Martinsville Still the Same

Some things never change at Martinsville By Dave Rodman MARTINSVILLE, Va. (April 15, 1999) All of Martinsville's pit stalls are now on the same pit road. A new pit road configuration at the .526-mile Martinsville Speedway may take equal...

Some things never change at Martinsville By Dave Rodman

MARTINSVILLE, Va. (April 15, 1999) All of Martinsville's pit stalls are now on the same pit road. A new pit road configuration at the .526-mile Martinsville Speedway may take equal billing with a track record at this weekend's Goody's Body Pain 500 if recent NASCAR Winston Cup Series test speeds are any indication. The Goody's 500, round 8 of 34 races on this year's NASCAR Winston Cup Series schedule, is scheduled to take the green flag at 1 p.m. ET on Sunday. The NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series NAPA 250, round 5 of 25 on that circuit, will take place Saturday afternoon at the historic oval.

Bud Pole Qualifying for the Goody's 500 is set for Friday afternoon at 3 p.m. ET. Ted Musgrave set the track's NASCAR Winston Cup Series Bud Pole Qualifying record in the fall of 1994 with a speed of 94.129 mph and a lap in 20.117 seconds. The Goody's 500 record is 93.961 mph, set by Kenny Wallace in a Ford in 1997.

Jerry Nadeau tested the Melling Racing Cartoon Network Ford last week and clocked a speed of 94.069 mph, 20.13 seconds. Tony Stewart, the Raybestos Rookie of the Year candidate who will be racing at Martinsville for the first time, ran a 20.26-second lap in the Home Depot Pontiac and fellow rookie Buckshot Jones turned a 20.25-second lap in the Crown Fiber Communications Pontiac.

Other quick times during the past two weeks of testing were put in by rookie Elliott Sadler at 20.29 seconds in the Citgo Ford, 1998 Raybestos Rookie of the Year Kenny Irwin at 20.30 in the Texaco Havoline Ford and John Andretti with a 20.35-second lap in the STP Pontiac.

Pit road has been dramatically altered at Martinsville, virtually eliminating the old frontstretch/backstretch dilemma. Rather than having two separate groups of pit stalls, all pits will be on one long stretch which begins in Turn 3 and ends in Turn 2.

But despite the changes and the speeds, the racing at Martinsville should be just like it's always been -- fender to fender, bumper to bumper and keyed by pit strategy. It doesn't seem anybody is complaining about that.

"Short tracks are always exciting and intense venues," said TV Guide/PRIMESTAR Ford driver Kevin Lepage, who grew up racing New England short tracks with picturesque names such as "Thunder Road" and "Catamount Speedbowl."

"The bumping and banging between cars requires patience and concentration," he said. "One mental mistake can cut your day very short. You find that the car that keeps its front-end out of trouble is usually the one that ends up in Victory Lane."

"How I feel about short tracks depends on which one it is," said Valvoline Ford driver Mark Martin, who once promised to run through the grandstands naked if he could win at Martinsville. "I like Bristol and Richmond really well. Martinsville is a really tight track where they start too many cars. That is the greatest challenge of the circuit for me.

"Short tracks have been a part of stock-car racing since the very first day. They are an important part of the sport and help make NASCAR the strong series that it is."

It's surprising, therefore, that Nadeau, who has a road racing and open-wheel background, would gravitate to them so well. Nadeau was fast off the car hauler and even quit testing early because the car was so good.

"I'm like four or five tenths faster than I have ever been here," Nadeau said at the time. "The car is working really good. These guys have prepared a really good race car for Martinsville. I'm excited about just coming back here and racing it."

"I will not be surprised if the qualifying record falls," Stewart said after his two-day test.

Bud Pole Qualifying for the $1,907,986 Goody's Body Pain 500 is at 3 p.m. ET Friday. The green flag will drop on the Goody's 500 at 1 p.m. ET on Sunday. Bobby Hamilton is the defending race winner, having collected $227,025 -- which included a 76 Challenge bonus of $106,400. He led 378 laps in a race that had 14 cautions.

Andretti, who replaced Hamilton in the Petty Enterprises car in 1998, led 59 laps and was challenging Hamilton for the win until he ran out of gas late in the race. The race had 15 lead changes among six drivers.

Tickets still are available for the Goody's Body Pain 500. There are seats in the Bill France Tower for $60 each and in all the concrete bleacher sections for $40-$45. Another 8,000 unreserved seats at $35 will go on sale race morning. For tickets call the speedway ticket office at (540) 956-3151.

Source: NASCAR Online

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers John Andretti , Bobby Hamilton , Tony Stewart , Kevin Lepage , Jerry Nadeau , Buckshot Jones , Ted Musgrave , Elliott Sadler , Mark Martin