Thursday, March 31, 2011

Driver Chassis Selections For Goody's Fast Relief 500 at Martinsville

Edwards car from Phoenix will be used this week 
1. Carl Edwards: Finished eighth in both events last year; 16.8 average finish in 13 starts; Has yet to lead a lap; 12.8 average finish in the eight races with the COT; Will return in the same car (chassis No. 726) that he finished 28th with at Phoenix after being involved in an accident.

2. Ryan Newman: Three top-10s in four starts with Stewart-Haas Racing; Scored six top-10s in previous 14 starts with Penske Racing; 13.1 average finish in the eight races with the COT; Has combined to lead 55 laps in the past three races; Will debut a new car (chassis No. 645) in the Goody's Fast Relief 500.

3. Kurt Busch: 22.4 average finish in 10 starts with Penske Racing; Four top-10s, including one win, came in previous 11 starts with Roush Racing; 23.2 average finish and 19 laps led in the eight races with the COT; Will debut a new car (chassis No. 741) in the Goody's Fast Relief 500; This car was tested at Gresham Motorsports Park last week.

4. Kyle Busch: Coming off second top five in six starts with Joe Gibbs Racing; Previous four top-10s came with Hendrick Motorsports; Led 106 laps in the 2007 fall race; 16.1 average finish in the eight races with the COT; Will debut a new car (chassis No. 302) in the Goody's Fast Relief 500.

Johnson is bringing a new chassis to Martinsville
5. Jimmie Johnson: Six-time winner; Has won five of the last nine races; 5.3 average finish leads all drivers; Second-best average finish (3.0) in the eight races with the COT; Second in laps led with 1,551; Will pilot a new car (chassis No. 653) in the Goody's Fast Relief 500.

6. Tony Stewart: Two top-10s and a 15.5 average finish in four starts with Stewart-Haas; Posted 11 top-10s and two wins in previous 20 starts with Joe Gibbs Racing; 14.1 average finish in eight starts with the COT; Will pilot a new car (chassis No. 637) that was tested at Little Rock Speedway.

7. Paul Menard: Coming off best finish in seven starts in 13th; 20.3 average finish; Will make first track start with Richard Childress Racing in a new car (chassis No. 349).

8. Juan Pablo Montoya: 15.1 average finish in eight starts; 17.5 average finish in four starts in an Earnhardt-Ganassi Chevrolet; Led 37 laps in the 2009 fall race en route to only top five; Will pilot a new car (chassis No. 1110) in the Goody's Fast Relief 500.

Looking for first Martinsville win
9. Kevin Harvick: Coming off eighth top 10 in 19 starts after leading 97 laps en route to a third-place finish; Led 57 laps in this event last year before brake problems relegated him to a 35th-place finish; 16.1 average finish in the eight races with the COT; Will return in the same car (chassis No. 332) that he finished fourth with at Phoenix International Raceway last month.

10. Matt Kenseth: Last of six top-10s came in the 2008 fall race; Finished 18th and 15th, respectively, in 2010; 15.4 average finish in the eight races with the COT; Will return in the same car (chassis No. 725) that he finished 12th with at Phoenix International Raceway last month.

11. Kasey Kahne: Finished 14th in first track start with Team Red Bull last fall; Two top-10s in 14 starts; 19.1 average finish; Has yet to lead a lap in last 12 starts.

12. Dale Earnhardt Jr: 11.2 average finish in six starts with Hendrick Motorsports; Posted seven top-10s in previous 16 starts with Dale Earnhardt, Inc; Best finish came in the 2008 fall race in second; Fifth-best driver rating in past 12 races; Best track on the circuit based on laps led with 848; Will pilot a new car (chassis No. 654) in the Goody's Fast Relief 500.

13. Martin Truex Jr: Best finish came in this event last year in fifth; 17.0 average finish in two starts with Michael Waltrip Racing; Other top-10 finish came in the 2008 fall race with Dale Earnhardt, Inc.

14. Mark Martin: 9.5 average finish in four starts with Hendrick Motorsports; Finished second last fall; Won the spring race in 1992 and 2000 with Roush Racing; 13.1 average finish in 46 starts; Will pilot a new car (chassis No. 651) in the Goody's Fast Relief 500.

15. AJ Allmendinger: Only top 10 in seven starts came in the 2009 spring race; Finished 38th in this event last year after a crash took him out of contention; 12th-place finish last fall lowered average finish to 25.9; Will return in the same car (chassis No. 729) that he finished ninth with at Phoenix International Raceway last month.

Owns seven grand father clocks
16. Jeff Gordon: Leads active drivers in wins (7), top fives (23), top-10s (29), laps led (2,944) and poles (7); 20th-place finish last fall was first outside the top 10 in last 16 races; Led 92 laps and finished third in this event last year.

17. Clint Bowyer: Scored fifth top 10 in this event last year with a seventh-place finish; 15.3 average finish in 10 starts; Will return in the same car (chassis No. 340) that he finished 27th with at Phoenix after being involved in an accident.

18. Bobby Labonte: 18.0 average finish in 36 starts; Won the 2002 spring race with Joe Gibbs Racing; 28.5 average finish in the eight races with the COT; Will make first track start with JTG-Daugherty Racing.

19. Marcos Ambrose: 21.5 average finish in four starts; Best finish came in this event last year in 11th; Will make first track start with Richard Petty Motorsports in a new car (chassis No. 754).

20. Greg Biffle: Finished 10th in this event last year for second top 10 in 16 starts; 20.9 average finish in the eight races with the COT; Will pilot a new car (chassis No. 740) in the Goody's Fast Relief 500.

Notable Drivers Outside the Top 20

Hamlin should make a move in points this week
Denny Hamlin: Winner of the last three races; 1.3 average finish and 714 laps led in last four races; Four wins and a 2.5 average finish in the eight races with the COT.

David Ragan: 18.4 average finish in the eight races with the COT; Has yet to finish in the top 10 in nine starts; Will pilot a new car (chassis No. 747) in the Goody’s Fast Relief 500.

Brad Keselowski: Second-best track on the circuit based on finishing average (11.0); Scored first top 10 last fall in 10th; Will pilot a new car (chassis No. 740) in the Goody’s Fast Relief 500.

Brian Vickers: Recorded second top 10 (sixth) in 11 starts in this event last year; 16.8 average finish in six starts with Team Red Bull; Has yet to lead a lap in 11 starts.

Burton had bad luck in 2010, but was one of the best at M'Ville
Jeff Burton: Coming off 15th top 10 in 33 starts; 15.7 average finish in 13 starts with Richard Childress Racing; Scored one win and 11 top 10s with Roush Racing; 12.1 average finish and 366 laps led in the eight races with the COT; Led 140 laps in this event last year before a cut right-front tire in the closing laps relegated him to a 20th-place finish; Will return in the same car (chassis No. 319) that he last finished 19th at Phoenix International Raceway after he was forced to pit for fuel in the closing laps.

David Reutimann: Has yet to finish in the top 10 in eight starts; Best finish came in the 2009 fall race in 16th; 25.5 average finish.

Jamie McMurray: 20.5 average finish in two starts behind the wheel of an Earnhardt-Ganassi Chevrolet; Posted nine top-10s in previous 14 starts; 18.0 average finish in the eight races with the COT; Will return in the same car (chassis No. 1007) that he raced in both the 2010 spring and fall races at Martinsville Speedway and Richmond International Raceway.

Joey Logano: Finished in the top 10 in both races in 2010; Best finish came in this event in second; 13.0 average finish in four starts; Will pilot a new car (chassis No. 303) in the Goody’s Fast Relief 500.

Regan Smith: 29.0 average finish in five starts; Leads all drivers with a 5.8 average start in 2011.

Note: Not all teams list their chassis' in their press releases

- compiled by Jeff Wackerlin, MotorRacingNetwork.com

Driver Notes & Quotes For the Goody's Fast Relief 500 at Martinsville

Big Milestone for Martin on Sunday
MARK MARTIN ON MAKING HIS 800TH CUP START THIS WEEK AT MARTINSVILLE:
“I hate to say this isn’t a big deal, because it is. But, to me, the bigger deal is what you accomplished in those starts, not just the starts themselves. I’ve had a really good 799 starts. We’ve had a lot of wins, a lot of success and a lot of fun. I’ve made friends out here that will be friends forever, and I can’t imagine anything else I would have rather been doing than racing all of those days. Beyond the stat itself or the records or whatever, it’s the experiences of it all that are the most important to me.”

