MARTINSVILLE, Va. (March 31, 1999) Jeremy Mayfield and Kenny Irwin found they liked the new pit configuration at Martinsville Speedway -- which eliminates the previous "frontstretch-backstretch" pit dilemma at the half-mile facility -- but both...
MARTINSVILLE, Va. (March 31, 1999) Jeremy Mayfield and Kenny Irwin found they liked the new pit configuration at Martinsville Speedway -- which eliminates the previous "frontstretch-backstretch" pit dilemma at the half-mile facility -- but both believe qualifying well will still be extremely important. Mayfield and Irwin tested on Tuesday at the .526-mile speedway and both worked on brakes and a basic setup for the Goody's Body Pain 500, scheduled for April 18.
"This track is the most important on brakes, Mayfield said. "You have to have the best of everything: Good car, good brakes and everything has to go right to win here. It's a tough place, one of the toughest places we go on the circuit. If you look at it, it's just a normal short track, but it's a tough little short track."
Mayfield is coming off two consecutive great finishes with a fifth at Texas Motor Speedway last weekend and a second at Darlington the week before.
"We have an awesome team and we've had a shot to win two or three races already this year. We have run really good in all of them except Atlanta," he said of his 1999 season. "You know, we just need a couple of breaks. At Daytona we were sitting there running first or second all day long and cut a tire down. At Vegas, we led laps and should have been in the top-three and cut a tire down. That stuff happens. We saw the 24 car (Jeff Gordon) go through it last week. You just have to overcome it and keep going."
Both Mayfield and Irwin say that the new pit configuration, that will allow all 43 cars to pit on the same pit road, looks great and will even the competition.
"It's an advantage for guys that don't qualify well here because when you don't qualify well at a track like Martinsville or Bristol you are automatically behind the gun for the race," said Irwin, driver of the Texaco Havoline Ford. "Now, if you have a good race setup, you will be able to run up front where before it was harder to do that."
Mayfield agreed, but said qualifying would still be important.
"I think it looks awesome. It's an awesome place. It looks as good as any. Still, you always have to qualify well here because you definitely don't want to start in the back.
"You are a half a lap down before they throw the green flag. When they throw the green you still haven't taken off and the leaders are gone, so now you are three-quarters of a lap down. You always want to qualify good here, and it is definitely going to play a different role as far as pit strategy."
Both drivers were quick in practice with Mayfield reporting consistently fast laps with a race setup and Irwin was happy with his times in qualifying setup runs. Ted Musgrave holds the NASCAR Winston Cup track Bud Pole Qualifying record at 20.117 seconds, 94.129 miles per hour. Bobby Hamilton won the Bud Pole for the Goody's Headache Powder 500 a year ago with a time of 20.323 seconds, 93.175 miles per hour.
The new pit road will not only change pit strategy but the on track competition will be a little different too. Martinsville now has an inside wall in the turns about four feet from the track's inside yellow curb. Irwin said the drivers and fans will just have to wait for the race to see how much difference the new wall will make.
"I think that will be a deal where we will just have to get in there and see. You are going to see a lot happening, and I don't know how it will change things until you get 43 cars out here trying to wreck each other," he said.
But Irwin added the new pit road will make a huge difference for the drivers who do not qualify well, saying "I think it will make it where a guy that starts 30th on back is going to have a better chance of winning the race."
Martinsville still has great tower and concrete bleacher seats for the Goody's Body Pain 500 for $40 to $60. For tickets, call the speedway ticket office at (540) 956-3151.
Source: NASCAR Online