Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Ryan Newman discuss blocking in advance of Martinsville Sprint Cup race

Matthew Stockman

Blocking has become the theme over the past several weekends in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, following consecutive accidents at Bristol and Auto Club Speedway involving Denny Hamlin and Joey Logano.

The second accident sent Hamlin violently into the inside retaining wall at Fontana and has left the Joe Gibbs Racing driver with a fractured vertebra and set to miss at least six races as he recovers.

The theme of blocking is sure to continue as the Series spills over into Martinsville Speedway this weekend, a flat half-mile that has just a single preferred groove at the bottom of the track. As a result, slower cars may have to block in this weekend's races in order to protect their track position throughout the duration of the race.

Ryan Newman won the spring race at Martinsville last year and doesn't approve of blocking at the Sprint Cup level. The Stewart-Haas Racing driver called it a "chicken way to drive," in Tuesday's NASCAR teleconference.

"If you've got a run on me, take it," Newman said. "If I can get through the corner better than you, then we'll race but blocking is an open-wheel type move it seems like. It's not to say they don't do it in NASCAR -- obviously they do -- but to me it's just a chicken way of driving and not very respectful for the guys around you."

Sprint Cup Series points leader Dale Earnhardt Jr. believes that blocking is just a natural part of the sport but only if done properly. He conceded that blocking is sometimes vital, especially on short tracks like Martinsville, and that he's guilty of doing the deed as well.

But Earnhardt says you have to give drivers room to race if you are going to block and that there is a time and place for that kind of racing as well.

"You've got to give me racetrack," Earnhardt said. "You've got to give me somewhere to run. You can't just run me up into the fence. You've got to give me a lane. If you give me a reasonable amount of racetrack to race on, then I really can't complain in regards to what you're trying to do to maintain the position.

"Also it depends on what time in the race it is. Is it time to be blocking? Is the position that important at that moment in time? Again, everybody will have a different opinion."

Earnhardt also said that he hasn't picked a side in the Logano versus Hamlin debate, adding that he felt what happened at Auto Club Speedway was the result of two drivers racing hard for the win. Ultimately, he believes that Logano was just trying to maintain his position.

"In my opinion it was just hard racing," Earnhardt said. "The guy is leading the race and he's trying to do everything he can to win. I don't like to get run in the fence and I don't like to get run in the grass but if you give me enough racetrack I can't really get too upset about a guy trying to maintain his position, especially near the end of the race."

As Earnhardt pointed out, each driver will likely have a different opinion on blocking but with Martinsville looming, the great debate isn't going to vanish any time soon.

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