MARK MARTIN TIMELINE OF NOTABLE STARTS ON HIS WAY TO 800:
1 – On April 5, 1981, Martin made his first series start at North Wilkesboro Speedway, finishing 27th. Martin made five starts in 1981, scoring two top 10s and two poles.
6 – In his first Daytona 500, on Feb. 14, 1982, he finished 30th.
58 – On Feb. 14, 1988 in the Daytona 500, Martin made his first start with owner Jack Roush. Together, they started 617 races, winning 35 of them.
100 – On June 25, 1989, at Michigan International Speedway, Martin made milestone start No. 100. He finished 12th.
113 – On Oct. 22, 1989, at North Carolina Speedway (Rockingham), Martin led 101 laps en route to his first career win.
200 – On Oct. 25, 1992, at Rockingham, Martin made milestone start No. 200. He finished 30th.
223 – Martin reached double digits in wins with a victory at Bristol Motor Speedway on Aug. 28, 1993. The win was the third of four consecutive victories for Martin, the longest win streak of his career.
300 – On March 31, 1996, at Bristol, Martin made milestone start No. 300. He finished third.
326 – Finished seventh in the Daytona 500 on Feb. 16, 1997, his 16th-consecutive top-10 finish, dating back to the previous season. That is tied for the 16th-longest streak in series history.
383 – In a victory at Dover International Speedway on Sept. 20, 1998, Martin led 379 laps, the most of his career.
400 – On May 2, 1999, at Auto Club Speedway, Martin made milestone start No. 400. He finished 38th.
500 – Reached career milestone start No. 500 on March 24, 2002 at Bristol. He finished 11th.
506 – Won NASCAR’s longest race, the Coca-Cola 600 (then named the Coca-Cola Racing Family 600) at Charlotte Motor Speedway on May 26, 2002.
600 – On Nov. 7, 2004, at Phoenix International Raceway, Martin made milestone start No. 600. He finished 15th.
700 – On Feb. 25, 2008, at Auto Club Speedway, Martin made milestone start No. 700. He finished 16th.
723 – On Feb. 15, 2009 at the Daytona 500, made his first start for Hendrick Motorsports, finishing 16th.
730 – At the age of 50 years, three months and nine days, Martin won at Phoenix on April 18, 2009, to join Harry Gant, Morgan Shepherd and Bobby Allison as the fourth over-50 driver to win a NASCAR Sprint Cup race.
733 – Won one of NASCAR’s crown jewels: the Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway on May 9, 2009.

Milestones For Biffle, McMurray: Greg Biffle and Jamie McMurray will also celebrate milestone starts this weekend. Both drivers will make start No. 300 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Sunday at Martinsville.

Over his first 299 starts, Biffle has 16 wins, 66 top fives and 114 top 10s. McMurray has six wins, 39 top fives and 92 top 10s.

GREG BIFFLE ON MAKING HIS 300TH CUP START AT MARTINSVILLE THIS WEEKEND: “I guess these sort of milestones just sneak up on you but I’m excited to make my 300th start this weekend. It’s kind of ironic because Martinsville is historically one of my worst tracks but maybe we’ll have a good finish there on Sunday and make this 300th start a memorable one.”

JAMIE McMURRAY CHASSIS CHOICE: No. 1 WIDIA Chevrolet: Kevin “Bono” Manion will bring chassis #1007. McMurray ran this chassis in both the 2010 spring and fall races at Martinsville and Richmond.

JUAN PABLO MONTOYA CHASSIS CHOICE: No. 42 Target Chevrolet: Crew chief Brian Pattie and the Target Team will bring chassis #1110 this weekend. This is a brand new chassis.

Logano finished 2nd and 6th in 2010
JOEY LOGANO ON RACING AT MARTINSVILLE: “The first race I ran there was tough, but I feel like I’ve gotten so much better. It’s one of those tracks where the more you get used to the type of braking it takes the better off you are. I also know now how I want the balance to be on the car because it’s a tricky track. Typically I’ve been better there on the long runs, but you have to be decent on the short run too or else you lose a ton of spots initially and they are tough to get back. The track and handling changes so much over the course of a run it’s unreal. I just need to stay out of trouble, try not to hit anything and bring home a solid finish.”

LOGANO CHASSIS CHOICE: The No. 20 Home Depot Team is taking chassis #303 to the paperclip this weekend for the 500-lap race. This is a new short-track chassis for the team. The back-up chassis is #275 that Logano most recently drove to a sixth-place finish at Martinsville in October.

BRAD KESELOWSKI ON RACING AT MARTINSVILLE: “Martinsville will always be a track that is hard on brakes. Yes, the braking systems have come a long way over the last 10 years or so. But if you give us more brakes or better brakes, we are going to use more brakes to the point that we will damage the sidewall of the tire. Overheating the brakes is something that is easy to do because you are going so hard every lap as passing is difficult at Martinsville. Managing your brakes is part of being a successful short-track racer. Last year we were able to keep the brakes on the car and have two good finishes. We need to progress and build on those finishes in 2011.”

KESELOWSKI CHASSIS CHOICE: This Week’s Charger…The No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge Charger team will use chassis PRS-740 during Sunday’s Goody’s Fast Relief 500 at Martinsville Speedway. This is a new chassis to the No. 2 team.

BOBBY LABONTE ON MARTINSVILLE: “Martinsville Speedway is another track that I love and it is going to be a great track for us to go to. It’s always nice to go back to a track where you have won before. If we can stay out of harm’s way, we’ll have a shot at it. Martinsville has been a track where I have excelled and I’m confident our short track program is going to be strong. JTG Daugherty Racing ran well there last year. Actually, I tested for them before they went to Martinsville when Marcos (Ambrose) qualified second. I drove a car similar to what they had and I was like, ‘Man, this thing is awesome.’ I’m really looking forward to this race.”

MARTIN TRUEX JR ON HIS TEAM HEADING TO MARTINSVILLE: “We’re scratching our heads a little bit trying to figure out what we are missing. The last two weeks we have started off extremely strong and then faded in the second half of the race. What we faced at Bristol is very similar to what we experienced at Fontana. I was able to run fast by moving the line up and finding clean track. Once the clean track is up against the wall and there isn’t a clean surface left, that’s when we seem to struggle. We experienced this issue last year as well. It’s just magnified now with how strong we come out of the box. I expect we’ll get another chance to figure this issue out in Martinsville because it’s concrete like Bristol. We’ll continue to work hard to come up with a solution. It’s something that’s hard to test for so it’s up to us to find the right adjustment during the race that will get grip in the car when the track is rubbered up and slick. Once we figure it out, and I hope it’s at Martinsville, the NAPA team is going to be in really, really good shape.”

Newman using a new chassis this week at Martinsville
RYAN NEWMAN ON WHY HE LIKES RACING ON SHORTS TRACKS: “I like using the middle (brake) pedal. In all seriousness, I think it adds another parameter of a driver’s input when you have to modulate that third pedal. We have to go to places like Las Vegas and you’re using very little brake. When you are using a little bit, it’s hard to screw it up. I think our team has done a really good job with the brake package that we have. I like the short tracks. I like having the character added to the program of modulating the brake. In my opinion, the driver has a little more of an impact on the end result at short tracks than some of the bigger racetracks, and I like that. The more the drivers are involved, the more I think you get to race and, from that standpoint, I think it’s more fun. Tony Gibson (crew chief) has some great setups with our short-track program. I enjoy them, he enjoys them, and we just go out there and have some fun. We’ve had a good car each time we’ve been to Martinsville. Gibson is a great fan of Martinsville and short-track racing, and he’s got a great understanding of the racecar there and what I like, and that makes a big difference, obviously, for me. We’ve been able to get three top-10 finishes in our four trips to Martinsville. Last fall, we had a rare issue that took us out of contention, so we’re looking forward to getting back on a streak of good runs at Martinsville.”

RYAN NEWMAN CHASSIS CHOICE: After last year’s fall race, Newman & Company retired No. 39-492, which had been the team’s “Martinsville Special” for four races during the 2009 and 2010 seasons. In four starts at Martinsville with that chassis, Newman earned one pole and posted one top-five and two top-10 finishes. This weekend, the No. 39 team will debut a new chassis –No. 39-645 – that it hopes will be just as strong at the .526-mile paperclip-shaped oval. No. 39-645 is a brand new short-track car for the No. 39 team.

KURT BUSCH ON MARTINSVILLE: “We’re coming back into Martinsville with a lot of confidence and a really positive attitude about racing there this weekend. I’ll be the first to admit that the Martinsville races have always been so challenging to me and that goes all the way back through my career. But ever since Steve Addington came aboard as our crew chief at the beginning of last season, things have really begun to turn for the better.

