Martinsville: Chip Ganassi preview

Dario Franchitti and No. 40 Kennametal Dodge Teams (NSCS) Still in the Lead: Franchitti is still leading the Raybestos Rookie of the Year standings in the NSCS (50-49 over Regan Smith). He also leads the rookie class in the NASCAR Nationwide...

Dario Franchitti and No. 40 Kennametal Dodge Teams (NSCS)

Still in the Lead: Franchitti is still leading the Raybestos Rookie of the Year standings in the NSCS (50-49 over Regan Smith). He also leads the rookie class in the NASCAR Nationwide Series (NNS) 58-52 over his fellow rookie CGRFS teammate Bryan Clauson.

Franchitti at Martinsville: This weekend's run at Martinsville will be Franchitti's second race at the Virginia short track, which will mark the first time in his NASCAR career that he will be visiting a track where he has already logged some stock car race laps. Franchitti made his NASCAR debut at Martinsville last October, competing in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series competition during which he raced up to as high as 15th before rear end problems ultimately sent the team behind the wall and out of the show 52 laps shy of the finish line (started 30th, finished 33rd).

Kennametal to Sponsor No. 40: CGRFS announced earlier this week an expansion of its current partnership with Kennametal (NYSE: KMT) to include primary sponsorship for the next two NSCS races in Martinsville and Texas on the No. 40 Dodge Charger. Kennametal, a longtime CGRFS partner, supplies tooling and machining technology to the team's Charlotte and Indianapolis-based racing shops. In addition, Kennametal provides the team's engineers and machinists a myriad of opportunities to further refine their skills in order to gain optimum performance through Kennametal's internal university program. Franchitti will contest the Goody's Cool Orange 500 at Martinsville Speedway March 30 and the Samsung 500 at Texas Motor Speedway on April 6 in the No. 40 Kennametal Dodge. Franchitti, an Edinburgh, Scotland native, is a perfect fit for the global company which delivers its products through employees in over 60 countries.

Reed Sorenson and No. 41 Target Dodge Team (NSCS)

Reed at Martinsville: Sorenson's best finish in Cup competition at Martinsville was the first time he raced a NSCS car at the Virginia track in April 2006, when he scored a 12th-place finish (started 25th). He seems to fair better during his April efforts at Martinsville. Last year he finished 18th (started 28th) in the April 1 race and then followed up with a 41st-place finish (started 28th) in October. His first and only NNS run at Martinsville (which was in June 2006) resulted in a fourth-place finish. Altogether, he has four starts in NSCS competition at the short track, averaging a 24th-place starting position and 26.5-finishing position.

Points Report: Sorenson currently sits 25th (tied with David Reutimann) in the overall NSCS driver point standings. He is only 134 points out of 12th place -- the final cutoff position for the Chase -- and 321 points out of first place.

Juan Pablo Montoya and No. 42 Big Red Dodge Team (NSCS)

Bold Again: Montoya's No. 42 Dodge Charger will appropriately carry the bold colors of Big Red this weekend at the short track in Martinsville. This is the second time this season Montoya's car is "wrapped" in the Big Red paint scheme.

Martinsville Success: Montoya will be making his third start at the shortest track on the NASCAR circuit this weekend. He completed all 1,006 laps at the track in his rookie campaign, touted by many as one of his most impressive feats of the 2007 season. In his first race at the track he finished 16th, only to better his finish by eight positions in October when he drove the No. 42 across the stripe in eighth place.

R&R: With just a few breaks in the Sprint Cup schedule, Montoya spent the off-week in his home country of Colombia with his family.

About Bristol: Montoya drove the No. 42 Dodge to a 15th-place finish at Bristol Motor Speedway and earned the team's first top-15 finish of the season. It also marked Montoya's best finish in three starts at the .533-mile short track.

2008 Standings: Montoya and the Big Red team moved up another four spots in the NASCAR Sprint Cup standings from 23rd to 19th following their 15th-place finish at Bristol two weeks ago. They were 32nd in points following the Daytona 500 and have steadily climbed up the standings and into the top 20. Montoya and team sit just 86 points out of 12th, and 96 out of 10th.

Montoya (from his SIRIUS Satellite interview on Tuesday) "Martinsville is one of the coolest places for a race. It's tricky, you have to be more respectful here than Bristol. You have to drive in like a gentleman and out like an animal."

Steve Lane (Crew Chief of the No. 40 Kennametal Dodge and Dario Franchitti) discussed what advantages Franchitti possess going into this weekend's effort at Martinsville based upon the fact he has competed in a NASCAR race (the October 2007 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race) at the Virginia short track. "I definitely think there is somewhat of an advantage having driven on a track before, but he ran in the truck race and we are going there this weekend to compete in the Sprint Cup Series. The trucks are so different and some of the rules are different. We have to be a lot closer this weekend in the Cup car then they were in the truck. When you look at that truck and the run they did there last year, they were four-tenths or five-tenths off the pole. They still qualified 30th. In the Sprint Cup Series four-tenths off the pole is going to send you home. We do have an advantage though, but we can't compare the truck effort to this weekend's effort. We can't say we ran pretty decent in the truck and that is going to make everything ok. The good thing is he definitely has a feel for the track. That is an advantage.

"One major thing that will help us is Martinsville is virtually a road course with two turns. That is what Dario has said, is you have to wait and get it pointed straight like you do on a road course. He is definitely a veteran when it comes to racing road courses so that will be to our advantage."

-credit: cgr

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Juan Pablo Montoya