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SAFER Means Tougher At Martinsville Short Track

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, October 30 2015
The shortest track on the Sprint Cup schedule is a little bit smaller this weekend. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Harold Hinson)

The shortest track on the Sprint Cup schedule is a little bit smaller this weekend. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Harold Hinson)

By Deb Williams | Senior Writer

MARTINSVILLE, Va. – With the addition of SAFER barriers on Martinsville Speedway’s straightaway walls, drivers said Friday the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series’ shortest track had become an even tougher place to negotiate.

chase 15 logo“It seems driving down the straightaway, trying to pass cars, even in practice, it just seems really tight,” Carl Edwards said. “As narrow and tough as this place was, it’s just going to be narrower and tougher.”

The addition of 1,600 feet of SAFER barriers means the energy-absorbing walls now encircle the paperclip-shaped short track. They have been attached to the outside walls in the turns for several years.

Four-time NASCAR champion Jeff Gordon admitted his eyes got “pretty big” when he viewed a picture of the new SAFER barrier Thursday evening. He then forgot about it and it didn’t enter his mind when Sprint Cup Series practice started. Afterwards, however, a crew member told him there was a scuff on the right side of his car where he had brushed the wall.

“It’s going to make things interesting (but) it didn’t change things as much as I was anticipating,” said Gordon, an eight-time Martinsville winner. “I was quite surprised at the speeds that we saw in practice for qualifying based on the fact that we lost quite a few feet, if you think of coming off turn 2 and coming off of turn 4 and putting those together.”

Joey Logano led practice with a 98.826-mph, 19.161-second lap. He set the qualifying record of 100.201 mph, 18.898 seconds, in March 2014.

Logano noted the new SAFER barriers removed 3 feet from the racing surface and that definitely made things a little tighter. However, he didn’t know if it would change the racing a great deal.

“You would think the line, obviously you’ve got to cut the corner off a little bit more on the exit,” Logano said. “I don’t think it’s gonna change some peoples’ lines, but other people it will change their line. This is a race track where drivers run it two or three different ways and I think some people it may affect more than others.”

Even before the addition of the SAFER barriers on the straightaways Gordon said the track was “really tough” because it went against all of a race car driver’s normal instincts.

You’re goal as a race car driver is to drive as deep into the corner as you can, brake as hard as you can, get back to the gas as early as you can; and this is not that at all,” Gordon said. “If anything, it’s not over-braking the car getting in the corner. It’s about rolling out of the brakes and waiting a split second before, and (then) getting the car pointed before you get back into the throttle. It takes a lot of patience here.”

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, October 30 2015
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