BUSCH CHASSIS CHOICE: Kurt Busch and his Steve Addington-led Penske Racing “Double-Deuce” team will be racing their “PRS-741” Shell-Pennzoil Dodge Charger this weekend at Martinsville Speedway. This is a brand new chassis that the team tested with last Tuesday (March 22) at Gresham Motorsports Park, the half-mile asphalt oval located near Jefferson, Ga. “We should be good to go with this new car,” offered crew chief Addington. “We used the Gresham test as a good shakedown for the car, so when we unload there at Martinsville on Friday we should be able to really get after it. The format is a little different this time around, with practice on Friday and qualifying on Saturday. We’ll utilize most of the time on getting our race trim dialed in. As always, Sunday’s race will be all about exercising patience and having your car in one piece for the final 100 laps.”

LINKS TO OTHER DRIVER NOTES & QUOTES FROM THE WEEK:

TONY STEWART NOTES & QUOTES

KYLE BUSCH LOOKING FOR FIRST MARTINSVILLE WIN


RCR MARTINSVILLE PREVIEW


ROUSH-FENWAY RACING MARTINSVILLE NOTES & QUOTES


JIMMIE JOHNSON NOTES & QUOTES


JEFF GORDON NOTES & QUOTES


DENNY HAMLIN LOOKING FOR 4TH STRAIGHT MARTINSVILLE WIN

Stewart Hopes to Crash the Johnson-Hamlin Party at Martinsville This Week

Stewart looking for third win at Martinsville
KANNAPOLIS, N.C., (March 30, 2011) – Tony Stewart is part of an elite group. Believe it or not, it’s not because of his two NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championships. Or 39 career Sprint Cup wins. Or 1997 IZOD IndyCar Series title. Or four USAC championships. No, it’s because he’s one of just four active drivers who have won at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway since 2003, a span of 16 races.

Stewart scored the second of his two career Sprint Cup wins at Martinsville on April 2, 2006. It was a rare sight, for since 2003, the only other active Sprint Cup drivers to visit Martinsville’s victory lane have been Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson and Denny Hamlin. (Rusty Wallace, now retired and a NASCAR analyst for ESPN, scored his last Sprint Cup win at Martinsville on April 18, 2004.)

In addition to his two wins, he has three poles and holds the track qualifying record of 19.306 seconds at 98.083 mph, set in October 2005. He also has six top-threes, eight top-fives, 13 top-10s and has led a total of 1,194 laps in 24 career Sprint Cup starts at Martinsville. Stewart’s laps led tally ranks him third among active drivers, behind only Gordon (2,944) and Johnson (1,551).

The driver of the No. 14 Office Depot/Mobil1 Chevrolet Impala for Stewart-Haas Racing is now a 13-year Sprint Cup veteran, and after logging 11,517 racing laps at Martinsville, Stewart knows a thing or two about the subtleties of the track’s tight and fast layout.

Come Sunday, expect to see the usual suspects up front, and expect Stewart – the last guy not named Johnson or Hamlin to win at Martinsville – to be one of them.

TONY STEWART QUOTES:

You’ve had success at Martinsville and a period where you were always a threat to win. What’s that like?
"It’s knowing that feel, it’s finding that combination that works, and the next time you come back to that track you know what that feel is like and you know what you’re looking for in practice for it to be good in the race. During the race, the track changes quite a bit, but you know when you kind of have that rhythm. You have the timing of what it was like, you just know what that feel is in the car that you’re looking for, not necessarily to be good in Happy Hour as much as to be good for the race. When you’ve had a good weekend, the next time you go back it’s just easier to try to go back and mimic that feel. That’s why when guys hit on something they’re normally good for a while until the package changes quite a bit, and then once that changes, you have to learn a different feel. Normally for a while you can have that, and different guys, if you look over the history, have kind of had runs at it. It seems like whether it’s a three or four or five-race period, guys get that feel of it and know what that tire likes, what the chassis combination likes at that time, and they kind of have that and they know how to adapt to it.”

What’s changed over the years as it relates to racing at Martinsville?
“The shock technology, and it’s like anywhere else we go where you’re still trying to get the cars to do the same thing. You still have to make them rotate, and more so at Martinsville than anywhere else, you’re asking the car to accelerate a lot off the corner. That’s the hardest thing. You can always get it to do one or the other, but it’s hard to get them to do both. I think that’s why Martinsville is so difficult. But there are things that drivers figure out that they like, and the feel that they like, and when you find that you normally have something to shoot for each time you go on the racetrack. But the technology does change with it, I believe.”

Stewart not surprised by the Hamlin-JJ show at Martinsville
Are you surprised by how Hamlin and Johnson have been able to dominate at Martinsville?
“No, because once those guys know the feel that they want, and then know the feel they have to have at the end of Happy Hour to be good for the race, they’re all set. I think that’s a big factor. We had a run there where we didn’t win a lot of races, but we were very consistent and ran a lot of top-threes and top-fives and I knew exactly how I had to have my balance at the end of the session to be good for the race.”

What do you like about racing at Martinsville?
"It’s still that old short track feel. That’s what I like. We run a lot of 1.5-mile tracks during the year and it’s the only place that races like this. We’ve got two half-mile tracks that we race on. This one’s quite a bit different than Bristol, and that’s what makes it fun. You can out-brake guys and you can run the outside if you get a shot. It’s racing the way we all grew up racing.”

Short tracks seem to suit you well. Would you like to see more short tracks added to the schedule?
“Well, they haven’t built any new ones yet. Everybody that wants to build a mile-and-a-half track are the ones we look at and wonder why they’re doing that, especially when Martinsville is as good a race as it is and Richmond and Bristol are as good as they are. You have three of the best tracks on the circuit, but everybody wants to build a mile-and-a-half track and put grandstands down the front of it and not put as many seats as you can around places like Martinsville, Richmond or Bristol. You can get just as many people around a smaller track and have more room to park them and everything else. I’m all for it. I’m sick of seeing guys build mile-and-a-half tri-ovals. Be creative, be unique. Build something that is your own. Don’t copy somebody else’s track.”

DARIAN GRUBB, Crew Chief of the No. 14 Office Depot/Mobil 1 Chevrolet Impala for Stewart-Haas Racing:
You grew up in the tiny town of Floyd, Va., about an hour northwest of Martinsville. How often did you go to Martinsville as you worked your way up the racing ladder?
“I actually never went to a Sprint Cup race until I started working in Cup. I went to a lot of Late Model races there from about 1991 on through 2000 working on cars that were racing, but that’s really the only time I made it there. I’ve never sat in the stands there. I’ve always been in the garage working. I worked with Johnny Rumley, Satch Worley and Jeff Agnew was probably the biggest name driver I worked with for a long time. I worked for him for about 10 years. Lots of memorable moments from that. I think it was my first year at Martinsville and I was there with Satch Worley and we were in practice and his steering wheel came off. He didn’t check it after he had gotten back in the car before going out on the track again. He absolutely destroyed that car and he came back to the pits with the steering wheel in his hands and said, ‘Guess I should’ve put this on a little better.’ That was my introduction to Martinsville. There were like 160 Late Models that showed up, and of course we didn’t make the show because we crashed.”

What goes into making a car good at Martinsville, beyond making sure the steering wheel is on tight?
“It’s all about the weight distribution and then comfort for the driver – getting everything exactly the way the driver would like to have it. His preference for every little detail from entry to the center of the corner and exit and braking, the throttle application – everything has to be just right, because Martinsville is all about rhythm. Rhythm is what’s going to give you a chance for the pole. Making sure everything is right and making sure you can get every little piece out of the car. In order to go as fast as possible, you have to get the most out of everything that you can get. Every foot of the straightaway and all through the corners – it’s tenths of seconds here and there that really add up. The whole field is probably separated by two- to three-tenths of a second.”

Chassis No. 14-637: This is a brand new race car that has only seen track time via a March 14 test at the half-mile Little Rock Speedway in Rockingham, N.C. The Goody’s Fast Relief 500 at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway will mark its first race of any kind.

