Martinsville Speedway pre-race notes

Car of Tomorrow Makes Martinsville Speedway Debut In Goody's Cool Orange 500 MARTINSVILLE, VA (March 1, 2007) -- The Car of Tomorrow will be the Car of Today by the time the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series rolls into Martinsville Speedway...

Car of Tomorrow Makes Martinsville Speedway Debut In Goody's Cool Orange 500

MARTINSVILLE, VA (March 1, 2007) -- The Car of Tomorrow will be the Car of Today by the time the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series rolls into Martinsville Speedway for the Goody's Cool Orange 500 on April 1.

But there will be at least one unanswered question before the COT rolls at Martinsville. How will the Car of Tomorrow's "splitter" and Martinsville Speedway's infamous six-inch high curb in the turns interact? The splitter is a ground-hugging aerodynamic device on the front of the cars used to help create more downforce.

"That's a good question," Dale Earnhardt Jr. responded to the question during the COT test at Bristol Motor Speedway Wednesday. "I think the tire will probably get into the curbing first, but you can hang that splitter on it, too. You can go in there and lay on it really hard on the curb and break it off and not have to worry about it."

"I don't think it's going to be a problem," 2006 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Champion Jimmy Johnson said of Martinsville's concrete curbing and the splitter. "It's just going to be different; it's just going to be something new for us to adapt to and learn how to use."

The consensus among drivers after Tuesday's test was that the COT was a much, much better product than was predicted as recent as six months ago. And the bottom line will be two-fold: greatly improved driver safety and closer racing.

"It has really exceeded my expectations at this point," Earnhardt said during a lunch break Wednesday. "I anticipated it to be a little more of a struggle to get the car to turn, to work, to get it up off the corner. I think we are ahead of the game a little bit as far as I thought we would be, we are ahead of that."

NASCAR's goal of making the COT a safer work place for drivers has been accomplished.

"I really do feel safer in this car. The car has a lot of room in it," said Earnhardt. "At testing, it is really aggravating to climb in and out of the car, the old car. It was a struggle getting in and out, a real pain. This car, it is real simple. You can hop out even if you only have two minutes to get out; it is no big deal because you can get right back in.

"But as soon as I sit down in the car, it feels like the same car. I can't tell any different. I thought it would take some getting used to, but it doesn't."

Both Earnhardt and Johnson predicted fans would not see any difference in competition at Martinsville when the COT is introduced at the half-mile oval for the Goody's Cool Orange 500 on April 1. There's still going to be plenty of close-quarter racing.

"It's still going to be the same Martinsville-style racing. The Car of Tomorrow won't change that," said Johnson.

"The Car of Tomorrow won't make a difference in the racing at Martinsville because aerodynamics there is no big deal," said Earhhardt. "If I could, I'd just like to tear my fenders off at the start of the race. It seems like I always run better there after I get them tore off."

Martinsville Speedway's 60th anniversary season begins with Carilion Pole Day on March 30. The Kroger 250 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race is set for March 31 with the Goody's Cool Orange 500 scheduled for April 1.

Tickets remain for all events and may be purchased by calling 877.RACE.TIX or visiting www.racetickets.com online.

-credit: ms

Be part of something big

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series NASCAR Sprint Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt Jr.