MARTINSVILLE, VA. (February 27, 2001) -- The NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series has provided the perfect springboard upward for many hot, young drivers since its inception in 1995. But while the Craftsman Truck Series has been kind to ...
MARTINSVILLE, VA. (February 27, 2001) -- The NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series has provided the perfect springboard upward for many hot, young drivers since its inception in 1995.
But while the Craftsman Truck Series has been kind to the youngsters, Martinsville Speedway has not. It has been the wily veterans, some with 30 years of experience, who have conquered the venerable .526-mile track five of the six times the trucks have visited. The Craftsman Trucks will return to Martinsville on Saturday, April 7 in the Advance Auto Parts 250 beginning at 2 p.m.
Joe Ruttman, who will have 57 candles on his birthday cake this year, won the inaugural Advance Auto Parts 250 in 1995. Fifty-something Jimmy Hensley captured the April race two years ago. Winston Cup veteran Bobby Hamilton won last April's event. Rich Bickle, another veteran, was the winner in 1997 while Winston Cup regular Mike Skinner won in 1996.
The only youngster to come home a winner in the Advance Auto Parts 250 was Jay Sauter, who won in 1998. And his win was the direct result of a first-place skirmish between Hensley and Ron Hornaday, another vet, with just a handful of laps to go.
"Martinsville is by far one of the trickiest places to race," said Joe Ruttman, driver of the No. 18 Dana Dodge, owned by Bobby Hamilton Racing. "It's a tough place to get the hang of, that's why I think most of the guys who have won the truck races there are the older fellows.
"Last year Bobby (Hamilton) won, two years ago Jimmy (Hensley) won and back in '95, I won. I think that speaks for itself. You have to have a few years under your belt to be smart enough to keep the wheels, fenders and brakes on the truck to win," said Ruttman, who won the season-opening NASCAR Craftsman Truck race at Daytona International Speedway a couple of weeks ago.
Hensley has more laps on the track than anyone in the series. In fact, no one else is even close. He's been running at Martinsville since the late 1960s and has victories in three divisions -- NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series, Busch Grand National and the Featherlite Modified Series. He's even got a Martinsville Winston Cup pole position to his credit while subbing for Dale Earnhardt during time trials in the fall of 1989.
After thousands and thousands of left hand turns at Martinsville, Hensley says there's really no big secret why veterans have so much success on the short track.
"The key thing is patience," said Hensley, who lives just a few miles from the track in Horsepasture, VA. "If you get excited there, if you think somebody's holding you up, another lap or two may be what you need. But some of the young guys might go for it in a hurry.
"Of course, the more you run there or anywhere, the better you know a track, but at Martinsville patience is the key."
The next racing action at Martinsville Speedway is the Virginia 500/Advance Auto Parts 250 weekend on April 6-8. Tickets for the Advance Auto Parts 250, on April 7, are $30 for adults and $5 for children ages 6-12 and all seats are unreserved. There are excellent seats remaining for the Virginia 500 NASCAR Winston Cup Series race on Sunday, April 8. Tickets are $40-$70 and are available by calling toll free at (877) 722-3849 or online at www.martinsvillespeedway.com.