Martinsville Notes of Interest:
· The Goody’s Fast Relief 500 will mark Stewart’s 434th career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series start and his 25th Sprint Cup start at Martinsville.
· Stewart is currently sixth in the Sprint Cup championship point standings. He has 170 points and is 17 markers behind new series leader Carl Edwards and six points ahead of seventh-place Paul Menard. At this point last year Stewart was fifth in the standings with 685 points, 89 markers behind series leader Kevin Harvick.
· Stewart has a career total of 39 wins, 12 poles, 154 top-fives, 249 top-10s and 11,420 laps led in 433 career Sprint Cup races. His most recent Sprint Cup win came 11 races ago on Oct. 10 at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif. His last Sprint Cup pole came 20 races ago on July 30 at Pocono (Pa.) Raceway. Stewart has won at least one race in each of his 12 previous years in Sprint Cup, the longest such streak among active drivers.
· Stewart has two wins, three poles, six top-threes, eight top-fives, 13 top-10s and has led a total of 1,194 laps in his 24 career Sprint Cup starts at Martinsville. His average start is 12.9, his average finish is 13.1 and he has a lap completion rate of 95.8 percent.
· Stewart is third in laps led among active Sprint Cup drivers at Martinsville, trailing only Jeff Gordon (2,944) and Jimmie Johnson (1,551).
· Stewart scored his first career Sprint Cup pole at Martinsville in just his eighth career start as a rookie in April 1999. Stewart’s last Martinsville pole came in October 2005. There, Stewart set a new track record with a time of 19.306 seconds at an average speed of 98.083 mph, besting the previous track record held by his teammate at Stewart-Haas Racing, Ryan Newman (19.513 seconds at 97.043 mph on Oct. 22, 2004). It is a record that still stands.
· In Stewart’s first Sprint Cup win at Martinsville – the 2000 NAPA AutoCare 500 – he started from the pole and led three times for 179 laps. It was Stewart’s fourth career pole and his second at Martinsville.
· Stewart led five times for a race-high 288 laps in the 2006 spring race at Martinsville to take his first win of the 2006 season, his second at Martinsville and the 25th of his career. Stewart went on to record four other victories in 2006.

- True Speed Communications

Kyle Busch Hopes to Add Martinsville Grand Father Clock To His Trophy Case

Busch will have Pedigree sponsoring his car this week
HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (March 29, 2011) – One look at Kyle Busch’s burgeoning trophy case reveals an assortment of trophies for his now 91 overall wins among NASCAR’s top three series, which includes 20 Sprint Cup Series wins.

But even though Busch, driver of the No. 18 Pedigree Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR), has more trophies than he probably knows what to do with, there’s one glaring omission – the seven-foot-tall clock that Martinsville (Va.) Speedway president Clay Campbell’s late grandfather and track founder, H. Clay Earles, decided to award his race winners after teaming up with a local clock company almost five decades ago.

Needless to say, Busch, the talented 25-year-old driver, has his sights set on getting that long-awaited maiden victory at Martinsville, the site of Sunday’s Goody’s Fast Pain Relief 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race.

Of the 23 venues that will host Sprint Cup events in 2011, Busch has won at least once in one of NASCAR’s top three divisions – Sprint Cup, Nationwide, and Camping World Truck – at 20 of those venues. There are only three current Sprint Cup tracks – Martinsville, Pocono (Pa.) Raceway, and Indianapolis Motor Speedway – where Busch has not scored a victory in any of NASCAR’s top three series.

Despite the lack of a Martinsville grandfather clock, Busch has plenty of reasons for optimism this weekend, considering how he ran on the .526-mile paperclip-shaped oval during the spring and fall races in 2010.

KYLE BUSCH QUOTES:

The only three drivers who’ve won at a short track in the last couple of years are Denny Hamlin, Jimmie Johnson and you. Among that group, you are the only one without a win at Martinsville. For you, what makes Martinsville different from the other short tracks on the circuit?
"I’m getting better at Martinsville, so watch out this weekend with our Pedigree Camry. I think Denny has that place pretty figured out. He’s going to be hard to beat there, that’s for sure. But with my success at Bristol and Richmond, it’s been fun and I feel like Martinsville has been getting better for us. We’re getting there. Thanks to Dave (Rogers, crew chief), we’ve really worked hard at that. We kind of feel like we have a baseline – a better baseline that we can unload with and be faster off the truck. That’s a big benefit for us. As far as having the same three guys winning all the short-track races in recent years, you know, just look at the competition today. At Bristol, there were some good cars that raced up front and battled up front at times during the race. They didn’t quite have it when it mattered most, to keep themselves up front and in position to win the race. That’s what we did and, probably what you see from the three guys who do that every time, it’s that they’re just a little bit better at being able to do that.”

Are you still trying to figure out Martinsville, and are you comfortable racing there, now?
“If I had Jeff Gordon’s or Jimmie Johnson’s success there, then I would be comfortable going there. I’ve had some decent runs there, where I’ve felt like we’ve had a car to win and had a shot to win. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to get the track position toward the end of the race. Jeff (Gordon) is so good there, and Jimmie (Johnson) and Denny (Hamlin) are also good there. They are probably the three most difficult guys to pass there because they know the place. They know how to get off the corner and how to roll the middle of the corner there. Everything is timing, and their stuff just works, whatever it is.”

You are tied with Jeff Gordon and Richard Petty for most wins before age 26. What are your thoughts on that?
"I beat them to 25, but they beat me to 26. I didn’t win enough this year from May 2 (birthday) to May 2. There are still some opportunities for some more wins. Essentially that’s what it tells me. That’s what I read into it when you say I was the highest winner to 25, but now I’m not to 26. It’s interesting. It has all come at such a young age, but there have been guys who have been here at a young age, too, who have been just as successful. You say the guys – (Richard) Petty and (Jeff) Gordon – and (Jimmie) Johnson is another one of those guys. He wasn’t quite as young, but when you look at his career and how long he’s been here from 2002 – his rookie year to where he is now – going on 10 seasons, 54 wins or whatever it’s been. He’s a guy you look at and say, ‘Man, he’s done a lot in a short period of time, and five championships and everything else.’ Never finishing outside the top-five or 10 in points, or whatever. He’s a guy everybody would like to be if they had their choice and could pick somebody to follow after. We’ll see how things go here in the next few weeks, and next few years and through my career, but all in all it’s been good, so far. There’s plenty more time for it to grow.”

Surprising that Busch hasn't won at Martinsville
What is it that makes Martinsville so different when it looks so similar to other short tracks?
"Every track is different. There aren’t two racetracks out there that are the same. Everybody says that Atlanta, Texas, Charlotte, those places, are the same because they look the same from the sky. But they are so, so different. They say Chicago is the same as Kansas and (Las) Vegas, and those places are so different. California and Michigan, they’re so different. I would say that probably the closest racetrack that I grew up racing on was in San Bernardino, Calif. – it was Orange Show Speedway. That’s closest to what Martinsville is. I only ran Legends cars there, so it’s not a true telling. It was only a quarter-mile. It’s just a tough place because you’re so hard on brakes, but your minimum speed there – everybody’s is – the same, pretty much. Except, there are a couple of guys who will get a half-mile-an-hour faster through the center of the corner, and that is the difference between the pole speed and being dead last. You’re looking to find things that will make your car just that much faster there. You want to drive into the corner one foot deeper than that other guy. You want to step on the gas one foot sooner than that other guy and you want to roll a half-mile-an-hour better than that other guy. That’s why it’s so finicky and so hard there because everybody runs so tight that, any little thing you can find, it can help a lot.”

How do you approach Martinsville, since track position is so important there?
“It’s just a short racetrack and you’ve got to try to have a good car. But it’s hard to have a good car there with the field as tight as it is. Qualifying up front seems to help out a little bit. We know who the guys are who are going to be tough there. Really, there’s nothing you can change about that racetrack to stay out of trouble. Basically, you can be leading the race and have a wreck in front of you while you are trying to lap some guys, and that could be it.”

Chassis No. 302: This is a brand new chassis that will see its first racing action in Sunday’s Goody’s Fast Relief 500 at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Roush Fenway Racing Preview: Martinsville Not Exactly Their Best Track

Edwards Martinsville best was third in 2008
Carl Edwards
Team: No. 99 Aflac Ford Fusion
Crew Chief: Bob Osborne

Chassis: RK-726 This car last raced at Phoenix in February, Finished 28th after an accident

QUOTES
Carl Edwards on racing at Martinsville Speedway: “It’s great going into Martinsville as the point leader. Martinsville is one of those tracks we keep getting better at and the track is always a challenge. We have had some really good runs there lately and I feel it’s one of those driver’s tracks and a win there would mean a lot to me.”

Crew chief Bob Osborne on racing at Martinsville Speedway: “Martinsville is a demanding track, both physically and mentally. It’s a difficult place to get the car handling just right and the driver has to be patient in traffic to save the brakes. It’s a very long race so you can’t wear out your brakes in the first half of the race. We’d like to come out of there still leading the points so we need a good, solid finish at Martinsville this weekend.”

FAST FACTS
Carl Edwards enters Martinsville leading the NASCAR Sprint Cup point standings, by nine points. He has earned one win, 3 top-five, four top-10 finishes and two poles this season.

FOR THE RECORD… In 13 starts at the 0.526-mile track, Edwards has one top-five and four top-10 finishes. His average start is 17.8, and his average finish is 16.8. Edwards has completed 97.2 percent (6337 of 6519) of laps in Cup competition attempted at Martinsville Speedway.

