Martinsville Speedway - open-wheel drivers spotlight

Martinsville Speedway Foreign Territory For Villeneuve, Franchitti MARTINSVILLE, VA (October 18, 2007) -- It has been an eye-opening few weeks for ex-open-wheel champions Jacque Villeneuve and Dario Franchitti. They have spent...

Martinsville Speedway Foreign Territory For Villeneuve, Franchitti

MARTINSVILLE, VA (October 18, 2007) -- It has been an eye-opening few weeks for ex-open-wheel champions Jacque Villeneuve and Dario Franchitti.

They have spent their careers racing around the world in exotic places like Monaco and Le Man and Montreal, driving sleek Formula One and Champ Car rocketships. Lately they've been crawling through the windows of boxier stock cars, trying to figure out how to steer the bulkier cars around places like Talladega Super Speedway.

And it won't get any easier next week for the pair. Both are entered in the Kroger 200 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race at Martinsville Speedway on Saturday, October 20.

For Franchitti, the Kroger 200 will be his first NASCAR start ever ... in any series. This year's Indianapolis 500 winner made his stock-car debut in the ARCA race at Talladega Superspeedway last weekend and finished 17th.

But for Franchitti, who also happens to be the husband of movie star Ashley Judd, Saturday's Kroger 200 will mark his first NASCAR start in any type of vehicle.

"Obviously, Martinsville will be a completely different animal than Talladega," said the Scotland-born Franchitti, who will drive the entire 2008 Sprint Cup Series in one of Chip Gannasi Racing's Dodges. "We had just 30 laps in the ARCA car before the race last weekend and now we'll try a truck on a short track for the first time.

Like I've said from the beginning, this is a learning process that will take time. But I think the advantage I've got is that I'm with an experienced team and a group of guys that has been through all of this before with Juan Pablo (Montoya) last year."

Franchitti will attempt to put a Target Dodge Ram owned by Cunningham Motorsports into the 36-truck Kroger 200 field. Veteran Ganassi Racing crew chief Brian Pattie will be calling the shots for the team.

Villeneuve had some NASCAR experience, but it all came in the last month.

Three weeks ago he finished 21st in his truck debut at Las Vegas after starting seventh. He did double duty at Talladega last week, finishing 30th in the truck race and 21st in the NEXTEL Cup race after qualifying sixth.

He spent most of Thursday testing a Bill Davis Toyota at Caraway Speedway, a weekly track near Asheboro, N.C., that has some similarities to Martinsville's tight half-mile oval.

"Again, it (Caraway) was another new NASCAR experience for me," said Villeneuve, a former Formula One champion and Indy 500 winner. "The shortest track I'd driven previously was Chicagoland (1.5 miles). Most of my focus has been on the superspeedway track at Talladega, so a 16-second lap was very different. I got up to speed quickly, and was happy with how I ran.

"The team was happy with what we managed to achieve in a half a day, and I feel ready for Martinsville, albeit I'm sure it will feel very different there with so many other trucks on the track."

Tickets remain for both the SUBWAY 500 on Sunday, October 21, and the Kroger 200 NASACAR Craftsman Truck Series race, on Saturday, October 20, and can be purchased by calling 1.877.RACE.TIX. Tickets may also be purchased online at www.racetickets.com

Ticket prices for the SUBWAY 500 range from $42 to $77. Tickets for the Kroger 200 are $37 in advance and $42 at the gate. Kroger 200 tickets for children ages 6 to 12 are $5.

The SUBWAY 500 weekend kicks off on October 19 with Carilion Pole Day, featuring times trials and practice for the SUBWAY 500.

The Kroger 200 is scheduled for October 20 and the SUBWAY 500 on October 21.

-credit: ms

Be part of something big

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series NASCAR Truck
Teams Chip Ganassi Racing