MARTINSVILLE, VA. (March 12, 2001) - Andy Houston may be a Winston Cup rookie, but when he rolls into Martinsville Speedway for the Virginia 500, he'll have more memories of the .526-mile oval than many of the veterans. Houston's father was a ...
MARTINSVILLE, VA. (March 12, 2001) - Andy Houston may be a Winston Cup rookie, but when he rolls into Martinsville Speedway for the Virginia 500, he'll have more memories of the .526-mile oval than many of the veterans. Houston's father was a Martinsville terror in the old Late Model Sportsman division and then the Busch Grand National division. The 30-year-old Houston has been coming to Martinsville since he was a toddler and by the time he was a teenager, he was a member of his father's pit crew.
"I've been coming up there along time. I remember my dad racing guys like Jack (Ingram), Butch (Lindley) and Ray Hendrick," said Houston, who is in the hunt for the Raybestos Rookie of the Year title driving the PPI Motorsports McDonalds Ford. "I was there the day Richie (Evans) and Geoff (Bodine) wrecked on the last lap. I remember Richie coming across the finish line on his side.
"That's the stuff I really cherish ... to be around that kind of racing and witness it. It's the type of stuff other guys just hear about." Andy's dad had three feature wins at Martinsville and too many top fives to count. But all of his Martinsville memories aren't good.
"So many times races slipped away from us," said Andy. "I remember in 1989 when Dad and Rob Moroso battled to the last race of the year (at Martinsville) for the championship. He was running fifth in the race and had the championship in hand and broke something in the engine with 20 laps to go.
"There are a lot of memories at Martinsville for me and that was one I'd like to forget. That was a tough day for our family. He raced so many years and never won the championship. When that engine let go, it was like a nightmare for us."
Ironically, the younger Houston admits he has trouble finding his father's success at Martinsville. His best finish in four NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series races here was a ninth. "Martinsville has always been a place that's been hard to figure out," said Houston, who had three wins in his four-year Craftsman Truck Series career. "One time you feel like you have a good handle and the next time you go back and struggle. It's real temperamental. It's going to be one of our early-season challenges."
Houston is hoping he can use some of the knowledge he gained in his four truck starts at Martinsville to help with his Winston Cup transition. "The Cup cars and the trucks share some things. The trucks were heavy and have a lot of motor and are hard on brakes at Martinsville and the same thing is true for the Cup cars," said Houston. "There's probably a lot of stuff I can relate to, but there's probably nothing like going there and running in the spring and then bringing that knowledge back in the fall. But that's all part of being a rookie."
Houston said he won't be too proud to call on his father for some tutoring before the Virginia 500 pops up on the schedule. "It was one of those places where he was strong, so when we come to test, I'll probably bring him back up there with me."
The Virginia 500/Advance Auto Parts 250 weekend kicks off with Bud Pole qualifying for the Craftsman Truck Series at 1:30 p.m. on Friday, April 6 followed by time trials for the Winston Cup Series at 3 p.m. Tickets for qualifying are $15 for adults and children under 12 get in free. 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.