Week of September 27, 1999 This weekend's NAPA AutoCare 500 at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway is arguably one of the most demanding races on the NASCAR circuit for both the drivers and cars. The .526-mile oval is relatively flat with only...
Week of September 27, 1999
This weekend's NAPA AutoCare 500 at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway is arguably one of the most demanding races on the NASCAR circuit for both the drivers and cars. The .526-mile oval is relatively flat with only 12 degrees of banking in the corners. That makes it a unique short track where drivers are likely to trade paint on more than one occasion. We asked the seven Roush Racing drivers to expand upon this premise, and to share their feelings on the challenges that Martinsville Speedway possesses.
Chad Little, No. 97 John Deere Ford Taurus: "The relative flatness of the track combined with its half-mile distance really presents a challenge for all the competitors. I think it tests the drivers' skills, and even more so, their patience. Martinsville is a driver's track, and the cars that finish all 500 laps are thoroughly put to the test. You need to make sure you don't abuse the tires, the brakes, or the engine. Any one of those factors can send you packing early and leave you frustrated."
Mark Martin, No. 6 Valvoline/Cummins Ford Taurus: "Martinsville has always been a tough race track for me. The flat tracks are not suited to my driving style, so not only is it hard on the equipment, it's hard on me. I always try to drive pretty conservatively early in the race so I don't use up the brakes too early. Starting position is key since you are practically one lap down already if you start in the back."
Kevin Lepage, No. 16 TV Guide Ford Taurus: "Martinsville can be tough on both driver and equipment. It's a short track and the speeds aren't that great, but it is very demanding. If the weather is warm the car can be extremely hot. The temperature can get almost unbearable in the car from the brakes' heat and the inability to get cool air in due to low speeds. Because we use the brakes so much, often they can go bad and that can set you back. The trick to conquering Martinsville is to drink plenty of fluids going into the event because you're going to sweat them out. It's important to keep yourself hydrated during the race as well. As far as the equipment goes, you need to make sure that the brake ducts are clean to keep the brakes cooled and just hope everything holds up for the 500 laps."
Jeff Burton, No. 99 Exide Batteries Ford Taurus: "What's the toughest thing about Martinsville? You can't sum it up with just one tough thing. There are many, many obstacles at Martinsville. It's hard on the brakes, and if you lose them, you're in trouble. It's hard to get a car to drive like you want it so it will stick in the corners. It's easy to wreck in those turns if your car isn't just right, and it's easy to get caught up with another car that's not handling. It's tough on engines because you are on the edge and you're running the engine extremely hard with high RPMs. Martinsville is just tough in more ways than one."
Johnny Benson, No. 26 Cheerios Ford Taurus: "Martinsville is a little tough on the driver because of the roughness of the track and the heavy breaking. The track is always hard on the car because of the amount of breaking that takes place. The brakes always get a pretty good workout at this track. It is important to finish with all the fenders on the car because then it will be easier on the brakes."
Greg Biffle, No. 50 Grainger Ford F-150: "Martinsville is basically two sets of sharp corners and two drag strips. It can be really hard on the equipment and hard on the driver. Our races aren't quite as tough as Cup's races. They run 500 laps. But our races are really hard on the brakes because you've got to get your truck whoa-ed down going into the corners. It's hard on the shocks because it's bumpy and it's hard on tires because the corners are flat and you have a lot of load on them. You really have to run hard enough to stay up front, but not too hard so you wear your stuff out or break something."
Mike Bliss, No. 99 Exide Batteries Ford F-150: "You look at the track from above and it looks so narrow and long. The corners are really tight and you really jump on the accelerator going down the straights. It's a really tough track to setup for because you can be tight early in the race, go loose and get tight again, over and over again. You try to be easy on the tires and brakes and try to have more left than anyone else at the end."