Sprint Cup drivers and team members look forward to the few weeks in the long NASCAR schedule when no races are planned. With a rare week off they can either be rested at home or weary from special vacation activities.
NASCAR Sprint Cup Series racing took a break for Easter weekend, but engines will roar and tires will grip once again during the STP Gas Booster 500 at Martinsville Speedway April 7.
Martinsville Speedway, built on 300-plus acres, is the only track that has been with NASCAR since its inception in 1948. It’s also the only NSCS track with the unique paperclip configuration.
Fans without a NASCAR ticket for one of the 65,000 seats in Ridgeway, Va. can view the short track action at 1:00 p.m., Sunday on Fox.
Drivers enjoy the challenging .526-mile racetrack with 12-degree banking. The top-five NSCS drivers—Dale Earnhardt Jr., Brad Keselowski, Jimmie Johnson, Carl Edwards and Greg Biffle—shared their thoughts with fans prior to this week’s green flag.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. (No 88 Chevrolet)
Dale Earnhardt Jr. is riding momentum with his No. 1 standing after five races, but he knows well enough not to let any elation interfere with the job at hand.
“Short track racing can really allow you to get carried away with yourself, and you forget,” Earnhardt said. “Last year, we would run 100 laps and I'd have the car torn all to hell down both sides and have to remind myself this is a longer event than you realize, and you've really got to preach patience to yourself and really rein in your emotions and your excitement because you just really want to get in there and gouge every corner, but there's just not enough race car to do that for 500 miles.”
Brad Keselowksi (No. 2 Ford)
Brad Keselowksi carries the momentum of the 2012 NSCS championship and a great start with a new manufacturer in 2013, but he approaches Martinsville with upbeat caution.
“Martinsville is a place where I have really mixed emotions about,” Keselowski said. “Early in my career, that was a place where I really couldn’t figure out. Now the last few times we have been there I feel like we have been exceptionally strong. We didn’t qualify as well as we wanted to last fall and started in the back, but by the end of the race we came on really well. I think going back to Martinsville we are a lot smarter, I am a lot wiser as to what I need and I think this year I have to be honest—I am going in feeling like we can win the race and might be one of the favorites.”
Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Chevrolet)
Jimmie Johnson is known for his diligent work ethic. He seems to allow few intrusions and stays on a steady mental track in and out of a race car.
“Martinsville is just a quirky track,” Johnson said. “Once I figured out how to drive it, and frankly once Tony Stewart lapped me there in my sophomore year, it just made sense how to drive the track and I’ve had it ever since. From my first year at Martinsville, I never thought I’d have a stat to take down; let alone a stat that I’d ever have a chance to take down (a victory this week at Martinsville will give him eight wins, which would be more than any other active Sprint Cup driver). With the new race cars, I think contact is going to be a question mark for me. We have fiberglass panels and stuff now, where it used to all be steel. I’ve seen some crash damage that with a small impact; they had to cut the nose completely off the car. So that could be the issue come race time there. Some minor contact could cause major cosmetic damage. Brakes will be the same old story. It will be the same old thing. This car has adequate cooling and has adequate flow, so I don’t see where there will be any issues with brakes.”
Carl Edwards (No. 99 Ford)
Carl Edwards hasn’t won at Martinsville and would like to change that this weekend.
“I am late a lot, so I think it would do everyone around me a big favor if I was to put our Fastenal Ford in Victory Lane at Martinsville and take home the Grandfather clock,” Edwards said. “We have had a few good runs there, but for the most part, we have struggled. It would be huge for me personally to get a win there.”
Greg Biffle (No. 16 Ford)
Greg Biffle is the type of driver that seems to be under the radar at times because he is not the flamboyant type. But other drivers know well that his skills often produce top finishes.
“Martinsville is obviously not one of my best race tracks, but over the last couple of years we’ve gotten a lot better with top-10 finishes,” Biffle said. “Now we need to step it up and get a top-five finish. Our brakes have been good, traction has been good and the cars are working better. Our goal is a top-five finish at Martinsville this Sunday.”
It will be interesting to see if any of these pre-race words by the top five about Martinsville will carry over into a top result.
A handsome grandfather clock has become the traditional Martinsville prize that every driver wants in their trophy collection. The winner isn’t expected to hoist that large work of fine carpentry over his or her shoulders, though.
FYI WIRZ is the select presentation of topics by Dwight Drum at Racetake.com. Unless otherwise noted, information and all quotes were obtained from personal interviews or official release materials provided by sanction and team representatives.