Martinsville: News of note

* Martinsville race weekend the first under new qualifying procedure --top 35 in 2005 owner points * Another tough track: Conserving brakes key to good Martinsville performance * History lesson: Martinsville Speedway boasts big wins, lots of...

* Martinsville race weekend the first under new qualifying procedure --top 35 in 2005 owner points

* Another tough track: Conserving brakes key to good Martinsville performance

* History lesson: Martinsville Speedway boasts big wins, lots of lore

NEWS AND NOTES

New Qualifying Procedures Enhance Competition ... The spring event at Martinsville marks the first weekend where the top 35 teams in current owner championship points will be used as the yardstick for qualifying. Beginning in 2005, teams outside the top 35 must qualify on speed for each week's 43 starting spots. The top 35 designation guarantees a spot in the field for those teams; beginning with the season-opening Daytona 500 and running through last week's Food City 500 at Bristol, the top 35 in 2004 owner championship points was the yardstick. Beginning in Martinsville -- the season's sixth race -- the current top 35 teams in owner championship points become the yardstick.

The reason behind the decision to eliminate the previous system is simple: Teams now earn starting spots instead of relying on an accrued number of provisionals, which means the most competitive 43 cars now make each race field.

This Is Why It's So Tough ... Tight turns may be the most obvious challenge of Martinsville's half-mile, but it's what you don't see that often stymies teams at the southern Virginia track. Lots of brake work means lots of strain on braking mechanisms; in turn, that usually means a fix-it trip to the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup garage.

The toughest adjustment between Bristol and Martinsville are the brakes," said Donnie Wingo, Jamie McMurray's (No. 42 Texaco/Havoline Dodge) crew chief. "You use the brakes a lot more at Martinsville than at Bristol. The track is flatter and there are long straightaways and tight corners. The best way to save brakes is what NASCAR is already doing which is they mandate what the rear gear ratio has to be. It also takes a good handling race car to save the brakes."

The solution, Tony Stewart says, is to do the math.

"When you've got a 500-lap race at Martinsville and you've got to use the brakes hard twice a lap, that's 1,000 times during a race where you're asking that brake system to slow down a 3,400-pound race car," Stewart said. "If you can be easy on those brakes for the first half of the race or first three-quarters of the race, then when you really need those brakes to battle for the win at the end - you've got 'em."

The term, according to Stewart, is to "float it in" those tight turns.

"The key is to have a car where the driver is able to get off the brakes really early and then just let it roll through the center of the corner," said Greg Zipadelli, Stewart's crew chief. "The problem comes when the car doesn't roll and it doesn't turn. The driver has to drive it in deeper, use more brakes, and then you end up with no brakes."

Short-Track Bonding: Harvick, Spotter Have A Link ... As a driver's eye-in-the-sky, a spotter is more than a crucial voice in the driver's ear. It's a relationship based on trust, particularly important during short-track racing.

And Kevin Harvick's spotter, Rick Carelli, has plenty of that. Carelli was one of the most dominating drivers in the Southwest during the 1980's and 90's. He captured the NASCAR Southwest Tour title in 1991 and the NASCAR West title in 1993 before joining the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series in 1995. Before he retired, Carelli won four times as a NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series driver, and both Carelli and Harvick hail from California, thus their link.

I first met Kevin when he was like 10 or 11 years old," said Carelli. "His Dad Mike was my crew chief when I ran at Bakersfield (Mesa Marin Raceway). We continued to be friends up through his Southwest Tour days and into the Truck Series."

"I know that he has seen it all as a driver," Harvick said. "He had a great understanding of how I race and what I am trying to do. It is a great advantage to have a spotter that knows you well and knows how you react to situations."

That respect has mushroomed into business relationships; this season Carelli helps run the day-to-day operations at Kevin Harvick Inc., the team that fields NASCAR Busch Series and NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series entries for Harvick and his wife, DeLana. And, he's in Harvick's ear at the track -- a valued part of the process at demanding short tracks like Bristol Motor Speedway and Martinsville Speedway.

"I think as a spotter, I can help Kevin a lot," Carelli said. "Since we have that trust, he knows that when I say something, he doesn't have to second guess it. I wish I would have had a veteran driver spot for me early in my career."

Back in Front: Chevrolet Atop Series Manufacturers Standings ... After five races in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series season, Chevrolet has edged ahead of Ford in the series' Manufacturers Championship standings, with Dodge running third. Chevrolet took the lead thanks to Kevin Harvick's win last Sunday at Bristol. Chevrolet now has three wins; Ford has two. ... Chevrolet has won the Manufacturers Championship 28 times while Ford has won 15 times; the other 10 years the championship has been awarded, it has been won by Hudson (3), Dodge (2), Buick (2), Oldsmobile (1), Pontiac (1) and Plymouth (1). ... Points are earned thusly: Nine points to the highest-finishing car type; six points to the second-highest finishing type; four points for the third-highest finishing type. ... Chevrolet has won the championship the last two years. ... Jimmie Johnson is currently the leading Chevrolet driver, as the series point leader. Greg Biffle, second in points, is the top Ford driver. Rusty Wallace is the leading Dodge driver, standing ninth in the points. Chevrolet leads all manufacturers with 38 wins at Martinsville.

