Ribbs hopes Martinsville test pays off

MARTINSVILLE, VA. (March 26, 2001) -- Willie Ribbs took out a little short-track insurance Monday. Ribbs showed up Monday morning at Martinsville Speedway with Bobby Hamilton, who owns the Dodge Ribbs drives on the NASCAR...

MARTINSVILLE, VA. (March 26, 2001) -- Willie Ribbs took out a little short-track insurance Monday. Ribbs showed up Monday morning at Martinsville Speedway with Bobby Hamilton, who owns the Dodge Ribbs drives on the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series. Ribbs was in town to pick up a few points on the fine art of short-tracking.

Two weeks ago in his first career short-track start in Bakersfield, CA, the veteran road racer was bounced around like a pinball.

The Craftsman Truck Series' next stop is the Advance Auto Parts 250 at Martinsville Speedway, another short track famous for its action. And this time Ribbs wanted to make sure he was ready for that action.

"Just having a day here (to practice) instead of rolling in to practice, qualify and race in the same day like we did at Bakersfield is big," said Ribbs. "Having a day to think about it, having the chance to run around here is very important.

"Just to know where and how to enter the corners, where to get on it, where to get off, that's big. I'm not sharp here yet at all, but I've got an idea of what I have to do."

Of course things were a little different for Ribbs on Monday. The Craftsman Truck Series doesn't allow testing in trucks at tracks the series visits, so Hamilton brought a Busch Grand National car for Ribbs to pilot. Ribbs drives a Dodge on the truck circuit, but the Busch car was a Chevrolet, outfitted with a Dodge power plant.

"This is similar to what we'll have here (for the race on April 7)," said Ribbs. "We had the same engine in there today and the weight is close. I had never driven a Busch car before, so I think we had a decent day."

Ribbs looped early in the day, but was solid the rest of the time. "I did a half-spin," said Ribbs. "It was no big deal." In fact, he said Martinsville's tight .526-mile oval shared similarities with some road courses.

"You've got two straightaways and hairpin turns (at Martinsville) and on a road course you've got hairpin turns," said Ribbs, a rookie on the Craftsman Truck Series. "Like a road course you have to rush the corner, but you can't over-rush it. You have to get through it and get out."

Ribbs had fair success in the first two races of the season, both on longer tracks. He was 23rd at Daytona and 19th at Homestead before suffering through a long day at Bakersfield.

Although he has years and years of driving experience in open-wheeled racers on road courses, he says the move to the trucks has taken a bit of adjustment.

"The big difference is the weight of the trucks and the skinny tires," said Ribbs. "There's a lot of weight and the tires are thin. I mean you really have to be precise with these things all the time, especially at a place like Martinsville. You're carrying pretty good straight-away speed at the end of the straight away is a hairpin turn.

"If you drive in too hard, the thing drives up into the gray and you've lost time. If you're not hard enough, you're slow getting in."

Ribbs said he was treated like a rookie in Bakersfield. "I got help every time. The truck didn't loop by itself."

But he said he won't be thinking payback when he comes back to Martinsville for the Advance Auto Parts 250.

"The only paying I'm doing these days is the bill collectors," said Ribbs.

The Virginia 500/Advance Auto Parts 250 weekend kicks off with Bud Pole qualifying for the Craftsman Truck Series at 1:30 p.m. on Friday, April 6 followed by time trials for the Winston Cup Series at 3 p.m. Tickets for qualifying are $15 for adults and children under 12 get in free. Tickets for the Advance Auto Parts 250 Craftsman Truck race are $30 for adults and $5 for children ages 6-12. All seats are unreserved. There still are great seats available for the Virginia 500 NASCAR Winston Cup race for $40-$70 each. To purchase tickets call the speedway ticket office toll free at 877-722-3849 or go online at www.martinsvillespeedway.com.

-MS

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Series NASCAR Truck