Martin looks forward to Martinsville Speedway return

MARTINSVILLE, VA. (March 23, 2001) -- When Mark Martin looks back on the 2000 Winston Cup season, Martinsville Speedway stands out as the brightest spot in a pretty solid season. Martin finished the 2000 season with 13 top-five finishes, 20 ...

MARTINSVILLE, VA. (March 23, 2001) -- When Mark Martin looks back on the 2000 Winston Cup season, Martinsville Speedway stands out as the brightest spot in a pretty solid season.

Martin finished the 2000 season with 13 top-five finishes, 20 top-10 finishes and was eighth in the final Winston Cup point standings. But despite that stellar performance, Martin had but one win: the Virginia 500 at Martinsville Speedway.

"We were off to a good start when we won Martinsville and we were leading the points by Talladega," Martin recalled. "Then we had six DNFs which is unheard of for this team. We struggled a lot through the season, so I'm glad that we were able to get a win early in the year."

Martin was far from dominant last spring. His Ford was so bad after practice on Friday, he went to teammate Jeff Burton for help. On Sunday, things were better, but not great. He hung around the top five much of the day and a gamble at the end put the win in his pocket.

When the final and record 17th caution of the day flew with about 70 laps remaining, most of the leaders pitted. Martin stayed out, assumed the lead when the race restarted with 64 laps remaining and was really never challenged down the stretch.

"Jimmy Fennig (Martin's crew chief) made such a brilliant call in the pits," Martin said of the day's final caution. "We didn't have a spectacular car, but it sure was good enough to win the race if we had the lead. The car worked good on tires on the long runs, so we stole the race. "Once I got into the lead, I ran like a dog and nobody came."

It was Martin's second Martinsville win on the track where he's enjoyed fair success in his career, including three straight poles (fall 1990, fall and spring in 1991) and 10 top-five finishes. But Martin says there is "absolutely nothing" about his driving style that suits Martinsville Speedway.

"The turns are so sharp and the straight-aways are so long," Martin said. "Those two things plus the curbs on the inside make it different than any other track we run."

Martin isn't even sure that any of last year's success will transfer to the 2001 Virginia 500, especially after finishing 18th in last fall's Old Dominion 500.

"We hope we can use something from last year's race, but we weren't able to in the fall race," said the driver of the Viagra Ford. "Every race is a brand new race, so the spring could be totally different from last October." As the defending champion in the Virginia 500, Martin should return to the .526-mile oval a confident man. That may not be the case, though. I don't usually have a lot of confidence at Martinsville even though I've won there twice. It just isn't a good track for me a lot of the time," said Martin.

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-$65 each. To purchase tickets call the speedway ticket office toll free at 877-722-3849 or go online at

-www.martinsvillespeedway.com.

Be part of something big

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jeff Burton , Mark Martin