It's Just Like Old Times For Waltrip At Martinsville Speedway Darrell Waltrip was by far the oldest NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series driver testing at Martinsville Speedway Tuesday * probably the oldest by at least two decades. But when he...
It's Just Like Old Times For Waltrip At Martinsville Speedway
Darrell Waltrip was by far the oldest NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series driver testing at Martinsville Speedway Tuesday * probably the oldest by at least two decades.
But when he crawled from the window of his Toyota Tundra at about 5:30 p.m. after a long, humid afternoon of testing, he had hardly broken a sweat and he had a spring in his step. He was obviously pretty happy preparing for his final truck series finale at Martinsville Speedway in the Kroger 200 on October 22.
"I've been working hard. I'm probably physically in the best shape I've ever been in coming to one of these races over the last five years," said Waltrip, who has twice before futilely attempted to run his final career race at Martinsville. "I feel good in the truck. I'm getting comfortable."
Waltrip was one of almost a dozen drivers testing at Martinsville Speedway Tuesday, some from the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series, others from the Craftsman Truck Series.
From the Cup side there was Greg Biffle, Jeff Green, Sterling Marlin and Robbie Gordon. Waltrip, David Reutimann, who drives a truck owned by Waltrip, Timothy Peters, Deborah Renshaw, Jarit Johnson, Tam Topham and Josh Richeson were on the truck side.
Rain wiped out the morning segment of testing and kept several drivers, including Jimmy Johnson, Elliott Sadler, Jamie McMurray, Carl Edwards, Bobby Labonte and Denny Hamlin, away from the track. Those six drivers are expected to be on hand Wednesday along with several of those who tested Tuesday, including Waltrip.
Waltrip was testing the number 12 Tundra he'll drive here, but he was keeping a close eye on the 17 driven by Reutimann. At day's end, the three-time NEXTEL Cup champion was pleased with both trucks.
"We didn't get started until after lunch. David's truck was really good all afternoon," said Waltrip. "This 12 truck, we've had to do a lot on it. We've really thrashed on it, but now we're right there.
"We're pretty happy with both trucks and I've still got all day tomorrow to play with my truck. I think I can get it so it's very, very good. I was a little concerned when I got here, but the boys have really worked on it and brought it around. I'm pretty happy right now, pretty optimistic."
Waltrip retired from the NEXTEL Cup Series in 1998, but has made several truck series starts since, mainly at Martinsville. The previous two truck events at Martinsville were supposed to be his last starts, but rain kept him out of the starting grid for one of those and he failed to make the other. The Kroger 200 will be, he swears, his swan song.
He admitted when he got to the track Tuesday he was a bit rusty. Other than a test session last spring, he hasn't been behind the wheel for almost two years.
"I really haven't raced since the spring race last year. I went to Bristol with Andy Petree and we ran laps in a show truck riding people around the track. That was fun and kinda got me limbered up a little bit," said Waltrip. "It takes a day to get back into the swing of it, but I feel comfortable in the truck."
Waltrip has 11 Martinsville NEXTEL Cup victories to his credit, second to Richard Petty on the all-time win list on the half-mile oval. He said all that experience has taught him one thing - it's tough to get around Martinsville Speedway.
"It's not easy to run around here in 20 seconds. I can go out there and drive casually and run 20.80s, eight-tenths off what you should be running. And I could do that all day," said Waltrip. "But when you try to run 20 flat around here, you have got to hustle. You've got to hustle it in (the corners) and get back in that throttle and you don't play around. You get back into it wide open and it's gotta dig up off that corner. If you do that, you're gonna run good laps times."
And despite all his laps at Martinsville, Tuesday was like a remedial class at times, sort of like Martinsville 101.
"Even though you've been here a million times * and I know this race track as well as anybody, I know what it takes to get around here. But that doesn't mean you don't need a little refresher course," said Waltrip. "I know I had to make a couple of nice saves today."
Tickets for both the SUBWAY 500 on Sunday, October 23, and the Kroger 200 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race, on Saturday, October 22, are on sale and can be purchased by calling 1.877.RACE.TIX. SUBWAY 500 tickets may also be purchased online at www.racetickets.com. For race information, please visit www.martinsvillespeedway.com.
Ticket prices for the SUBWAY 500 range from $40 to $75. Tickets for the Kroger 200 are $35 in advance and $40 the day of the event. Kroger 200 tickets for children ages 6 to 12 are $5.
The SUBWAY 500 weekend kicks off on October 21 with time trials for both the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series and the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series.