Edwards’ best career finish at Martinsville came back in 2003, when he finished second in the Camping World Truck Series race. He started that race from the pole. His best Cup finish was third in the fall of 2008.

IN THE LOOP… According to NASCAR’s Loop Statistics compiled over the last 13 races at Martinsville, Edwards has turned 101 of the track’s fastest laps (13th most), spent 3,502 laps in the top 15, but has not led a lap there. Martinsville and Watkins Glen are the only two tracks on the NSCS circuit that he has failed to lead a lap.

REWIND, MARTINSVILLE, MARCH 2010… Edwards rose to the challenge of the demanding paper clip-shaped half-mile track to survive a green-white-checker finish and bring the Aflac Ford Fusion home in eighth place.


Runner-up at Martinsville in 2002
Matt Kenseth
Team: No. 17 Crown Royal Ford Fusion
Crew Chief: Jimmy Fennig

Chassis: Primary: RK-725 (last raced at Phoenix)

Kenseth on racing at Martinsville Speedway: “Martinsville is probably not our best track, but, statistically, it’s probably not our worst either. It’s just one that I get aggravated at and probably don’t use my head as much as I should at times. I think it’s more of a Matt thing trying to be patient and not let my emotions get the best of me. You can never get away from anybody it feels like so it can get frustrating. There’s just not a lot of room to work sometimes and you’re always either getting run in to it seems like, or running into somebody.”

Crew chief Jimmy Fennig on racing at Martinsville Speedway: “There’s always a lot of rubbing and racing for position when we race at Martinsville Speedway and that’s just because it’s a great typical short-track. Qualifying is really important at short tracks, as well as having a car that drives well in the turns. Track position is really important since you don’t have the long straightaways to be able to make passes like we would at longer tracks, so we’ll make sure that our No. 17 Ford turns well in the center of the turns and that it has good grip off the turns in order to race down the short straightaways.”

FAST FACTS:
• In 22 Cup starts at Martinsville, Kenseth has completed 10,909 of 11,019 laps (99.0 percent) and led for 68 laps
• Kenseth has an average starting position of 23.2 and an average finishing position of 16.3 at Martinsville
• Kenseth has achieved two top-five, and six top-10 finishes at Martinsville in the Cup series
• This weekend at Martinsville, Kenseth will pilot the No. 17 Crown Royal Ford Fusion
• Entering the weekend at Martinsville, Kenseth is currently 10th in the NSCS driver point standings


Martinsville best of 11th in 2008
David Ragan
Team: No. 6 UPS Ford Fusion
Crew Chief: Drew Blickensderfer

Chassis: Primary: RK-747 Brand new chassis; Backup: RK-730 Last ran Las Vegas – finished 22nd

Ragan on racing at Martinsville Speedway: “Martinsville is one of my favorite tracks on the schedule. It’s such a unique track and it’s nice that it is pretty close to home. Our UPS team has a lot of motivation going to another short track since we ran well at Bristol, so we definitely like our chances. Track position is important so we are really going to focus on qualifying and I’ll need to take care of my brakes all day to be in position at the end.”

Crew chief Drew Blickensderfer on racing at Martinsville Speedway: “Track position is very important at a place like Martinsville, so we’ll spend some time in practice working on our qualifying setup. We’re taking a brand new UPS Ford this weekend, and David likes short tracks, so we should be able to get a good finish. Our pit crew has been doing great so far this season and Martinsville is a place they can really shine with track position being so crucial.”


Only two top-10 finishes at Martinsville
Greg Biffle
No. 16 3M Ford Fusion
Crew Chief: Greg Erwin

Quotes:
Biffle on Martinsville: “Well, it’s obvious by looking at my stats that Martinsville has been a tough place for me. We’ve had a few decent runs there but getting your car to turn can make the difference between a fun race at Martinsville and a long day at Martinsville. When the car is turning and you can get off of the corners on the gas, the race at Martinsville can be one of the most fun races of the season but when it won’t turn or your brakes a failing, it is probably my least favorite track on the circuit. I would say our goal this weekend is to leave Martinsville with a top-10 finish.”

Erwin on Martinsville: “The key this weekend will be to get the car to rotate through the center so the driver can get into the gas as soon as possible coming off of the corner. We have been able to run in the top 10 at Martinsville and we just need to be able to do that this weekend. As always, qualifying well will be extremely important because it is generally easier to stay up front at Martinsville than to get up front at Martinsville.”

Martinsville Notes
• Biffle is currently 20th in the Sprint Cup point standings following his 11th-place finish in California.
• Biffle has an average finish of 23rd from an average starting position of 18.8 at Martinsville Speedway.
• Biffle will be making his 300th Sprint Cup points race start this weekend in Martinsville.
• Ryan Dextraze, who was the catchcan guy for the team in 2010 and has been in charge of windshield tear-offs during pit stops this year, will be the gasman for the 3M team this weekend in Martinsville.
• Visit www.shop3M.com to learn more about all of the innovative products 3M has to offer.

- Roush Fenway Racing, Press Release

RCR Preview: Childress Looking For First Martinsville Win From Current Drivers

RCR Stable has six wins at Martinsville
RCR at Martinsville… In 120 previous NASCAR Sprint Cup starts at Martinsville, RCR has earned three poles and posted six wins between former drivers Ricky Rudd and Dale Earnhardt. Additionally, RCR-prepared Chevrolets have earned 25 top-five and 49 top-10 finishes at Martinsville dating back to April 10, 1972. Childress, a former driver in NASCAR’s top division, contributed four of those top 10s from 1976-1978.

The Collective RCR … Over the season’s first five races, RCR’s four NASCAR Sprint Cup Series entries have notched three top-five and six top-10 finishes. The No. 31 team kicked off the 2011 season with a win in the second Duel 150 qualifying race at Daytona International Speedway and, most recently, the No. 29 team visited Victory Lane at Auto Club Speedway. RCR-prepared Chevrolets have also completed 5,511 out of 5,948 total laps (92.7 percent) with drivers Clint Bowyer, Jeff Burton, Kevin Harvick and Paul Menard, who have led a combined 131 laps. At least one RCR driver has led laps in each of the season’s first five events.

Get to the Points … For the third consecutive week, three of RCR’s four Sprint Cup Series teams climbed the ranks in the point standings following last weekend’s race at Fontana. While Menard slipped to seventh, Harvick leapfrogged six spots, moving the No. 29 driver to ninth in the standings. Bowyer vaulted seven spots, to 17th, and Burton gained four positions where he now sits 25th in the point standings rundown.


Harvick using fourth-place Phoenix chassis at Martinsville this week
Kevin Harvick
No. 29 Budweiser Chevrolet Impala
Race Notes and Quotes
This Week’s Budweiser Chevrolet at Martinsville Speedway … Kevin Harvick will race chassis No. 332 from the Richard Childress Racing NASCAR Sprint Cup Series stable. Harvick drove this Chevrolet to a fourth-place finish at Phoenix International Raceway in February.

Winning Jump … Harvick’s last-lap pass for the win in Sunday’s Auto Club 400 earned the Bakersfield, Calif., native his first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series win in his home state, and moved him up six spots in the driver point standings to ninth position.

Martinsville Notes … In 19 starts at Martinsville Speedway, Harvick has earned one top five and eight top-10 finishes. He’s completed 97.2 percent (9,250 of 9,519) total laps and has led a total of 301 laps at the Martinsville, Va., track. Harvick has an average starting position of 14.6 and an average finishing position of 17.3.

Last Time Around … Harvick and RCR’s No. 29 team had a solid start in last spring’s race at Martinsville Speedway. Harvick started the race on the pole and led 57 laps before mechanical problems sent him to the garage for repairs. He finished the race 100 laps down and in the 35th position.

Going Trucking … Harvick will drive the Kevin Harvick Inc. No. 2 Chevrolet Silverado in Saturday’s Kroger 250 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at Martinsville. The race will air live on SPEED beginning at 2 p.m. Easter Daylight Time. MRN Radio and Sirius Satellite Radio will also broadcast the race.

KEVIN HARVICK QUOTES:
You had a really good car last year at Martinsville and led 57 laps. How frustrating was it for something mechanical to pop up and end the race 35th when you had a car that could have won? “Well, I think as you look at Martinsville, the past finishes haven’t reflected how our cars have run. Last year for both races, we had really good cars. We led a bunch of laps and got a finish we thought we were capable of getting in the second race. I think we finished third or fourth. For us, it’s a fun race track. It’s kind of our (RCR’s) home race track, I guess you could say. It’s so close to the shops, and you end up having a lot of people from the shops come and watch. It’s just one of those places that you have to race all day, and you have to try and keep your track position, and all the parts, pieces and fenders on it. It’s a race track that I really enjoy running at. Sooner or later, we’re going to win a race there because we’ve run well there for years.”

