#10 Valvoline Pontiac driver Johnny Benson and his Crew Chief James Ince spent Tuesday and Wednesday at Martinsville Speedway last week testing on the flat, half-mile Virginia track. Martinsville isn't one of Benson's favorite tracks, but he and Crew Chief James Ince have been working to make Benson better at the shortest track on the NASCAR Winston Cup circuit. Benson admits bumping and grinding at Martinsville isn't his style, but he occupies third-place in the 2001 point standings and running well at Martinsville has been a goal for he and Ince since joining last year.
Martinsville boasts new stands and a new garage this year, but Ince says fans will see the same old Martinsville of old on Sunday when 43 cars cram into the half-mile track. Ince said Goodyear's new Martinsville tire might change race strategy a bit as new tire compounds have at some tracks this season. Ince and Benson took the lead with 18 laps remaining at Texas and relied on used tires and skillful driving to capture a third-place finish -- their best of the season.
(Note: For the second consecutive week, Benson's car will sport the black #10 Eagle One paint scheme.)
Crew Chief James Ince On What's New At Martinsville:
"The cool thing about Martinsville this year is they put in some new grandstands for the fans and they put in a new garage area for the race teams. That will be a big benefit for us. It seems like it has always been chaos there in the past. Now that we have a garage to work out of, it's going to be a lot easier for everyone.
"They have done a little work to the track. They have done a little work to turn one and generally smoothed out the whole track. If Johnny has had an Achilles heel in this sport it has been Martinsville just like mine has been Atlanta, but we seemed to have fixed that problem the last two times we went there. Hopefully we can do that in Martinsville. We went and worked awfully hard at Martinsville last week. We actually ran about 850 laps in the two days we were there working on race setup. We did everything we could to snooker Johnny into making him think he really wasn't running that many laps so he could get the rhythm of the place.
"But, no matter what they do there, I think Martinsville is always going to be a rock'em, sock'em, knock them out of the way kind of race. I think we are good enough to do that."
Ince On New Martinsville Tire:
"This isn't a new tire to us, but a tire we ran at Richmond last year. I don 't think you will see the same thing at Martinsville that you saw at Bristol. The tires don't seem to slow down a lot but they do seem to wear out. I expect it to be a pretty typical Martinsville race."
Ince On New Compounds Impact On Race Strategy:
"In general the new tire has made it harder to get your race car good but once you do get it good it stays good for a really long time. They have done a real good job. In general, the tires don't wear out as much. The Wood Brothers proved at Bristol the tires don't wear out we kind of did that at Texas. It's kind of changed the strategy during our races. Now we use a Busch Series strategy of being pretty calculating when it comes to taking on tires or not. The old Winston Cup strategy was he who had the most tires generally won the race."
Johnny Benson On Martinsville:
"Martinsville is a track that is hard on brakes and it's a place where it is hard to pass. You sometimes have to bump people out of the way and people are always bumping and hitting you. Everybody going into the race feels like you got to hit or wreck somebody to get by them. And that is what they do so that takes some of the fun out of them. I don't like hitting or wrecking people. That's not racing.
"I have raced on flat tracks in late models all over the place, but rarely do you find a track so narrow that there isn't much room that you can hardly run side-by-side down the straightaway. Some guys take it to the point they say 'Well, everybody expects to get hit so I will just hit them and get them out of the way.' If you got a good car there then I think you can get to the front without hitting people.
"Qualifying is important on every racetrack but at Martinsville it's probably the most important of the year. At Bristol we qualified bad, but at Bristol you can still pass. It's hard but you can pass. At Martinsville it's very hard to do."
"I have had good runs there and I have had bad runs there, but I haven't been very consistent at all. I hope the consistency lately carries over to Martinsville. James has had a lot of success there so maybe some of his success will rub off on us this weekend."
<pre> THE RACE: Virginia 500 Winston Cup Race #8 of 36 for the 2001 season Race: Sunday, April 8, 2001 in Martinsville, VA
TV: Fox 1:00pm/et(pre-race at 12:30pm/et) Announcers: Mike Joy, Darrell Waltrip and Larry McReynolds Pit Reporters: Dick Berggren, Matt Yocum, Steve Byrnes, Jeanie Zelesko
Posted Awards/Purse: $3,078,736 (was $2,168,867 in 2000)
2000 Race Winner: Mark Martin, 71.161mph
Track Race Record: Jeff Burton, Sept 1996, 82.223mph
Track/Race Length: 0.526-mile oval, 500 laps, 263 miles
Pit Road Speed: 35mph
Practice: Friday, Apr 6th from 11:15am - 1:25pm/et Happy Hour Practice: Saturday, Apr 7th from 11:30am - 1:00pm/et, TV-FX at 12:00noon/et
Qualifying Draw: Friday, Apr 6th at 10:15am/et Qualifying: 2 laps for positions 1-36, Friday, Apr 6th at 3:00pm/et, TV-FSN(Fox Sports Net) and live via MRN radio/internet Second-Round Qualifying: there is no longer a 2nd round of qualifying
Track Qualifying Record: Tony Stewart, Sept 2000, 95.371mph
Event Qualifying Record: Tony Stewart, Apr 1999, 95.275mph
Last Year's Pole Sitter: Rusty Wallace, 94.827mph
Track Specs: Degree of Banking: Turns: 12 degrees Straightaways: Banking: 0 degrees(flat) Straights: 800 feet Seating: approx 86,000 Pit Stalls: 43 pits, 14-feet wide by 28-feet long