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Race Day: Goody’s Could Be A Real Rubber Match

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Sunday, April 3 2011

All eyes will be on tires during today's Goody's Fast Pain Relief 500 Sprint Cup race at Martinsville Speedway. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Christa L Thomas)

By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor

Following Saturday’s Camping World Truck Series race at Martinsville, the track looked like the Gulf beaches of Louisiana after the BP oil rig blow out. Balls of black tire gunk littered the surface.

Luckily, no otters live inside the Martinsville short oval, so cleanup afterward was pretty quick and pretty simple.

But fixing the problem which caused the mess likely won’t be as simple or as quick. It probably will not be fixed in time for today’s Goody’s Fast Pain Relief 500 so drivers, crews and fans had better prepare for a Sprint Cup race fraught with tire problems.

Symptoms will include failure to put smooth rubber down on the concrete and asphalt, and rapid wear.

After practice, qualifying and the truck race, several drivers talked about the problem over the weekend and here is what they had to say:

Dale Earnhardt Jr., No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet, when asked how the situation will affect today’s event: “I don’t know. After 12 laps, everybody was kind of falling off pretty fast. There was no rubber built up and there was a lot of marbles. You couldn’t get out of the bottom groove. You had to run right next to the curb. If you got in the marbles, it would ruin you. Once you got in the

A member of Jeff Burton's crew checks the rubber during practice on Friday. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Christa L Thomas)

marbles, you ruined that set. I mean, there is no way to get them off. We don’t go fast enough here to really grind them off. It was messy. It was just real messy all day.”

Jeff Gordon, No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet: I still anticipate us seeing rubber sticking to the groove in the race track tomorrow when all 43 cars are out there and you’re running a lot of laps. But the only concerning thing that I have is that we’re making tire changes without testing. And they keep coming back and saying they’re minor tire changes. So I don’t know. There are so many things that come along with tires changes these days, it’s not just a compound change or a construction change these days, there’s all kinds of different chemicals in the tires that we don’t know about. But I’m definitely a fan of if you’re going to make a tire change from the last time we were there; I’m a fan of a tire test. So that’s kind of the only thing I have to add to it.”

Kyle Busch, No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota and competitor in the truck race, when asked if he thinks the track will rubber up today: “How many days have we been here already?  I don’t think so.  To be honest with you, I wish it would because it would make for better racing.  We could actually probably get two grooves going, but right now there’s one groove.  If you run on the inside down the straightaway, you’re running through marbles.  If you run on the outside in the corners, you’re running through marbles.  There’s only one particular lane that you’re not running through balls of rubber then you just slide in the next corner.  As soon as you get into the next corner you might as well just park it because you’re just going to go through the corner.  I don’t see it getting any better tomorrow.  Anything could surprise us, but I doubt it.”

Fast facts

What: Goody’s Fast Pain Relief 500

Where: At Martinsville Speedway

Denny Hamlin is going for a fourth-straight victory at Martinsville today. (RacinToday/HHP photo bhy Gregg Ellman)

When: Today, 1:15 p.m. ET

TV: Fox, 12:30 p.m. ET

Radio: MRN/Sirius Satellite Ch. 128

Track layout: .526-mile oval

Banking in corners: 12 degrees

Banking in straights: Zero degrees

Race distance: 500 laps/263 miles

Qualifying: Saturday, 12:10 p.m. ET

2010 winner: Denny Hamlin

2010 polesitter: Denny Hamlin

Today’s polesitter: Jamie McMurray

First Cup race at Martinsville: 105 Miles of Martinsville in 1949

Winner of first race: Red Byron

Winner of first pole: Curtis Turner

Trivia time

Who is the last driver other than Denny Hamlin or Jimmie Johnson to win a Sprint Cup race at Martinsville?

Man of few words

Kyle Busch Motorsports announced over the weekend that Finnish Formula One driver

Kevin "Happy" Harvick in the garages at Martinsville. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Christa L Thomas)

Kimi Raikkonen will drive a truck in the Camping World series.