Speaking of the fall race last year, you led 97 laps and came home with a top-five finish. Did you feel at some point during that race that you had a shot at taking on Denny Hamlin or Jimmie Johnson? “Yeah, honestly, we had the No. 48 beat for most of the day. The No. 11, we had him beat most of the day. He really came on the last couple of runs. We had a couple of really long runs and our car fell off 80 or 90 laps into the long runs. Normally at Martinsville that doesn’t happen. You don’t get those extremely long runs, and we had a couple of them at the end of that race. The No. 11 just beat us there at the end. I would take the same stuff back there that we had the last time. I would take my chance at being fast for 75 to 80 laps instead of worrying about 100 laps any day at Martinsville.”

That second race there, you and teammate Jeff Burton got into it. You’ve told me in the past that when these things happen they make you stronger teammates. It gives you a clearer picture on how to race each other, and how to be fair to one another. Is that what happened after that? “That wasn’t the first time that those things have happened. I think we’re all competitive. I think we expect those competitive reactions out of one another. Really, when the race is over, it doesn’t bother either one of us as long as it doesn’t affect the teams. We’ll sit down and talk about it. A lot of times you end up laughing just how your emotions are so much different inside the car. Then you wind up talking about a bunch of other things. It’s no different than having a spat in your own family. You have a spat that leads to something that makes everyone better and leads you forward in situations in a competitive environment. It turned out fine.”


Burton was outstanding in both 2010 Martinsville races 
Jeff Burton
No. 31 Caterpillar Chevrolet Impala
Race Notes and Quotes
This Week’s Caterpillar Chevrolet at Martinsville Speedway … Jeff Burton will race chassis No. 319 from the Richard Childress Racing NASCAR Sprint Cup Series stable. Built new for 2010, this Caterpillar Chevrolet was put through its first paces at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in September where the 17-year veteran was credited with a 15th-place result after running out of fuel with two laps remaining in the 300 miler and coasting to the finish. This No. 31 racer also competed at Phoenix International Raceway last November where the team was well on their way to a promising top-10 finish but was forced to pit for fuel with eight laps remaining, relegating them to a 19th-place effort.

Martinsville Details … In 33 starts at the Virginia oval, Burton boasts one win (Sept. 1997), 10 top-five and 15 top-10 finishes. Additionally, the 42-year-old holds a 16.9 starting average coupled with a 14.6 finishing average and has led 940 laps of competition, including paces in five of the last seven races. The veteran driver has also been running at the end of the last eight races at the paper clip-shaped oval.

Third Time the Charm? … After showcasing dominating performances in both Sprint Cup Series races at Martinsville Speedway last year, Burton and the Cat Racing team have set their sights on winning this year’s grandfather clock. In the spring 2010 race, Burton and fellow Virginian Denny Hamlin swapped the top spot seven times during the middle and latter stages of the 500-lap showdown. But, with 15 laps remaining, Burton cut a right-front tire while trying to make a pass on Hamlin for the lead that resulted in an undeserved 20th-place result. Six months later when NASCAR’s premier division returned to the half-mile short track, Burton ran the majority of the race in the top five where he lead the most laps. In the closing 50 laps, while running second and gaining on then-leader RCR teammate Kevin Harvick, the right-rear tire was wearing off that caused the Caterpillar Chevrolet to loose grip and several positions that saw him take the checkered flag in ninth.

Carry Me Back to Ole Virginia … Three members of the Cat Racing team hail from the Old Dominion State. Caterpillar driver Jeff Burton was born and raised in South Boston. Gear specialist Greg Meredith was born, and still resides, in Fancy Gap while tire specialist Tracey Ramsey hails from Fredericksburg.

JEFF BURTON QUOTES:
RCR has a good short track program, but it seems Martinsville doesn’t want to cut you guys any slack. “Well, we had them beat in the spring there last year. We had (Denny) Hamlin beat. It was a done deal. Then, we cut a right-front tire. He won’t admit we had it done, but he was struggling at that point. The deal was going to get closed out. Then, we went back there in the fall and ran really, really well. We led laps. The last run of the race, we just weren’t as good as what we needed to be. I think we finished ninth. We had a really, really good car. What I look at is I don’t know how you keep from cutting a tire, so I’m not going to worry about that. With the race in the fall, we probably raced a little too hard, a little bit too early and ate the tires off of it. Again, who thinks you’re going to run 100 laps at the end at Martinsville? That’s what happened. We went a full fuel run to end the race at Martinsville. We just don’t ever see that. I was racing thinking another caution was coming out and it didn’t. Again, we had good race cars and I think we can go there and be ultra competitive.”

You’ve never been the kind of driver that flips out inside the race car. What goes through your mind? You’re working on ending a winless streak and you have the man you need to beat in your crosshairs. Then, all of a sudden the tire goes down. Walk people through what you’re thinking. “Specifically, in that event, I remember I drove into turn one and the car just acted odd. Right then, I said ‘we have a problem.’ It was four or five laps later that the tire actually ended up going down. At some point, you just have to start managing the situation. You’re upset because you’re certainly losing an opportunity to win a race, but you go into survival mode. Just because it’s not as good as it’s going to be, it’s not going to be terrible. At that point, you have to get everything that you can. You have to make that switch quickly. You can’t be in denial. You have to accept your situation and go make the best out of it. It is very hard to walk out of a race track with your head held as high as you felt like you could have held it. Again, if you analyze the situation, then it’s a whole lot easier to take the good and the bad. If you always don’t think it’s your fault and always someone else’s fault, you have a problem. You have to analyze every situation for what it is and learn from it. If you do that, you tend to get over things a whole lot quicker. My deadline for myself to get over things is Monday at noon. If I’m not over it on Monday by noon, then I tell myself to grow up and quit being a baby.”

Given how you ran there last year, are you pumped up as ever to go there? “Well, I really like Martinsville. I’ve always liked racing there. I think it’s one of the hardest races we run all year. There are a lot of people that hate Martinsville. That’s why I like it. This is the highest form of motorsports in North America. It’s supposed to be hard. This track is hard. I also know that I’ve been there before and won a race and went back there the next year with the same setup and didn’t finish on the lead lap. That track changes more than any track we go to. We have to go there with open eyes, open minds and be willing to change if something isn’t working. I think we have a good basic outline to start with but that won’t be good enough. We’ll have to find a way to make it better.”

I can’t believe how fast things happen at Martinsville. It seems to me that things happen faster at Martinsville than at other tracks. “It does. That’s the thing that people don’t understand. At Fontana, a two-mile race track, things happen slowly, relatively speaking. At Martinsville, a half-mile race track, you’re going a lot slower, but things happen quicker. You never ever, ever have a time at Martinsville where you say, ‘alright, we can relax. We’ll hide out here for a little while.’ That doesn’t happen. You’re always in the midst of something. If you’re not right now, there’s a caution coming pretty quick, and you’re going to be in the middle of it pretty quick. I think from start to finish, that’s the hardest race we run, from managing your car, managing yourself, to staying focused on the goal. I think it’s the hardest race we run all year.”

Being from South Boston, how cool was it to win the Cup Series race in 1997 at your home track? “I was really sick when we won that race. I was really struggling and could hardly stand up. That’s one of the most gratifying wins I’ve ever had because I passed Rusty (Wallace) on the outside before there was an outside (lane) to take the lead. We made a pit stop and he beat us out of the pits. There were a few cautions after that and each time, he kept jumping the restart and NASCAR warned him about that. Well, he did it again and they black flagged him. So, there I am leading the race and here comes Bobby Hamilton. He was on the inside and I was on the outside and I wanted to beat him. It was a really rewarding race because I had to work hard for it. Nothing came easy on that day.”


Martinsville not Bowyer's best track
Clint Bowyer
No. 33 BB&T Chevrolet
Race Notes and Quotes
This Week’s BB&T Chevrolet at Martinsville Speedway … Clint Bowyer will pilot chassis No. 340 from the Richard Childress Racing NASCAR Sprint Cup Series stable. This Chevrolet Impala was utilized last month at Phoenix International Raceway where the No. 33 team finished 27th after being involved in a 13-car pileup on lap-68.

