Kevin Powell - Martinsville Speedway spotlight

Kevin Powell's Martinsville Goal Simple: Make The Show MARTINSVILLE, VA (August 24, 2006) -- Kevin Powell crawled into a NASCAR Modified racer for the first time three years ago. The veteran driver was immediately hooked. "My dad went with me...

Kevin Powell's Martinsville Goal Simple: Make The Show

MARTINSVILLE, VA (August 24, 2006) -- Kevin Powell crawled into a NASCAR Modified racer for the first time three years ago. The veteran driver was immediately hooked.

"My dad went with me the first time I tested a Modified and when I came in I told him 'Dad, I've never set in anything as fast and exciting as this. There's no comparison'," recalled Powell.

The 39-year-old Powell will be bringing his Ford to Martinsville Speedway Sept. 2 for the Made In America Whelen 300 NASCAR Modified Tour race. For the second consecutive year the event will be at night under the lights.

And Powell is hoping for a little better luck than he had in last year's NASCAR Modified event at Martinsville Speedway. He was hit with mechanical problems late in the Chatlee Boats Last Chance Race and missed making the main event.

"Our number-one goal is making the show and we would really like to make it in qualifying," said Powell. "And then we would like to finish in the top 20. That would be reasonable for us."

Powell has been competing at storied Bowman Gray Stadium in Winston-Salem, NC, this season, and though he didn't win a race, he saw tons of progress.

"This is my third year in a Modified and I kind of feel like I came into my own in the last 15 races of this season," said Powell, who calls Winston-Salem home, but owns at Ford dealership in Pilot Mountain, NC.

Powell began racing when he was 10 and by the time he was 14 had claimed state and national titles. Then he made the jump to dirt-track Late Models and hit the road.

"I ran the super Late Model dirt series across the southeast. I actually had a tutor that traveled with me when I was in high school," said Powell.

He piled up 63 wins and two track championships on the dirt, but then the real world called.

"I had to get out of racing for about 11 or 12 years to go to college and to pursue my career in the automobile business," said Powell. "Once I got that kind of equalized out and became a car dealer, I decided I wanted to get back into racing and I bought a Late Model Stock Car."

Powell wasn't born with a silver spoon, though. His dealership, Foothills Ford, wasn't a gift from his parents. "There are probably only about 10 (new car) dealers in the country under 40 that didn't get it from their daddy." Powell is one of those 10.

He had been driving the Late Model for just a year or so when venerable Modified ace Johnny Johnson came calling.

"He was thinking about slowing down and had seen me drive. He asked me to test his car. I was fortunate enough to get the ride with him," said Powell.

Johnson raced through this season, but retired after the last event of the year at Bowman Gray. He will still field cars for Powell, though.

As much as Powell enjoyed his first few laps in his tryout with Johnson, it took him a while to make the conversion from the full-bodied Late Model cars to the open-wheel Modifieds.

"The Modifieds are a little bigger bullet to shoot than the Late Models," said Powell. "There is a lot more horsepower going to the rear wheels. You kind of point and aim it. It took me a while to get used to it."

And he admits Martinsville Speedway's long straight-aways are much different than what he sees weekly at the quarter-mile Bowman Gray track.

"At the Stadium you are on the straights less than three seconds and at Martinsville it seems like you're on the straights an eternity," said Powell. "When you roll off into the corner at Martinsville, you're carrying some speed."

The first on-track action for the Made In America Whelen 300 will be a 90-minute practice session at 5 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 1. Time trials are scheduled for 8:30 p.m. followed by an autograph session in the infield.

Happy hour is set for 3:30 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 2. The 50-lap Chatlee Boats last chance race is scheduled for 7 p.m. with the Made In America Whelen 300 set to take the green at 8:30 p.m.

The fast 20 cars will make the 250-lap feature through time trials. The next eight positions will got to the eight drivers highest in the season-long point standings who don't make the top 20. the final 15 spots will be filled by the top-15 finishers in the 50-lap Chatlee Boats Last Chance Race.

Fan gates will open at 4:30 on Friday, September 1, and 3:30 p.m. on Saturday, September 2.

Tickets for the Made In America Whelen 300 are $20 and may be purchased in advance by calling 877.RACE.TIX or visiting www.racetickets.com online. Tickets for pole day are $5 and may be purchased the day of qualifying.

-credit: martinsville speedway

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