Jeff Gordon was asked about it. Among the things Gordon, a four-time Cup champion, said was that reporters should not get hopes up for socko interviews with new guy, who now is a World Rally Championship driver.

“I can’t wait for him to come in here and do an interview because the one-word answers that you guys are going to get out of those questions is going to be hilarious to watch,” Gordon said. “I might come in here for that first session.”

So, is this guy a jerk or what?

“I didn’t say he’s not a great media guy,” Gordon said. “He just doesn’t give you a lot to go on.”

Gordon may want to stick his head into media centers for Kevin Harvick interviews some time.

Track tidbits

Most victories: 15, by Richard Petty

Most poles: 8, by Darrell Waltrip

Youngest pole winner: Ricky Rudd (24 years, 7 months, 14 days)

Oldest pole winner: Morgan Shepherd (45 years, 6 months, 14 days)

Most top fives: Richard Petty, 30

Most top 10s: Richard Petty, 37

Most lead-lap finishes: 29, by Rusty Wallace

Most laps led: 3,851, by Cale Yarborough

Youngest race winner: Richard Petty (22 years, 9 months, 8 days

Oldest race winner: Harry Gant (51 years, 8 months, 12 days)

Races won from pole: 19

Last race from pole: 10/24/10, by Denny Hamlin

Most lead changes in race: 25 (9/28/80)

Fewest lead changes in race: 1 (three times)

Most DNFs: 22, by J.D. McDuffie

Smallest margin of victory: .065 seconds

Take this, Kimi

Dale Earnhardt Jr. says he likes Martinsville. Has run well there, too, as he has eight top-five

Dale Earnhardt Jr. has done well at Martinsville. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Christa L Thomas)


Asked if liking Martinsville has resulted in the good finishes, Earnhardt said, “Yeah. I guess. I like the track because I run good here. It is hard to tell which one came first.”

Viewing Points

Carl Edwards will start the race as the series points leader. He was asked this weekend when he will start paying attention to the points.

“I think as competitive as things are right now you’ve got to pay a little bit of attention to the points at this point in the season because you don’t want to get yourself in a hole to where you’re playing catch-up the whole time,” Edwards said. “We’d like to get another win or two before this chase, so we feel like we’re locked in, even if something goes bad in the points, but it’s really early still to be able to say who is even gonna be in the chase field.  I think that anything can happen with the points. We’re leading now, but there are a lot of races to go and a lot can happen, especially with the point system now. You can lose so many points having a couple of bad weeks.  I don’t think anybody is safe.”

Big number

Mark Martin will join an exclusive club today, becoming the eighth driver to start 800 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races.

During a career that has spanned parts of four decades, Martin has tallied 40 victories, 264 top fives and 429 top 10s. His 40 wins rank 16th all-time. Coincidentally, Martinsville Speedway was the site of Martin’s first top-five finish, a third-place run on Sept. 27, 1981.

“I hate to say this isn’t a big deal, because it is. But, to me, the bigger deal is what you accomplished in

Mark Martin will be making his 800th Cup start today. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Harold Hinson)

those starts, not just the starts themselves,” Martin said.

“I’ve had a really good 799 starts. We’ve had a lot of wins, a lot of success and a lot of fun. I’ve made friends out here that will be friends forever, and I can’t imagine anything else I would have rather been doing than racing all of those days. Beyond the stat itself or the records or whatever, it’s the experiences of it all that are the most important to me.”

The others who have eclipsed the 800-start barrier: Richard Petty (1,185), Ricky Rudd (906), Dave Marcis (883), Terry Labonte (870), Kyle Petty (829), Bill Elliott (825), and Darrell Waltrip (809).

Martin finished second in the final championship point standings five times, most recently in 2009 – his first season with current team Hendrick Motorsports.

