There is not much to say about the “Blue-Emu Maximum Pain Relief 500 400” from Martinsville Speedway.
William Byron took the new NEXT GEN car and won the race, his second of the year. He led three times for 212 laps including the final 83 laps, that included an Overtime.
Bryon took the lead under caution at Lap186 when he beat teammate Chase Elliott off of pit road at the end of the Stage 2 Caution.
Elliott had led every lap of Stage 1 and 2 only giving up the lead to Byron on the pit stop seven laps before returning to green to start Stage Three.
Ryan Blaney led five laps-assuming the lead when Byron made his green flag pit stop. Austin Dillon snuck in a lead change when he beat Byron back to the line to take the flag to restart the race’s 4th Run. Byron reassumed the lead before they got back to the line and never looked back. He faced a last lap challenge by Joey Logano how could get to his bumper enough to bump him twice, but it wasn’t enough to move the #24 out of the way.
HMS teammates Byron and Elliott led 394 of the new race length 400 laps.
That’s the long version. Here are the rest of the numbers:
1233 Green Flag Passes. 3.4 passes per green flag lap. That compares to 5.0 for this race last year.
480 Quality Passes. This meant 38.9% of the passes were done in P1-P15 or the front 41.7%. In other words the passing being done was more in the Bottom 21 than the Top 15.
5 Green Flag Passes For Lead. The 2021 500 Lap version had 26.
5 Lead Changes. That number was 18 last year.
3 Green Flag Lead Changes.-2 for Leaders pitting under green,, 1 on a Restart. Dillon got scored as the leader coming to the green flag on the restart. Byron got it back before they made it back around.
0 Racing Lead Changes. Those poor fans who sat out in the snow, rain and cold for this event never saw one driver pass another for the lead under green after three laps past a start or restart. This marks a new season low for RLCs.
All this is a bit surprising considering the NEW CAR and all its new features were supposed to result in tighter racing and more contact.
Many are attributing the lack of action to the tires and the cold temperatures prevented the tires from putting rubber into the track.Warmer temperatures would have created better tire conditions, more wear and a more interesting race. I guess we’ll find out in November.
We did get some new things that Martinsville had not seen before-shifting and aero. Shifting was anticipated with the extra gear in the new transaxle. Aero confuses this writer because one of the bonuses touted about this car was the reduction in aero dependency.
When Martinsville Speedway announced January 27, 2022 the race length was being reduced 100 laps from the traditional 500 lap distance announced in October 2021, Martinsville President Clay Campbell explained to Dave Moody on SIRIUSXM that two reasons for the distance reduction was “Action Compression” and “Race Differentiation.”
Campbell explained that by reducing the race length fans would get 500 laps of action in a 400 lap package and in turn get more exciting racing.
On Race Differentiation, by changing the race length the Spring Race is now a different product from the 500 lap race in the Fall. This is not unlike Charlotte before the introduction of the ROVAL when it was 600 miles in May and 500 miles in October. Martinsville now has two distinct events. This must be important to deliver fans who purchased tickets early (some more than two years ago) for a 500 lap race and got a 400 lap race for their money.
I’m sure they understand the difference in the races now.
Saturday night fans saw Action Compression-the action was so compressed it was non-existent.
Hopefully, on the Race Differentiation, the November race will be different, not only in race length perspective but competitiveness… otherwise Blue-Emu may want to sponsor that race as well.
500 laps of what we saw Saturday will need Maximum Pain Relief.
The most interesting thing about Martinsville may be watching how the race is handled this week.
Thunder On and Stay Safe!
Credits: Nascar.com, Jayski.com, Racing-references.info and Tobychristi.com
Photo credit (cover); Meg Oliphant / Getty Images