FYI WIRZ: NASCAR's Top Five Talk Last and Next Race, Fontana to Martinsville

Dwight Drum@@racetakeCorrespondent IIIMarch 30, 2011

Ryan Newman waits for practice time in his No. 39 Chevrolet
Ryan Newman waits for practice time in his No. 39 Chevrolet

The National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR) heads into the sixth race of the long Sprint Cup season having provided an exciting finale to the two-mile Auto Club Speedway in California and now adapts to the .526 mile Martinsville oval track in Virginia.  The banking hasn’t changed much going from 14 degrees to 12 degrees, but the distance will be defining.  Short-track racing has its own character.

Some drivers and teams prefer short-tracks over superspeedways, some do better on the more common intermediate distances of a mile to mile and a half racetracks.  Denny Hamlin, Jimmie Johnson and Kyle Busch have been successful on half-mile venues in recent years, but Jeff Gordon and Kurt Busch are known to do well in the bumping and banging of short-track reality in the past.

Select quotes from the top five leaders in NSCS coming off a two-mile Fontana race to the half-mile battle in Martinsville can be telling and predictive.

The leaders are looking to carry momentum and keep the consistency that has propelled them to the top of the point standings. It’s early in the 26-race qualifying marathon that will determine who goes into the final 10-race Chase for the Sprint Cup playoff, but getting a solid start is significant.        

The Goody’s Fast Relief 500 at Martinsville Speedway in Martinsville, Va., will air Sunday, Apr. 3 at 1:00 p.m. ET on FOX.    

FYI WIRZ is the select presentation of motorsports topics by Dwight Drum @  Quotes derived from team and sanction press releases, and/or teleconferences and interviews. 

Carl Edwards [No. 99 Ford] Leader

After the checkered flag:
“I am really excited for these great fans you know to be able to see that wild of a finish at this race track which is one of the best race tracks we go to,” Edwards said. “For our Aflac team to come out of here leading the points is big considering how we ran all day. We really weren’t that good.”

Before the green flag:
“It’s great going into Martinsville as the point leader,” Edwards said. “Martinsville is one of those tracks we keep getting better at and the track is always a challenge.  We have had some really good runs there lately and I feel it’s one of those driver’s tracks and a win there would mean a lot to me.” 

Ryan Newman [No. 39 Chevrolet] Second

After the checkered flag:
"It's been an amazing start and the script is playing out the way we were hoping it would during the offseason," said Newman. "We were off a bit in the beginning of today's race, but we made a few adjustments and the U.S. Army Chevrolet kept on getting better and better. The only bad news for us is that we didn't win the race."

Before the green flag:
“I like using the middle (brake) pedal. In all seriousness, I think it adds another parameter of a driver’s input when you have to modulate that third pedal,” Newman said. “We have to go to places like Las Vegas and you’re using very little brake. When you are using a little bit, it’s hard to screw it up. I like the short-tracks. I like having the character added to the program of modulating the brake. The driver has a little more of an impact on the end result at short-tracks than some of the bigger racetracks, and I like that.”

Kurt Busch [No. 22 Dodge] Third

After the checkered flag:
We unloaded slow and never found speed,” Busch said. “It's disappointing because we wanted to come here and extend our point lead and gain some momentum heading into Martinsville next weekend.  We went in the wrong direction.  It's a long season...a marathon, not a sprint.  We'll put this behind us and head short-track racing next week."

Before the green flag:
“We’re coming back into Martinsville with a lot of confidence and a really positive attitude about racing there this weekend,” Busch said. “I’ll be the first to admit that the Martinsville races have always been so challenging to me and that goes all the way back through my career.

“We had some of the strongest cars we’ve ever had there and didn’t get the solid finishes we should have.  We had a loose wheel that bit us in the first race and some loose lug nuts that were the big culprit there last fall.”

Kyle Busch [No. 18 Toyota] Fourth

After the checkered flag:
“We gave the race away today, unfortunately,” Busch said. “We seem to be losing the handle a little bit two runs from the end.  We just didn’t quite have what it took in order to keep the front end under the car and then the back end under the car on the exits of the corner.  I just couldn’t get the right speed that I needed. 

“Our engines always go back to the shop, get torn down and looked at.  Mine will too.  We'll see how mine looked after today's race.”

Before the green flag:
We kind of feel like we have a baseline – a better baseline that we can unload with and be faster off the truck,” Busch said. “That’s a big benefit for us.

“Jeff (Gordon) is so good there, and Jimmie (Johnson) and Denny (Hamlin) are also good there. They are probably the three most difficult guys to pass there because they know the place. They know how to get off the corner and how to roll the middle of the corner there. Everything is timing, and their stuff just works, whatever it is.

“There’s nothing you can change about that racetrack to stay out of trouble. Basically, you can be leading the race and have a wreck in front of you while you are trying to lap some guys, and that could be it.” 

Jimmie Johnson [No. 48 Chevrolet] Fifth

After the checkered flag:
“I was driving my butt off just trying to keep this Lowe's Chevrolet up front but it didn't pan out,” Johnson said. “I hate losing it coming off of (turn) four like that but we did everything we could today. We had a great race. Made our car a lot better all day long so I'm really proud about that."

Before the green flag:
“The track has been good to us and we just need to find a little something there — a little bit goes a long way on that small of a track like that,” Johnson said. “It's just a fun place to race.

“I encourage friends and family to come to that track and watch. It's a great snapshot of NASCAR in the old days where you're right on top of the action whether you're on pit road or in the grandstands. Outside of that I guess I'm a competitor and every time I'm in the car I want to win and I want to be as fast as I can."

Photo credit: Dwight Drum @