Stewart loves Martinsville fans, but not the track

Martinsville, VA---Tony Stewart loves the fans at Martinsville Speedway but when it comes to racing on the tight .526-mile track it’s not his favorite. Built in 1947 by racing pioneer H. Clay Earles, the track still embodies all...

Martinsville, VA---Tony Stewart loves the fans at Martinsville Speedway but when it comes to racing on the tight .526-mile track it’s not his favorite. Built in 1947 by racing pioneer H. Clay Earles, the track still embodies all the action and banging of old time racing in a modern setting. Maybe that’s why drivers like Richard Petty (15 wins) and Darrell Waltrip (11 victories) loved the place since they raced mostly on short tracks years ago. Now, there are only three short tracks and Sunday’s NAPA AutoCare 500 is the final one of the season. Racing at Martinsville is like running in rush hour traffic downtown. “I like the people there. The race fans that go there, I would take anywhere in the country and put them up against anyone in the country,” said the driver of the Home Depot Pontiac. “But as far as the race track goes, it’s not my favorite race track. It’s just one of those places where it’s hard to get around without getting a doughnut on your door by the end of the day.” Stewart may not prefer Martinsville but he knows how to qualify on the half-mile track. He holds the track record of 95.275 miles per hour that will be on the line when qualifying is held at 3 p.m. Friday to determine the Bud Pole Position and top 25 starters. But with 43 cars on the track, Stewart knows there will be a lot of pushing and shoving. “As far as where the most beating and banging occurs, I’d say Martinsville is number one. Everybody’s cars are torn up when they leave Martinsville, even the guy who wins. “His car is half torn up by the end of the race. Martinsville isn’t the easiest place on equipment. It’s probably worse than it is at Bristol from the standpoint that the cars are so tightly bunched. You’ve got to be patient but you’ve got to race hard. It’s one of those tracks that forces you to race hard. But at the same time, you’ve got to make sure you take care of your equipment. You’ll make things rough on yourself if you tear your car up early.” Stewart thinks the best place to pass at Martinsville is anywhere you can. “I’ve seen guys pass on the outside and guys pass on the inside,” he said. “Anywhere there’s an opportunity to pass, you need to take it. At the beginning of a run, you can make some moves on the outside if your car is working. The nice thing is that the track’s a pretty racey race track. It’s just a tricky place to get around.” Maybe his fifth victory of the season, and the accompanying grandfather clock that goes to the winner, might change his thoughts about Martinsville. The lightning-fast Featherlite Modifieds run in the Goody’s Body Pain 200 at 3 p.m. on Saturday with the NAPA AutoCare 500 getting under way at 1 p.m. Sunday. Reserved seats still are available for Sunday’s race. They may be ordered by calling toll free at 877-722-3849 or 540-956-3151.

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Tony Stewart , Richard Petty