Below is a timeline of Martin’s career highlights on his way to 800 starts:

1 – On April 5, 1981, Martin made his first series start at North Wilkesboro Speedway, finishing 27th. Martin made five starts in 1981, scoring two top 10s and two poles.

6 – In his first Daytona 500, on Feb. 14, 1982, he finished 30th.

58 – On Feb. 14, 1988 in the Daytona 500, Martin made his first start with owner Jack Roush. Together, they started 617 races, winning 35 of them.

100 – On June 25, 1989, at Michigan International Speedway, Martin made milestone start No. 100. He finished 12th.

113 – On Oct. 22, 1989, at North Carolina Speedway (Rockingham), Martin led 101 laps en route to his first career win.

200 – On Oct. 25, 1992, at Rockingham, Martin made milestone start No. 200. He finished 30th.

223 – Martin reached double digits in wins with a victory at Bristol Motor Speedway on Aug. 28, 1993. The win was the third of four consecutive victories for Martin, the longest win streak of his career.

300 – On March 31, 1996, at Bristol, Martin made milestone start No. 300. He finished third.

326 – Finished seventh in the Daytona 500 on Feb. 16, 1997, his 16th-consecutive top-10 finish, dating back to the previous season. That is tied for the 16th-longest streak in series history.

383 – In a victory at Dover International Speedway on Sept. 20, 1998, Martin led 379 laps, the most of his career.

400 – On May 2, 1999, at Auto Club Speedway, Martin made milestone start No. 400. He finished 38th.

500 – Reached career milestone start No. 500 on March 24, 2002 at Bristol. He finished 11th.

506 – Won NASCAR’s longest race, the Coca-Cola 600 (then named the Coca-Cola Racing Family 600) at Charlotte Motor Speedway on May 26, 2002.

600 – On Nov. 7, 2004, at Phoenix International Raceway, Martin made milestone start No. 600. He finished 15th.

700 – On Feb. 25, 2008, at Auto Club Speedway, Martin made milestone start No. 700. He finished 16th.

723 – On Feb. 15, 2009 at the Daytona 500, made his first start for Hendrick Motorsports, finishing 16th.

730 – At the age of 50 years, three months and nine days, Martin won at Phoenix on April 18, 2009, to join Harry Gant, Morgan Shepherd and Bobby Allison as the fourth over-50 driver to win a NASCAR Sprint Cup race.

733 – Won one of NASCAR’s crown jewels: the Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway on May 9, 2009.

Milestones For Biffle, McMurray: Greg Biffle and Jamie McMurray will also celebrate milestone starts this weekend. Both drivers will make start No. 300 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Sunday at Martinsville.

Over his first 299 starts, Biffle has 16 wins, 66 top fives and 114 top 10s. McMurray has six wins, 39 top fives and 92 top 10s.

Trivia answer

Tony Stewart was the last non-Johnson/Hamlin winner at Martinsville in 2006.

Up Next: Texas

Last year, the spring Texas race was the eighth on the Cup schedule. This year, it is the seventh.

Denny Hamlin won the Samsung Mobile 500, his 10th victory in 159 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races. It was his second victory and second top-10 finish in 2010.

Jimmie Johnson (second) posted his 10th top-10 finish in 14 races at Texas Motor Speedway. It was his sixth top-10 finish in 2010. Kyle Busch (third) posted his fifth top-10 finish in 11 races at Texas Motor Speedway.

Still recovering from March 31 surgery to repair the ACL in his left knee, Hamlin took advantage of a wild late-race wreck that eliminated several of the fastest cars including the dominant Chevrolet of Jeff Gordon—and held off fast-closing Jimmie Johnson to win his second race of the season and the 10th of

his career.

Hamlin surged into the lead past Jeff Burton after a restart on Lap 323 of 334 at the 1.5-mile track. Johnson restarted fifth and dropped back in traffic before making a stirring charge in the final six laps.

– Jim Pedley can be reached at jpedley@racintoday.com

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Sunday, April 3 2011
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