Good, Bad and Ugly: Jeff Gordon just too good

Mark Garrow provides drivers' trends for Sunday's TUMs QuickPak 500 at Martinsville Speedway in Martinsville, Va.

* Driver needs to qualify for the race based on time.
# Driver is eligible for the champion's provisional.

*AJ Allmendinger

• He's driving the 10 for GEM this weekend and is scheduled to finish the season with them. He has two starts at Martinsville with finishes of 38th and 35th.

• I wouldn't have been that high on Allmendinger coming into this race if he was still with Team Red Bull and I continue to rate him low at Martinsville, especially since he's making a start with a brand-new team this week.

Aric Almirola

• Almirola has two previous Cup Series starts here, finishing 43rd and 42nd.

• Almirola qualified eighth this past spring and appeared to have a fast race car but a radiator leak did him in. With an SCC value of 15.6 he could be tempting, but let's see again if he can qualify and practice as well as he did earlier this year. The other thing that gnaws on me about Almirola is that Martinsville is brutal on inexperienced drivers and the veterans use them up for caution flags.

Greg Biffle

• Biffle has 11 starts here with a top-10 and an average finish of 26.3. He's driving the same car he won with at New Hampshire last month.

• He is a toughie this week. His Martinsville stats aren't very pretty, but on the flip side his Loudon stats were just about as ugly and he broke through for a win on a track that is Martinsville on steroids. Biffle is confident he can run better this weekend because of that race, but I'm not too sure.

Dave Blaney

• Blaney has made 15 starts here and finished as high as 16th, which was one of four top-20s on this half-mile track.

• I know some people will want to talk about taking Blaney because his SCC value is so low at 14.8, but this guy has done nothing at all on the flat tracks this year whether it be Phoenix, Loudon or Martinsville and has scored very few points on the short tracks overall.

*Mike Bliss

• Bliss is driving the 00 for MWR this weekend. He has eight starts here with an average finish of 30.1 with two DNFs. His most recent start here was last year's spring race where he finished 30th.

• As good a short-track racer as he is and with an SCC value of only 11.1, Bliss is a possible "budget buster" pick this week. His previous Cup stats at this place are junk but he had six top-10 runs in the Truck races at Martinsville, including a runner-up. He's been running up front consistently on the Nationwide Series lately, so keep an eye on his progress this weekend.

Clint Bowyer

• In five starts here, Bowyer has a best finish of ninth. Over those five races, he has a 15th-place finishing average and has completed all but four of the possible laps. He is driving the same car he drove to wins at Loudon last year and Richmond this year.

• Tenth in the spring at Martinsville, Bowyer is eighth in my rankings based on the strength of that run and the fact that in the five previous short-track races this year only one driver has scored more points. His SCC value is pretty high at 22.1, but he'll be money in the bank top-10 come Sunday.

Jeff Burton

• In 28 starts at Martinsville, Burton boasts one win, 10 top-5s and 14 top-10s. He has a 14.5 finishing average and has led 662 laps. He's driving the same car he drove to a victory earlier this year at Bristol.

• Coming off his second win of the season, I don't see Burton scoring a second win in a row, but he will be very competitive, which is why I rank him fifth. He was third this past spring and has finished no worse than 12th in the past three Martinsville outings with an average finish of seven over that span. At 22.9 in SCC, this might be the time to lock in Burton before he rises into the 23.5-24 range which should happen over the next two or three races. Remember, he's pretty solid at Atlanta.

Kurt Busch

• At Martinsville, Busch has one win, two top-5s and four top-10s in 16 races. He's driving the same car he drove to a win at Loudon this summer.

• The former champ is maddeningly inconsistent. He was third at Charlotte but had three junk finishes before that. However, sixth at Loudon in September should set him up a little for this weekend, but he hasn't done much on the other flat tracks like Martinsville and Phoenix this year. And not to mention on the short tracks he's only 20th in points scored in five races this year and was 30th at Martinsville this past spring after starting 20th. He's too risky for me this weekend despite a friendly SCC value of 18.1.

