to give up a spot to make sure they start on the lower lane.

“Everyone tries to do it,’’ Carl Edwards said. “We’ve got it right, I think, two or three times and I think one or two of those, one of the guys in front of us got a penalty, and we ended up in the wrong line anyway.

“It’s hard to give up one of those spots that you earn so hard on pit road in the hopes that you counted correctly and no one has a penalty. It’s one of those things, you do it, but I don’t know if it’s really a huge factor. I guess in the long run, yes, if you did it all the time and you counted correctly and you were able to do it then it’s good.’’

IT’S GOOD TO BE NO. 1: The first pit stall is advantageous at any track, but it seems to be more valuable at Martinsville Speedway.

Joey Logano, who will start on the pole for today’s race and has the No. 1 pit stall, explained the significance of that stall.

“The camera line is right in front of it, so you don’t have to go very far,’’ Logano said, noting he can fire out of his pit stall. “The safety of being way down there on the other end helps.”

MOVING FORWARD: With clocks moving backward last night, the sun is scheduled to set at 5:22 p.m. ET. The spring race took 3 hours, 49 minutes. With a 1:15 p.m. scheduled start, the race could end close to the time of sun set. Although the potential for rain is decreasing, any delay possibly could threaten the end of this race because Martinsville does not have lights. This could play a role in strategy for teams.

BUMPING AND BEATING: The final green-flag stretch was less than 10 laps in seven of the last 11 races at this track. If that trend continues, there will be a restart that could determine who wins.

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