Drivers say Martinsville test sessions crucial

MARTINSVILLE, VA. (April 2, 2002) ­ How important is testing in NASCAR Winston Cup racing these days? A look at the roster of team testing at Martinsville Speedway the past two weeks in preparation for the April 14th Virginia 500 is a dead give...

MARTINSVILLE, VA. (April 2, 2002) ­ How important is testing in NASCAR Winston Cup racing these days?

A look at the roster of team testing at Martinsville Speedway the past two weeks in preparation for the April 14th Virginia 500 is a dead give away. Old teams. New teams. Rookie drivers. Veteran drivers. Former Martinsville winners. Drivers who have never won a Winston Cup race.

It is no secret that testing has become crucial, whether on a 2 ½ mile superspeedway or a .526-mile short track.

"Every race is equally important and that makes testing at each track important," said Michael Waltrip, driver of the NAPA Chevrolet, who tested at Martinsville Speedway Tuesday with DEI teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr., Mike Skinner, Bill Elliott and Hermie Sadler

"We've never looked at it any differently. We've tested here over the years and that's why we're here this week."

Tuesday's day-long test wrapped up two two-day sessions at the venerable race track.

On Monday Waltrip, Earnhardt Jr., Skinner, Elliott and rookie Randy Renfow tested.

A week earlier rookie-of-the-year contenders Ryan Newman and Jimmie Johnson tested at the track along with Ricky Craven, who won last fall's Old Dominion 500 at Martinsville.

Craven, who spent two full days a week ago testing at Martinsville, had the perfect explanation of why testing is so important.

"I really think it is a good illustration of the respect we have for the Winston Cup Series and the drivers and the teams," Craven said.

"We won last fall and we felt like we earned it, but we don't feel like we could rest on our laurels. We feel to come back here and repeat, we needed to improve on a few things. I think it's a great plan. When we won here last year, we led the most laps and won the race, but we wanted to be better. We wanted to be isolated from the rest of the crowd to do our deal and testing is the time to do that."

Track time is limited when the teams roll in for race weekend, so it is vital to have the car race ready when its backed off the hauler. That is especially important for a driver like Sadler, who races a limited schedule.

"Testing is more important to me than these other guys here," Sadler said Tuesday during a one-day visit to Martinsville "I've only got a few Winston Cup races under my belt and every lap I get here in testing is important. It helps me understand better about what the race car is doing and what I need to tell the guys about what it's doing."

The next action at Martinsville Speedway will be MW Windows Pole Day on Friday, April 12. The NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series competitors will time trial for the Advance Auto Parts 250 at 1:30 p.m. while qualifying for the Virginia 500 is set for 3 p.m. Tickets for qualifying are $15 for adults and children under 12 get in free. The Craftsman Truck Series racing action begins at 2 p.m. on April 13 when the green flag waves on the Advance Auto Parts 250. 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

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt Jr. , Bill Elliott , Michael Waltrip , Mike Skinner , Ryan Newman , Jimmie Johnson , Ricky Craven , Hermie Sadler