Martinsville: Toyota Motorsports preview

HOMETOWN TRACK: Bill Davis Racing (BDR) is based an hour south of Martinsville Speedway in High Point, N.C. BDR fields two Toyotas in the NEXTEL Cup Series, the No. 22 Caterpillar Camry, with driver Dave Blaney and the No. 36 360 OTC Camry, with...

HOMETOWN TRACK: Bill Davis Racing (BDR) is based an hour south of Martinsville Speedway in High Point, N.C. BDR fields two Toyotas in the NEXTEL Cup Series, the No. 22 Caterpillar Camry, with driver Dave Blaney and the No. 36 360 OTC Camry, with driver Jeremy Mayfield. BDR also fields three Toyota Tundras in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series -- the No. 5 Tundra of Mike Skinner, the No. 23 360 OTC Tundra driven by Johnny Benson and the No. 36 360 OTC Tundra of Tyler Walker.

MARTINSVILLE MAN: One person who has more experience than most drivers at Martinsville won't be in the starting line-up, but will be in the pits for Bill Davis Racing. Jeff Hensley, who hung up his driver's suit and is in his third season as crew chief for Mike Skinner's No. 5 Tundra, knows Martinsville as well as anyone. Growing up in Ridgeway, Va., just six miles from Martinsville Speedway, Hensley spent considerable time at the track and is very familiar with the circuit. He competed in 10 Busch Series races at Martinsville between 1982 and 1985, recording five top-10 finishes.

MARTINSVILLE MEMORY: "The first time I raced at Martinsville was in 1982," says Hensley. "I think it was the first year of the Busch Series. I had run a race at Caraway (N.C.) Speedway and decided to try and make the Martinsville race. There were 50 or 60 cars there and I had to run a qualifying race just to get into the 250-lap feature. I managed to finish second in the heat to make the race. Then we ran the big race -- running against guys like Jack Ingram, Tommy Ellis and Tommy Houston -- and we finished ninth. It was a big deal just to make the race, let alone finish in the top-10."

COT CONTINUED: The Car of Tomorrow (COT) made its debut at Bristol Motor Speedway last Sunday and will return for a second straight week at Martinsville Speedway. While Camry crew chiefs and drivers admit there are several set-up differences between the COT and the current car, they also admit that short tracks are not going to show the biggest difference with COT, it will be the one-mile and larger tracks where the differences will likely come into play.

COT COMMENTS: "For the short tracks I don't think the new car is going to make that big of a difference," says Dave Blaney. "When you come to these places like Martinsville, we always work on mechanical balance and grip, and that's not changing much with this car."

MORE COT COMMENTS: "They're just race cars," says Dale Jarrett, driver of the No. 44 UPS Camry. "There's a lot being said about the COT, but the only thing you need to do is find out how to make it faster."

BLANEY'S BEST: Dave Blaney earned the best starting position for the Toyota Camry in NEXTEL Cup Series competition at Bristol Motor Speedway when he started from the seventh position. Blaney and Jarrett have both made all five starts this season in NEXTEL Cup Series competition behind the wheel of their Camrys.

MOVING FORWARD: Five Toyota Camrys started the Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway, making it the most Camrys to start a NEXTEL Cup Series race. All five Camrys were able to make their way into the starting line-up based on their qualifying times. Jeremy Mayfield made his first start of the season at Bristol Motor Speedway and his inaugural start with Bill Davis Racing. AJ Allmendinger, driver of the No. 84 Red Bull Camry, made his career-first NEXTEL Cup Series start at Bristol.

WHITE WITNESS TO MOVING FORWARD: "In four weeks we came from having all the Toyotas, as a unit, running in the back-third at the test at Bristol," said Lee White, senior vice president and general manager of TRD, U.S.A. (Toyota Racing Development). "Then this past weekend, Dave Blaney qualified in the top-10, Jeremy Mayfield made it into his first race, both Red Bull cars got into the show, and Dale Jarrett ma de it in on time and did not have to burn through another provisional. That's a win, win, win, win situation."

POINTS PREDICAMENT: After completing the first five races of the NEXTEL Cup Series season, the starting field of 43 cars will revert from 2006 owner's points to this year's owner's points -- with the top-35 in points being guaranteed starting positions in the races. Following Bristol, all of the Toyota Camry teams will be required to qualify on time. Currently Blaney is 37th in points, Vickers is in 38th position, and Jarrett is 39th. Jarrett will still be eligible for the past champion's provisional starting position at Martinsville.

BLANEY'S BUCKEYES: Dave Blaney, a native of Hartford, Ohio, is happy with the results of the NCAA men's basketball tournament. Blaney picked the Ohio State Buckeyes to win the NCAA men's basketball title at the beginning of the tournament and is hoping they will advance to the men's championship game at Atlanta's Georgia Dome, April 2.

TUNDRAS ON TOP: Several Tundra drivers hold onto the top spots in the NCTS championship point standings. Mike Skinner currently tops the NCTS point standings. Trailing Skinner in the standings are Todd Bodine (second), Jack Sprague (fourth) and Ted Musgrave (fifth). Aaron Fike, driver of the No. 1 Red Horse Racing Tundra, leads the Rookie-of-the-Year standings heading into Martinsville, where he will make his first career start at the track.