Career Martinsville Stats … The Goody’s Fast Relief 500 marks Bowyer’s 187th NSCS start.
* In 10 NSCS starts at Martinsville, Bowyer owns one top-five and five top-10 finishes.
* He has completed 97.1 percent (4,874 of 5,019) of the total laps contested at MVS during his career.
* The Emporia, Kan., native has not led a lap yet at MVS.
* Bowyer owns an 18.9 average starting position and a 15.3 average finishing position.
* His best effort at the Virginia facility is a fifth-place finish that he recorded in the spring race of 2009.

Points Racing … After the strong finish in Fontana, Bowyer jumped seven positions, to 17th, in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver championship point standings


CLINT BOWYER QUOTES:
In the last seven races at Martinsville Speedway, you have had five top-10 finishes. You must feel like you guys are closing in on something pretty big there? “Yeah, I’ve gotten a lot better at Martinsville. I needed to. It was one track that I was terrible at when I first started. You must have a lot of discipline at that facility and there are a lot of things that you do different at a track like that. It was a big learning curve for me. We practiced and worked hard at it. I feel I’ve come a long way and our equipment has also come a long way at Martinsville. Jeff (Burton) had the car to beat down there last spring.

RCR has always had a good short track program, except for Martinsville. Does that surprise you at all? “It did when I first came here. We run well on the short tracks. Whether it’s our driving styles, our equipment or what we do as a package collectively. It did surprise me a little bit when I first came to Martinsville. I had my head full of confidence and was thinking, ‘we’re going to go out there and do something good’ and was terrible. My first time there, I was really bad. That little Rockingham track that they built was kind of a test track and is very similar to Martinsville so we’ve spent a lot of time there and learned a lot, both me as a driver, and the team figuring out the equipment we needed on the car to be competitive.”


Martinsville Speedway has kind of been a personal playground for Jimmie Johnson and Denny Hamlin. Have you been like, ‘what the heck, we’re running well…’? “That’s Denny’s country. He’s raced there a bunch growing up. Jimmie is kind of like Jeff Gordon and Jeff was great there before Jimmie came along. You know, don’t forget about Jeff either. Your driving style has to fit that kind of track and you must have good equipment. You have to work hard at the setups and provide information to your team. I think Denny has done a good job of getting a package that he needs there to go out, lead laps and win the race. Certainly, Jimmie has found the same.”


Menard sits seventh in the Cup standings
Paul Menard
No. 27 NIBCO/Menards Chevrolet Impala
Race Notes and Quotes
This Week’s NIBCO/Menards Chevrolet at Martinsville Speedway … Paul Menard will pilot Chassis No. 349 from the Richard Childress Racing NASCAR Sprint Cup Series stable. This No. 27 Chevrolet Impala is a brand new addition to the RCR fleet, and will see its first laps on the race track during Friday’s practice session.

Race Rewind … Last week, Menard and the No. 27 team brought home a 16th-place finish at Auto Club Speedway. He heads to Martinsville seventh in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver championship point standings.

PAUL MENARD QUOTES:
Talk about your past experiences at Martinsville. “I’ve struggled at Martinsville in the past. Last year, we actually had two really good races, and the fall of 2009, we ran in the top 10 until a pit stop hurt us. The last three times that I’ve been there, I’ve felt like I had a top-10 car. Things happen at Martinsville that are outside of your control. It’s kind of like a restrictor-plate track – there’s a lot of beating and banging, people not expecting to do it or trying to do it, it’s just apparent with the chain reactions and everyone checking up. You’ll get fenders tore up. You’ll have broken rear gears from wheel spin on exit. There are a lot of things that can happen. You just have to try and minimize all of that and stay out of trouble as best as you can.”

There is always someone around you at Martinsville. Do you enjoy that physicality of the race? “Yes, it’s a very mental race and not as physical as you think. You drive into the corner and you kind lean of against your seat. There’s not a whole lot of load, but it’s very mental. You’re always checking your mirrors to see if anyone is going to dive bomb you, you are constantly trying to protect your inside, and if you get shuffled to the outside, you’re going to get freight-trained. It’s very mental just like a restrictor-plate race track.”

How much carry over is there between Bristol and Martinsville?  “Zero. There’s nothing similar in the way you drive it or the setups on the car. Probably, the biggest thing that is carried over is the drive off of the corners. We have great ECR engines, over 800 horsepower, and trying to hook that power up off the corner is tough to do at Bristol – it’s even harder to do at Martinsville.”

- Richard Childress Racing, Press Release

Denny Hamlin Martinsville Preview: Looking For Fourth Straight Win

EXPRESS NOTES:
California Recap: Denny Hamlin’s promising start to the Auto Club 400 ended early on Sunday, as an engine failure in the #11 Toyota forced the FedEx Racing team to retire from the event after just 105 of 200 laps. Hamlin started second and needed just seven laps to pass polesitter Juan Pablo Montoya, and was out front for the next 15 circuits. Staying in the top-five for the first two cycles of green flag pit stops, Hamlin battled a tight race car but remained in contention.

Differing pit strategies during the race’s first caution on Lap 76 shuffled the #11 back to 12th for the restart, and just three laps later, Hamlin radioed that something was amiss and fell to the tail end of the field. A series of checks on the track and on pit road during the next caution revealed the issue was in the engine, and the team pushed the car to the garage, where they determined it was terminal. As a result, Hamlin was scored in 39th for the race and dropped four spots to 21st in the NASCAR Sprint Cup standings following Auto Club Speedway.

Hamlin’s House: Despite the early-season misfortune for the #11 FedEx team, Hamlin keeps a positive outlook heading into Sunday’s race at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway, and for good reason. The 30-year-old Chesterfield, Va., native has won four races at the 0.526-mile ‘paper clip,’ including the last three in a row. Hamlin has been dominant at Martinsville in his career, finishing in the top-five in eight of 11 starts at the track. Hamlin swept the two races at the track in 2010, starting on the pole and leading 40 laps en route to victory lane in the fall race.

The spring race saw a determined Hamlin charge from ninth to first in four laps for the win, just two days before undergoing reconstructive knee surgery. Hamlin earned his first victory at Martinsville in the spring 2008 race, and won again in the fall of 2009. In total, Hamlin has led 949 laps at the track, and has only one finish worse than eighth (37th in 2006) in his career.

HAMLIN CONVERSATION – MARTINSVILLE SPEEDWAY:
What has been your key to success at Martinsville? “It’s really a combination of things. I have raced at Martinsville more than I have raced at any other track when you consider total laps. Growing up in Virginia I had the chance to race here in some other series and all that track time definitely gave me a comfort level at Martinsville. That carried over to trucks and Nationwide Series and now to the Cup Series. I feel really confident at this track and I know we bring great cars – those things together usually lead to success. It’s also a lot of pressure because this is a race we circle as one where we expect to be really competitive.”

How important is it for the FedEx team to have a solid run this weekend? “It’s important, for sure. Our FedEx race team usually starts slow, and we kind of use Martinsville as a springboard for our season, but we’ve had good cars this season and haven’t been able to put the finishes together. For me, it’s been frustrating because Mike (Ford, crew chief) has worked hard to make sure we’re competitive each week, but we just haven’t had the luck. Luckily, we have some good tracks for us coming up, and hopefully we can put together a few good weeks and get that first win. Martinsville is a great place to start that.”

- Weber Shandwick Worldwide for FedEx Racing, Press Release

Jeff Gordon 'Capable' of Winning Sunday at Martinsville

Gordon has seven career wins at Martinsville
MARTINSVILLE, Va. (March 29, 2011) – With four victories in six races during the early-to-mid 2000’s at Martinsville Speedway, seeing Jeff Gordon in Victory Lane was a staple of the racing at the paper-clip shaped track. Can the seven-time Martinsville race winner return there Sunday in the Goody’s Fast Relief 500?

The driver of the No. 24 Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet has posted solid numbers at the 0.526-mile track. Along with seven wins, Gordon has seven poles, 23 top-fives and 29 top-10’s in 36 starts. In fact, he has only four finishes of 12th or worse here in 19 seasons of racing in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.

“As you can probably guess, I’m really looking forward to the trip to Martinsville this weekend,” said Gordon, who is currently 16th in the standings and 57 points behind the leader. “It’s a short track with tight racing, so you have to be careful not to overheat your brakes and use up your equipment.

“It’s seems like all the things I’ve done over the years still apply and still work here. If you’re running well with a good car, you can drive away to hopefully avoid some of the wrecks and things you see that gets drivers into trouble.

“But we’re running inches away from each other, so anything is possible.”

Gordon enters the 500-lap event with 11 top-five finishes in his last 12 starts at Martinsville with the lone exception being a 20th-place finish last fall. He led 56 laps in that event but was involved in an accident with just over 100 laps to go.

“We’ll try to learn from last time and try to figure out what we could have done better,” said Gordon, who has led 1,393 more laps than any other active driver here (2,944 – 1,551). “We’ll discuss what each car in our stable had in our setup – who was good and who was not – and try to break it down why.