Kyle Busch

• Busch has seven starts here with four top-10s, three top-5s and an average finish of 16.7. He finished 38th here in the spring and fourth in this race last year.

• He got some of the good mojo back by finishing fourth at Charlotte but had big-time problems here earlier this year and when it comes to SCC, I'm just not sure he's worth risking 22.2, even if I had a gut feeling or maybe a bad burrito and ranked him fourth. Johnson is above him with Gordon and Hamlin just below. That sort of puts Kyle in the middle and makes him not a buy in my opinion.

*Derrick Cope

• Cope has 24 starts here with two top-10s and an average finish of 25.2. His most recent start here was this race in 2005 where he finished 33rd.

Dale Earnhardt Jr.

• In 17 Cup starts at Martinsville, Junior has scored seven top-5s and eight top-10s. He has also led 758 laps. He's driving the same car he drove to a fourth-place finish last month at Richmond.

• Junior ran sixth earlier this year and he could finish in the top 10 again. I don't see a top-5 or a win because there are simply too many better guys. Like Kyle Busch, his relatively high value in SCC makes him unattractive when you figure he's a top-10 guy, not top-5.

Carl Edwards

• Edwards' average finish at Martinsville Speedway is 19.1. In his previous eight starts, Edwards has one top-10, which was a ninth earlier this year. He's driving the same car he drove to a win at Pocono this season.

• If you don't already have Edwards, this would not be the week to add him to your roster. He should squeak out a top-10 at Martinsville but that's all you can hope for. If you're holding him this might be the week to trade down to a Gordon or Hamlin to create some cap space and plot your stretch run over the final five races. He's definitely overpriced in SCC for this Sunday's race at 23.2.

#Bill Elliott

• Elliott has 44 starts here with 14 top-10s, three top-5s and an average finish of 17.0. He finished both this race last year and the spring race this year in 34th.

David Gilliland

• Gilliland has an average finish of 29.0 at Martinsville.

• He finished 25th and 24th in the past two Martinsville starts. He should be improved a little bit but a top-20 may be a stretch. His SCC value of 15.1 will have a few people looking at him. He's 21st in points scored this year on the short tracks. My gut tells me not to go there.

Jeff Gordon

• In 31 starts here, Gordon has seven wins, seven poles, 19 top-5s, 25 top-10s and only three finishes worse than 12th. His average starting position is 6.6 and his average finish is 7.0.

• I gave Gordon the No. 1 spot in my rankings because he's finished no worse than third in the past three races at Martinsville and has seven victories on the half-mile track. Gordon also knows this will be his best chance over the final five races to end his losing drought and keep alive a string of 14 straight seasons with at least one win. He's fifth in short-track points scored this year. It's time to add Gordon at a cap-friendly price of 21.2.

Robby Gordon

• Gordon has 16 starts here with an average finish of 33.8. He has never finished in the top 20 here and has finished 34th or worse in the past six races.

• As good as Jeff Gordon has finished at Martinsville, Robby Gordon has been bad. This track just doesn't marry up very well to a man who can't keep his temper under control.

Denny Hamlin

• Hamlin has six starts here with five top-10s, three top-5s, a win and an average finish of 9.5. He's driving the same car he drove to top-10s this year at Loudon.

• I like Denny a lot this weekend for a number of reasons. First, he won here in the spring and has three top-5s and four top-10s in the past four Martinsville races. I think his SCC price is a cap-friendly 20.9 and he should be pretty strong in all of the four remaining races after this weekend.

Kevin Harvick

• In 14 starts here, Harvick has five top-10s. Additionally, he has led laps during four of the events with the most recent in October 2004, when he led 104 laps and finished eighth.

• After nine straight top-10 runs, Harvick has hit potholes the past two races. I did, however, rank him 10th, but don't expect any more than that and with an SCC price of 21.1 you definitely don't trade for him at Martinsville.

*Sam Hornish Jr.

• Hornish will make his second Cup start here. He finished 28th earlier this year. He is also racing in the Truck race to get seat time at the track.

