If it’s stock car racing history you’re after, it’s hard to beat a trip to Martinsville Speedway, located just south of Martinsville, Virginia. Built in 1947, it was one of the first tracks to be paved, and it’s been on the NASCAR schedule since 1949.

The half-mile oval, with its mere 12-degrees of banking in corners, may not be as visually impressive as tracks like Daytona or Talladega, but it’s known for producing tight racing, with plenty of drama and last-minute passes. In that regard, it’s a lot like the current standings in the Chase for the Championship.

Brad Kesleowski maintains his points lead heading into Sunday’s race, but second place Jimmie Johnson is just seven points down. Keselowski has never won at Martinsville, so it’s hard to pick him as a favorite for Sunday’s race.

Johnson, on the other hand, has won at Martinsville six times, but his most recent victory came in March of 2009. Since then, Denny Hamlin, who sits third in championship points, has amassed three wins at Martinsville, so that’s where our money would go if we were the betting type.

Tony Stewart, who sits seventh in the championship, won last year’s Tums Fast Relief 500, and a victory at Martinsville could put him back in the running for the championship. Assuming his crew can get it together this weekend and not repeat the mistakes of Kansas, Smoke could well be a wild card in Virginia.

In other news, Dale Earnhardt Jr. will be back in the number 88 car for Hendrick Motorsports, having received the medical thumbs-up to drive on Tuesday. Freelancer A.J. Almendinger will return to the number 51 car for Phoenix Racing for the third consecutive week, despite doubts about his future with the team in Kansas.

Sunday’s weather calls for overcast skies, with temperatures in the high 50s. If southwest Virginia isn’t in your immediate travel plans, you can catch the race live on ESPN, beginning at 1:00 p.m. Eastern.

Image credit: Nascar1996, CC 3.0