“Although we won earlier this year at Phoenix, (new crew chief) Alan (Gustafson) and I have only worked together for five races and a few tests. We’re still learning and our communication is always evolving. When we get to the track, hopefully I’ll provide the necessary information about the car so that he can make the right adjustments during practice and during the race.

“Because we’re capable of winning Martinsville this year.”

- Performance PR Plus, Press Release

Jimmie Johnson Martinsville Preview: Goody's Fast Relief 500

Johnson running a new chassis this week 
RACE NOTES
Martinsville Speedway

• Johnson has made 18 Sprint Cup Series starts at Martinsville Speedway, where he has earned six wins, 13 top-five and 17 top-10 finishes.
• His only finish outside the top ten came in his first start at the .526-mile track in 2002.
• Johnson, who has won five of the last nine events at Martinsville, has completed 99.4% (8965 of 9019) of competition laps and has led 1551.
• He has an average start and finish of 11.9 and 5.3.

Chassis
Johnson will pilot brand new chassis No. 653 in Sunday’s Sprint Cup Series event.
• Backup chassis No. 540 crossed the finish line fifth at Phoenix International Speedway in Nov. 2010.

JIMMIE JOHNSON QUOTES
WHERE DO YOU FEEL YOU ARE HEADING TO MARTINSVILLE?: “The spring race did not go as we had hoped (last year). The fall race, we ran really well although I guess we didn’t lead a lap. I remember the 29 (Kevin Harvick), the 11 (Denny Hamlin) and us racing real hard all day. I feel like we’re close. We probably don’t have the dominant car that we’ve had there in years past or other teams have caught us. I feel like I should have been second or third, but I don’t recall the end of that run and why we ended up sixth. The track has been good to us and we just need to find a little something there — a little bit goes a long way on that small of a track like that.”

WHAT IS THE CHALLENGE FOR YOU AT MARTINSVILLE?: “For me, it’s just a fun place to race. I encourage friends and family to come to that track and watch. It’s a great snapshot of NASCAR in the old days where you’re right on top of the action whether you’re on pit road or in the grandstands. I just personally enjoy the challenge that track brings and I think it’s a cool venue. Outside of that I guess I’m a competitor and every time I’m in the car I want to win and I want to be as fast as I can.”

SPRINT CUP SERIES CAREER NOTES
Career Wins
• Johnson has 53 wins in his Sprint Cup Series career, his most recent coming at Dover International Speedway on Sept. 26, 2010.
• The El Cajon, Calif.-native is currently 10th on NASCAR’s all-time wins list, one victory behind Lee Petty.
• He is second in total wins among active drivers, behind Jeff Gordon (82).
• Johnson needed only 296 starts to hit the 50 mark. Only three drivers have reached 50 victories quicker – Gordon (232), Darrell Waltrip (278) and David Pearson (293).
• Johnson has won at least three Cup races a season since he posted his first victory in 2002. He is the only driver in the modern era to win at least three races in each of his first eight full-time seasons.
• Johnson has won Sprint Cup Series races at all but four (Michigan, Chicago, Watkins Glen, Homestead) of the 22 tracks on which the series competes.
• Johnson’s 10 wins in 2007 was the highest number recorded in a single season since Jeff Gordon posted 13 victories in 1998.
• The four-consecutive wins scored by the No. 48 team in the 2007 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup ties a modern-era NASCAR record.

Career Poles
• Johnson has collected 25 poles in his Sprint Cup career.
• The championship driver has earned at least one pole a year since his first full-time season in 2002.
• He had a career-high six poles in 2008.
• Johnson’s most recent pole position was at Dover International Speedway on Sept. 24, 2010.

Career Starts
• Johnson has finished in the top five in the Sprint Cup Series point standings each year since his first full season in 2002.
• Johnson is the only driver to qualify for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup every year since the format was adopted in 2004.
• In 332 Sprint Cup Series starts, Johnson has posted 137 top-five and 206 top-10 finishes.
• He has a top-five finish at every track on the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series circuit.
• Johnson has led a total of 11,182 laps (of 95,696) in his Sprint Cup career, covering over 128,108 miles.
• He has finished on the lead lap 257 times.

- GMR Live Marketing for Team Lowe’s Racing, Press Release

Monday, March 28, 2011

Martinsville Goody's Fast Relief 500 Preview: Gotta Be Either Hamlin or Johnson

By Micah Roberts
VegasInsider.com

Hamlin is the driver to beat this week at Martinsville
We've had five races and five different winners thus far into the 2011 season and best of all for many NASCAR fans, Jimmie Johnson isn't one of the winners. However, we know it's coming soon and it could happen as soon as this weekend in Martinsville where he even has sicker numbers than he does for California.

However, unlike the race at Fontana, Johnson actually has a statistical equal at Martinsville in Denny Hamlin. Even though Johnson still is tops with six wins and a career average finish of 5.3 at Martinsville, Virginia native Hamlin has won the last three races in a row giving him a total of four in only 11 starts.

Hamlin's career average finish of 6.1 doesn't even tell his true story on the track because the number is drastically inflated by a 37th place finish in his rookie year. Outside of that race, he's gone on to finish sixth or better in nine straight races. Not even Johnson can match that run, but he comes close.

Johnson's successful run at Martinsville started in 2002, his rookie year, where he finished sixth. Since then, he's finished ninth or better in every race. That's an amazing streak of top level consistency for 17 consecutive races, which is unheard of run.

As great as a driver as Johnson is, he's still been able to avoid all the little things that plague other teams every so often; what about engine failures, tires going down, pit issues, getting tangled in other peoples errors? None of that seems to plague Johnson, or Hamlin, at Martinsville.

It's about as close to a lock that there is in NASCAR with these two at Martinsville which is why the odds for each will be considerably lower for this track than at the others.

However, there are some concerns with Hamlin based on last week where both he and teammate Joey Logano experienced engine problems. Logano's issue was found before the race and they made an engine change, but Hamlin's played out on the track and led to a 39th place finish dropping him four positions in season points to 21st.

"For some reason, our stuff is just struggling to keep it all together," Hamlin said after his race was finished Sunday. "I don't know why. I don't know what's changed in the off season. I think we're just having some part failures."

Chances are Martinsville will be just what the car doctor ordered for Hamlin's team to get them back in a groove. Hamlin will also have other interests to inspire him as well with the improbable VCU basketball squad from his home state making the Final Four.

Gordon is a nice candidate to upset Hamlin and Johnson
If daring to wager on someone else other than Johnson or Hamlin this week, you should begin with Jeff Gordon who swept the 2003 and 2005 season at Martinsville. From 2005 to the spring race last year, Gordon finished in the top-five for 11 straight races.

Tony Stewart is one of the few to capture a Martinsville win over the last decade having done so in 2006 while racing for Joe Gibbs. He came out strong with own team in the 2009 spring race finishing third, but hasn't been able to better the run in his last three starts.

It's surprising to see that a driver like Kyle Busch has never won at Martinsville since he's been so good on the other small tracks throughout his career. In 12 career starts, Busch has a best finish of fourth which he's matched three other times.

A wild card for this race could be Dale Earnhardt Jr. who has always run well at Martinsville. But it's not his past that makes him a candidate, it's the present day situation that has him 12th in points after five races. Sharing garages with Jimmie Johnson this season has obviously helped change something for the No. 88 even if it's nothing more than smelling the winning aroma of five championship trophies.

Top 5 Finish Predictions:
1) #11 Denny Hamlin (4/1)
2) #88 Dale Earnhardt Jr. (30/1)
3) #24 Jeff Gordon (8/1)
4) #48 Jimmie Johnson (9/2)
5) #18 Kyle Busch (7/1)

Quite Impressed With JJ
Outstanding team effort by Johnson at Fontana last week
Last week in California, Johnson showed everyone why the No. 48 team is so good. They took a new car, didn't practice very well and then went basically unnoticed throughout the race. But as the laps remaining began to decrease, so did Johnson's gap to the leader. He reeled in then leader Kyle Busch, who had dominated the race all day while leading the most laps, and then passed him. If it hadn't of been for fellow Californian Kevin Harvick on the last lap, Johnson would again be celebrating in victory lane.

I'm not sure if I've ever been so in awe of a driver finishing second in a race before. There was nothing there to suggest Johnson might be in that position at the end other than his pedigree where the cream always rises to the top. In Johnson, and his team's case, there is no one better. Carl Edwards may win the Championship this season and stop Johnson's consecutive streak at five, but when Johnson's career is over, we probably will all agree, or argue, that he is the best ever to drive a stock car.