MARTINSVILLE, VA (March 7, 2001) -- Rusty Wallace should have won the Virginia 500 last spring. And you can bet that will be on the veteran's mind when he comes back to Martinsville Speedway this spring for the running of the Virginia 500...
MARTINSVILLE, VA (March 7, 2001) -- Rusty Wallace should have won the Virginia 500 last spring. And you can bet that will be on the veteran's mind when he comes back to Martinsville Speedway this spring for the running of the Virginia 500 on April 8. Wallace has always been masterful at Martinsville and last spring was no different. He captured the pole and led 343 laps, but at the end he was 10th, done in by a late-race pit stop. Even though Wallace has six victories on the tough, tight .526-mile oval, last spring's disappointment proved to Wallace there are always lessons to be learned. "Darned right we learned something (last spring) ... we learned that it was wrong to pit when we did," said Wallace, who was starting his 500th Winston Cup race in the 2000 Virginia 500. "Mark had pitted earlier and he stayed out when we pitted and he won the race because of that. Short and sweet, that was the deal. It was a real eye-opener about the importance of track position. You have heard people talk about just how important track position is and that was the biggest example of that fact being true that I'm able to come up with. "When you're leading and you pit and come back out that far back with not that many laps left, you're doomed. Sure, tires are important, but you'll burn them up before you make up much of the ground you lost. Yep, we learned big time on that day at Martinsville." It was poor strategy that cost Wallace and his Miller Lite Team last year, not a driving error by the driver. Wallace seldom makes on-track miscues at Martinsville, a track he's learned to love over the years. "It really does suit my driving style. I grew up racing all the short tracks ... the quarter-mile, half-mile, five-eighths tracks all across the country," said Wallace, who won over 200 major features during his younger days on the ASA and All Pro circuits while beating about the short tracks of the Midwest. "To have the success back then really carried over when we moved to Cup racing in the mid-80s. It's a confidence and comfort thing going to the short tracks like Martinsville. It's almost like a homecoming and we always come in there not just hoping to do well, but expecting to challenge for the pole and the win." And while Wallace wants to avenge last spring's miscue this time around in the Virginia 500, he knows it won't be easy with the level of competition on the Winston Cup circuit these days. "It all goes back to what I said about the competition being stiffer than it's ever been," said Wallace. "Sure, Martinsville's always been known for it being so tough on the brakes and so much of a strain on the engines, but fact was there was a time where maybe there was a little lull during a 500 lap race there. "That's not the case these days. It's flat out each and every lap from the drop of the green flag."
The Virginia 500/Advance Auto Parts 250 weekend kicks off with Bud Pole qualifying for the Craftsman Truck Series at 1:30 p.m. on Friday, April 6 followed by time trials for the Winston Cup Series at 3 p.m. Tickets for qualifying are $15 for adults and children under 12 get in free. Tickets for the Advance Auto Parts 250 Craftsman Truck race are $30 for adults and $5 for children ages 6-12. All seats are unreserved. There still are great seats available for the Virginia 500 NASCAR Winston Cup race for $40-$70 each. To purchase tickets call the speedway ticket office toll free at 877-722-3849 or online at www.martinsvillespeedway.com.