SKINNER STREAKING: Mike Skinner, driver of the No. 5 Bill Davis Racing Tundra, has won the two most recent Craftsman Truck Series races at California (February 23) and Atlanta (March 16). Skinner sits atop the current point standings, 69 points in front of fellow Tundra driver and 2006 NCTS champion, Todd Bodine. Skinner made his way to victory lane at Martinsville Speedway once in his career (1996) and has never earned a pole position at the track, but did sit on the outside of the front row last fall.

MIKE ON MARTINSVILLE: "I love Martinsville," says Skinner. "I absolutely love it. It's a very hard track to run because you use a lot of brakes, but I think it's a very cool place to race. I've had a lot of success in Martinsville. I won back in 1996 in the truck series and won another race there in a late model. I have run pretty well there in a Cup car, as well. Our goal this week is simple -- it's just like every other week -- we want to come out of the race with all our fenders on the No. 5 Toyota Tundra. We're simply looking for a top-10 finish again this week. Our goal this year has been consistency and so far that seems to be working, so we will just keep going from there."

CENTURY MARK: Mike Skinner made his 100th career NCTS start at Martinsville in the 2005 fall race at the track. Skinner, the inaugural NCTS champion in 1995, has 21 career NCTS wins -- including 5 career wins in the No. 5 Tundra.

JACK WAS BACK: Jack Sprague made his way to victory lane last fall at Martinsville in the No. 60 Con-way Freight Toyota Tundra, after starting from the pole position. The win and pole were both firsts for Sprague at the tricky half-mile short track known as ‘the paperclip.' "To win at Martinsville was huge for me because I never seem to run good there," explains Sprague. "Up until last fall, I had a couple of third-place finishes, but I always struggled every time I went there. It's is a really difficult race track, but it's kind of hard to say what makes it so tough. I've always qualified pretty well at Martinsville, but I never could finish on top until last fall.

POWER OF THE 'PAPERCLIP': What is the key to having success at Martinsville Speedway? "I wish I could put my finger on what makes it so hard to race there," says Jack Sprague. "One of the big things is that Martinsville is a short track and there's always a risk when you have so many racers in such a tight place. The most important thing is that you have to have good luck go your way."

TODD TALKS MARTINSVILLE: "It will definitely be different running at Martinsville than at the speedways we've raced on the first few weeks," says Todd Bodine, driver of the No. 30 Lumber Liquidators Tundra. "I'm looking forward to racing at Martinsville. I grew up around the track, graduated high school about 45 minutes from the track (Rocky Mount, NC.), and remember watching my brothers (Geoffrey and Brett) race Modifieds at Martinsville. I also won a Cup pole (2001) at the track and have a few top-10s there."

HEADING TO HOLLYWOOD: Todd Bodine and Mike Skinner will participate in this year's Toyota Pro/Celebrity race on Saturday, April 14, as part of the 33rd Annual Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. Bodine and Skinner will compete against more than 10 celebrities in a field of 18, including director George Lucas, actress Aisha Tyler, and tennis player Martina Navratilova. Toyota will donate $5,000 to 'Racing for Kids' in the name of each celebrity racer and another $5,000 to the winning racer's charity of choice. 'Racing for Kids' is a non-profit program benefiting children's hospitals in Long Beach and Orange County, California. ARCA FIRST: A Toyota Camry sat on the pole for the first time in ARCA Re/Max Series competition when Bobby Santos III earned the pole at USA International Speedway in Lakeland, Fla. (March 24). Santos was driving a Camry for Bill Davis Racing under the watch of veteran crew chief, Gene Nead. Santos led the first 116 laps of the race before being involved in an on-track accident and finished 33rd.

TOYOTA AND TAR HEELS CONNECTION: Toyota started doing business in the United States 50 years ago in 1957, the same year that the University of North Carolina won their first men's NCAA basketball championship. That year, the Tar Heels defeated Wilt Chamberlain and Kansas University in triple overtime. Chamberlain was named MVP of the tournament after the game. The Tar Heels will not be making the trip to the 'Final Four' after losing to Georgetown.

TOYOTA LEADS IN LITERACY: Earlier this month Toyota officially announced that three Winston-Salem elementary schools - Easton Elementary School, Latham Elementary School and Old Town Elementary School - will be among the newest sites for its successful Toyota Family Literacy Program (TFLP). TFLP -- the first nationwide program of its kind to focus on the needs of Hispanic and other immigrant families -- is coordinated by the National Center for Family Literacy (NCFL), the country's leading advocate for family literacy. The school system completed against others throughout the country and won a $600,000, three-year grant from Toyota to offer the Family Literacy Program in the three schools. HAPPY 50TH: Toyota is celebrating its 50th anniversary in the U.S. in 2007. Toyota and its dealers employ about 150,000 workers in the U.S. Toyota operates 10 manufacturing facilities in the U.S. and assembles approximately half the vehicles it sells here.

-credit: toyota motorsports

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup , NASCAR Truck
Drivers Dale Jarrett , Jeremy Mayfield , Todd Bodine , Mike Skinner , Ted Musgrave , Jack Sprague , Aaron Fike , Tyler Walker , Bobby Santos III , Dave Blaney , Martina Navratilova
Teams Bill Davis Racing , Toyota Racing , Red Horse Racing