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Weather Forecast Looking Better at Martinsville

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The forecast is improving for this afternoon’s First Data 500 at Martinsville Speedway, the oldest and shortest track on the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series schedule.

Although rain was falling this morning and could threaten the scheduled noon ET qualifying session, the good news is that the precipitation should move out by early afternoon, allowing the race to begin at or near its scheduled 3 p.m. start time.

According to Weather.com, the chance of rain at Martinsville is never higher than 25 percent between 11 a.m. and 9 p.m., when it drops to zero.

Two other factors to consider: Martinsville is just 0.526 miles long, so it shouldn’t take too long to dry, although cool temperatures might complicate matters, and the track is now equipped with lights so if the race does go beyond the 6:25 p.m. sunset, it’s not a problem.

As far as the favorites in today’s race, there are a handful of very familiar names to keep an eye out for: In Saturday’s second and final practice round, the four drivers who posted the best 10 consecutive-lap average speeds were Kyle Busch, Martin Truex Jr., defending race-winner Jimmie Johnson and spring Martinsville winner Brad Keselowski.

Through Virginia native and five-time winner here Denny Hamlin into the mix and you have a solid group of five favorites one of whom most likely will emerge victorious when the checkered flag falls some time tonight.

Because of the rain, there will be a competition caution at Lap 45.

This afternoon’s First Data 500 is the first of three races in the Round of Eight for the Cup playoffs. Truex and Kyle Busch lead the points heading into the race. This round will determine which four drives will race for the Cup championship

Tom Jensen

Tom Jensen is a veteran motorsports journalist. He spent 13 years with FOXSports.com, where he was Digital Content Manager. Previously, he was executive editor of NASCAR Scene and managing editor of National Speed Sport News. Jensen served as the president of the National Motorsports Press Association and is the group’s former Writer of the Year.