• His SCC value of 13.9 makes you wonder if he'd be worth a gamble, but I have five words for you: Don't you dare do it!

Jimmie Johnson

• Johnson has made 13 starts at Martinsville, collecting four wins, nine top-5s and 12 top-10s. He has an average finish of 9.1. He's driving the same car he drove to a win this year at Richmond.

• What's not to love here. Johnson has no weaknesses in the five remaining races including Martinsville, where he's had three firsts and a fourth-place run in the past four outings on the half-mile track. I put a saddle on him at the beginning of the Chase and am just going to let him show me the points. I have him ranked second only because I think teammate Jeff Gordon needs a win more and is going to be driving like a getaway driver after a bank robbery.

Kasey Kahne

• Kahne has an average finish of 17th at Martinsville with one top-5 and two top-10s. His best finish of second came in the spring of 2005.

• His past three starts at Martinsville haven't been that great so I didn't give Kahne a whole lot of love ranking him 17th. He could run top-15 but that's about it in my opinion. He's 14th in points scored on the short tracks this year.

Matt Kenseth

• In his previous starts at Martinsville, Kenseth has achieved two top-5s and five top-10s. He's led 60 laps here.

• Kenseth's luck has been so bad you almost don't want to walk around him for fear of a lightning strike. He doesn't like racing at Martinsville and he races with that attitude as well, which means trouble usually finds him. He's a drop this week coming out of Charlotte.

Travis Kvapil

• Kvapil has an average finish of 26.8 at Martinsville.

• Kvapil is a decent short-track driver. He's scored the 16th-most points on tracks less than a mile this year. He might be a good bargain pick after finishing 18th back in the spring, especially with an SCC value of 16.0.

Bobby Labonte

• In 31 starts here, Labonte has 13 top-10s, six top-5s, a win and an average finish of 16.5. He finished 25th here in the spring and 22nd in this race last year.

• It's been a rough year for Labonte on the short tracks. In five races he's 22nd in points scored. After finishing third at Martinsville in the fall of 2006, he's done nothing in the past three races and 18.2 in SCC is too much to pay for a possible top-25.

*Sterling Marlin

• Marlin has 42 starts here with 14 top-10s, four top-5s and an average finish of 17.6. His last start here was the spring race of 2007 where he finished 21st.

*Chad McCumbee

• McCumbee is attempting to make his first Martinsville Cup start this weekend. In four Truck starts here, he has an average finish of 26.0.

Jamie McMurray

• In 11 Cup starts at Martinsville, McMurray has one top-5 and seven top-10s. He averages a 15.0 finishing position, his third-best track on the circuit.

• McMurray finished in the top 10 here earlier this year and was solid most of the day. His SCC value of 17.6 is attractive but buyer beware: McMurray has been inconsistent on the short tracks this year as witnessed by his 25th place in points scored on the short tracks to date. You need to give him some serious consideration come Sunday morning, though.

Casey Mears

• Mears posted his second Martinsville top-10 last March. He's driving the same car he drove to an 11th at Richmond earlier this year.

• His SCC value of 16.7 makes Mears a "looker" this weekend especially if he's as good as he was in the spring when he finished seventh. Mears is another guy you need to consider as your "floor" this Sunday.

Paul Menard

• In two starts here, Menard has an average finish of 20th and completed all but one lap of competition.

• He was 16th in the spring, which would be a nice finish this time around for someone whose SCC value is 15.7. Still too scary for me though.

Juan Pablo Montoya

• Montoya has finished on the lead laps in all three starts at Martinsville, leading nine. He has one top-10 and three top-20s. His best finish of eighth came one year ago.

• Many times a new driver will find Martinsville one of the toughest, if not the toughest track to get a handle on. Montoya, however, has taken to this place because he can charge the corner using a lot of brake pedal like you would on a road course, where he has a lot of experience.

*Joe Nemechek

• Nemechek has 26 starts here with one top-10 and an average finish of 24.2. His most recent start here was in the spring of 2007 when he finished 27th.

