Martinsville NAPA 250 to be a "Civil War"

NAPA 250 to be a 'Civil War' at Martinsville By Dave Rodman MARTINSVILLE, Va. (April 15, 1999) The competition should be stiff in this Saturday's NAPA 250 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race. The NASCAR Winston Cup Series drivers in the field...

NAPA 250 to be a 'Civil War' at Martinsville By Dave Rodman

MARTINSVILLE, Va. (April 15, 1999) The competition should be stiff in this Saturday's NAPA 250 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race. The NASCAR Winston Cup Series drivers in the field for Saturday's NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series NAPA 250 may be few in number, but their quality is deep. However, no regular from NASCAR's senior series has won a NCTS event since September 1996, when Mark Martin turned the trick at North Wilkesboro Speedway -- so there's really no reason to think the trend will suddenly change, but the point and counter-point is intriguing.

The last time NASCAR Winston Cup driver Ernie Irvan -- who owns a NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series team with Mark Simo -- sat behind the wheel of a Federated Auto Parts Ford F-Series race truck at Martinsville Speedway, he qualified on the outside of the front row and finished second to fellow NWC driver Rich Bickle in the race. This time, he wants it all.

"That deal was a little different," said Irvan of the 1997 NAPA 250. "We were running full time with Boris (Said) and from time to time, I'd run a few races here and there. We kind of split up the team to do that deal, so we could get both trucks ready. Jerry (Baxter) was my crew chief for those races. It was just him and a couple of other guys. This time it is going to be different. We're only taking the one truck to the race. All our efforts are going into this one truck. We're here to win."

Unfortunately -- maybe -- for Irvan, not only is Bickle, inaugural NCTS Martinsville race winner Joe Ruttman and defending champion Jay Sauter, all back in 1999. So are Rick Carelli, who last weekend at Mesa Marin Raceway in Bakersfield, Calif., and Ron Hornaday, who won the two races before that.

"There's a lot of people having a great season," said Hornaday, certainly counting his NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet crew in that number. "There's going to be some good racing here, and it's still early in the season. This will be the fifth race out of 25 so we have a lot to go after this one. Hopefully we can keep on with the roll we've got going, keep these top-fives going and finish on the lead lap every race.

"That's what our goals are this year -- to get top-fives and finish on the lead lap every race."

The curve thrown at both the NASCAR Winston Cup and NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series competitors at Martinsville this year is a new pit road that starts in Turn 3 and ends beyond Turn 1 -- allowing everyone to pit "on the frontstretch."

"Martinsville Speedway's done a great job," Hornaday said of the new pit road. "It's tough to get used to the wall all the way around because you have to go so far around it. But it's going to be a plus in the race. It's an awesome facility. Pit stops are going to be awesome."

That fact -- open pit stops -- may top the scales in the Cup drivers' favor. Bobby Hamilton and Bickle will use their NWC crews. But Hornaday says he has the best crew in his series and that that he'll stack the Sandy Jones-led bunch up against anyone.

The race, which will be held as a combination event for the first time this season with the NASCAR Winston Cup Series, creates an odd scenario for USG SHEETROCK Brand Rookie of the Year candidate Scott Hansen, who will drive his Oakwood Homes Chevrolet in front of team owner Ken Schrader. Hansen's no more concerned than usual, though.

"Kenny never puts any pressure or expectations on me," Hansen said. "That helps out a lot. However, the pressure that the whole team and I put on ourselves is tremendous. Everyone just wants to do really well with Kenny in the pits."

Source: NASCAR Online

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Series NASCAR Truck
Drivers Rich Bickle , Bobby Hamilton , Ernie Irvan , Jay Sauter , Ron Hornaday Jr. , Joe Ruttman , Rick Carelli , Mark Martin , Scott Hansen