From The Archives: Big Names, Big Wins At Martinsville Speedway ... Some of NASCAR's biggest names got their first NASCAR NEXTEL Cup wins in the spring event at NASCAR's oldest track, Martinsville Speedway. Built in 1947 by Clay Earle and Sam Rice, the half-mile dirt track first hosted NASCAR events in 1948. It also was a featured track during the initial NASCAR "Strictly Stock" season of 1949, the precursor to today's NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series.

Dick Rathmann wheeled a Hudson Hornet to his first series win in 1952, when he beat a field of 22 at an average speed of nearly 43 mph. The brother of 1960 Indianapolis 500 winner Jim Rathmann, Dick Rathmann won 12 more races before turning to open-wheel racing in 1954.

Fred Lorenzen got his first series win in the 1961 race, an event shortened by rain. Defending series champion Rex White finished second. White was eligible for bonus money, and this marked the first time in NASCAR history that a runner-up collected more money than the race winner. Lorenzen retired from driving in 1972 with six Martinsville victories; White has two Martinsville wins.

After 11 second-place finishes, Harry Gant finally got his first series win at Martinsville in the 1982 spring race. He tangled with Joe Ruttman, causing body damage to the front end of Gant's Buick. Gant took his first checkered flag with the right front fender sticking straight up in the air as if in salute to the cheering fans.

Former modified star Geoffrey Bodine got his first series victory in the spring race at Martinsville in 1984. Bodine drove for the newly-formed Hendrick Motorsports team owned by Rick Hendrick and led by crew chief Harry Hyde. The team won for the first time in only their eighth start. Bodine's margin of victory was six seconds over fellow modified veteran and second-place finisher Ron Bouchard.

NASCAR NEXTEL Cup drivers doing the double ... Three NASCAR NEXTEL Cup drivers will pull double duty at Martinsville, among them Kevin Harvick (No. 92 Yardman Chevrolet), who has the opportunity for an unprecedented sweep -- winning back-to-back to-back events in each of NASCAR's top three national series. Harvick won the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup and NASCAR Busch Series events at Bristol last week; he's entered in Saturday's Kroger 250 at Martinsville. Bobby Labonte (No. 47 Rodeway Inn/Econo Lodge/Trick Pony Chevrolet) and Ken Schrader (No. 52 Federated Auto Parts Chevrolet) also have entered this week's NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race.

On the Right Track

• Sunday's Advance Auto Parts 500 will be the 113th NASCAR NEXTEL Cup event at Martinsville Speedway since 1949 -- the most of any track hosting NASCAR NEXTEL Cup events.

• Richard Petty holds the record for most Martinsville wins -- 15 in 67 career starts. Darrell Waltrip is next with 11 wins. Among active drivers, Rusty Wallace has seven wins in 42 career starts.

• Petty Enterprises leads all active teams with 19 wins at Martinsville. Petty Enterprises last won there in spring 1999, with John Andretti behind the wheel.

• More Petty-Martinsville facts: Richard Petty holds the record for being the youngest driver to win the spring event. The King was 22 years, nine months and eight days old when he won in April 1960 -- the second of his 200 series wins.

• The spring race at Martinsville has been won 10 times from the pole. Buck Baker did it the first time in 1956. Jeff Gordon was the last to do it, in 2003.

On Deck: Texas Motor Speedway ... Race No. 7 on the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup schedule will be Sunday, April 17 -- the Samsung/RadioShack 500 at Texas Motor Speedway. Texas, a 1.5-mile oval, has been part of the schedule since 1997 when the race winner was Jeff Burton. ... Elliott Sadler is defending champion; Bobby Labonte (No. 18 Interstate Batteries Chevrolet) was last year's polesitter.

Fast Facts

The race: Advance Auto Parts 500 (Race No. 6 of the 36-race NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series season.)

The track: Martinsville Speedway, Martinsville, Va. (.526-mile oval.)
The date/time: Sunday, April 10, 1:20 p.m. (ET).

TV: FOX, 12:30 p.m. (ET).
Radio: MRN/XM Satellite.

Posted awards: $4,761,101.

Race length: 500 laps, 263 miles.
Track layout: .526-mile oval.

2004 winner: Rusty Wallace
2004 polesitter: Jeff Gordon.

NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Top 10: 1. Jimmie Johnson 835. 2. Greg Biffle 741. 3. Tony Stewart 679. 4. Carl Edwards 678. 5. Elliott Sadler 657. 6. Kevin Harvick 654. 7. Kurt Busch 635. 8. Dale Jarrett 611. 9. Rusty Wallace 611. 10. Mark Martin 609.

-nascar-

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers John Andretti , Jeff Burton , Jeff Gordon , Dale Jarrett , Darrell Waltrip , Bobby Labonte , Tony Stewart , Rusty Wallace , Geoffrey Bodine , Kevin Harvick , Greg Biffle , Kurt Busch , Jimmie Johnson , Jamie McMurray , Joe Ruttman , Richard Petty , Rick Carelli , Carl Edwards , Elliott Sadler , Harry Gant , Mark Martin , Fred Lorenzen , Rex White
Teams Hendrick Motorsports