Martinsville Kenny Irwin Preview

IRWIN LOOKING FOR A BRAKE AT MARTINSVILLE MARTINSVILLE, Va. -- Whether it's spelled "brake" or "break," it will be a key ingredient to success in the Goody's Body Pain 500 at Martinsville Speedway this Sunday for the NASCAR Winston Cup...

IRWIN LOOKING FOR A BRAKE AT MARTINSVILLE

MARTINSVILLE, Va. -- Whether it's spelled "brake" or "break," it will be a key ingredient to success in the Goody's Body Pain 500 at Martinsville Speedway this Sunday for the NASCAR Winston Cup No. 28 Texaco/Havoline team and driver Kenny Irwin.

"Martinsville is a braking type of place," said Irwin, the 1998 Winston Cup Rookie of the Year. "More than any other track we go to. It's like two dragstrips joined together at the ends. You go as fast as you can down the straights, then you have to get hard on the brakes to slow down enough to turn back and go again. It's harder on the rest of the equipment too. You'll wear out your car there, although you might only beat it up at other short tracks."

While Irwin has had good runs in his three previous races at Martinsville, his scorecard for the almost flat oval that measures just over a half mile shows a best-finish of 19th (spring '98) and best start of third (fall '97). In an effort to improve their stats, the Texaco/Havoline team tested at Martinsville March 30 and 31.

"We tested well there," said Irwin, who had the second fastest time of those teams in attendance. "I feel better going there this weekend than I ever have before. We've had some great runs this year, starting with the third-place finish at Daytona. Our car is running better and I have learned a lot over the past year."

Perhaps another reason for Irwin's confidence is the race car his team has picked to take to Martinsville -- the same one he drove to win the pole position at Texas just a few weeks ago.

"You need to qualify well everywhere, but especially on the short tracks," said Irwin. "With the new pit configuration at Martinsville, you don't have the disadvantage that existed when they had two pit roads. Now, if you have a good race setup, you will be able to run up front, and it was harder to do that before. But having a good car sure helps."

Martinsville Speedway has recently completed an ambitious construction project, making one long pit road, which wraps around the inside two-thirds of the track, and also adding a new inside pit wall on the frontstretch. In the past, drivers often guided their cars through the infield grass area to avoid wrecks. The new wall eliminates that option.

        "I think we'll have to wait and see how the wall affects the
race,"  said Irwin. "When we get 43 cars out there, we'll know."

One thing is for sure, or would it be two? Breaks and brakes will be words of the weekend for the entire Texaco/Havoline team.

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Series NASCAR Cup