Ryan Newman

• Newman has five top-5s and six top-10s in 13 Martinsville starts. His best finish was a second last fall. He's driving the same car he drove to top-10s at Bristol and Richmond earlier this year.

• I ranked Newman 21st. He was 19th at Martinsville in the spring and hasn't done much of anything on the other flat tracks like Phoenix and New Hampshire. He's 15th in points scored on short tracks this year. I can see him no better than 15th.

David Ragan

• Ragan has four races under his belt at Martinsville. His best finish came in the spring of 2008 when he finished 11th.

• Eleventh in the spring, Ragan is running stronger and has more experience, which leads me to believe he can finish just inside or outside the top 10. With a price of 20.1, he might be a little too high if you have to buy him, but if you have him already could come away with a top-10.

*Tony Raines

• Raines has six starts here with an average finish of 20.8.

• He was 14th in this race a year ago and will be dirt cheap in SCC. He's driving a Haas car this week and they've been decent at times on the short tracks. Many people will be tempted to put Raines on their teams, add another big dog and hope for the best. At any place but Martinsville, I would tell you that you're crazy to be even thinking that way, but it just might work this week.

David Reutimann

• Reutimann has three Cup starts here with an average finish of 29.7. He finished 39th here earlier this year.

• I look at him as top-15 potential just about every time out now and love his SCC value of 16.4. He could be a guy to build a "floor" on for this race.

Scott Riggs

• Riggs has nine starts here with two top-10s and an average finish of 22.7.

• He finished 16th in this race last year and if you think he could do that again he's a great bargain in SCC. I'm just not sure that will happen though.

Elliott Sadler

• In 19 previous starts, Sadler has one top-5 and three top-10s. He has led in three races for a total of 49 laps.

• He was 15th in the spring but is 23rd in short-track points this year. He's been a little up but mostly down on the tracks under a mile.

*Ken Schrader

• In 46 starts here, Schrader has 18 top-10s, a top-5 and an average finish of 17.6. He finished 37th in the spring race this year.

• You might think I'm crazy, heck I think I'm crazy for what I'm about to say, but Schrader is worth a look as a "floor" this weekend. His SCC value is 11.2 and he's driving for Hall of Fame Racing, which had a good run here a year ago with Tony Raines. It's a long shot, but as good a short tracker as Schrader is, it's worth thinking about.

Regan Smith

• Smith has two starts here with finishes of 26th and 14th.

• He's another possible floor at 14.2. Did you know Smith has scored the 16th-most points on short tracks this year? Couple that with a top-15 here earlier this year and this could be your "budget boy."

Reed Sorenson

• Sorenson's best finish at Martinsville was the first time he raced here in April 2006, when he scored a 12th-place finish. Last year he finished 18th in the April race and then followed up with a 41st-place finish in October. Altogether, he has five starts at this short track, averaging a 28.4 finishing position.

Scott Speed

• Speed is attempting to make his Cup debut here this weekend.

Tony Stewart

• Stewart has 19 starts here with 11 top-10s, seven top-5s, two wins and an average finish of 11.9. He finished fifth here in the spring.

• I ranked Tony sixth going in and think he has a shot at a top-5. His SCC value of 21.6 is a problem if you don't already have him. I like Jeff Gordon a little better and he's a little cheaper.

Martin Truex Jr.

• He has five starts here with an average finish of 24.8. His best finish is 19th (twice).

• I can't recommend Truex this weekend even though his SCC value has fallen to 18.6. He's never really gotten a handle on this place, but I also need to point out he's done pretty well on the short tracks overall this year, having scored the 12th most points.

Brian Vickers

• In seven starts here, Vickers has a top-10 and an average finish of 22.7.

• I love this guy and Team Red Bull on the big tracks, but hate them on the short tracks.

Michael Waltrip

• Waltrip has earned one top-5 and five top-10s at Martinsville. His average finish is 21st.

Mark Garrow covers fantasy racing for ESPN.com.