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Goody’s Can Be A Pain For Drivers

Rick Minter | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, March 29 2009
(Photo by Geoff Burke/Getty Images)   

(Photo by Geoff Burke/Getty Images)

By Rick Minter | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

MARTINSVILLE, Va. – The Goody’s Fast Pain Relief 500 at Martinsville Speedway may not seem like a physically demanding race, given the relative shortness of the half-mile oval, but there well could be several drivers seeking some of the title sponsor’s products after 500 laps.

 “It’s a short track and they’re all demanding on you,” driver Clint Bowyer said. “This track is demanding on the race car, a lot of stop and go. Anytime you stop like that, you’re on the brakes for a long time, you’re really hard on the throttle, you turn a lot of RPM’s, you’re hitting a bump, the rev limiter and things like that.

 “There are a lot of things that aren’t normal at this race track. Your brake temperatures, all your stuff underneath the hood because of those big brakes, and being as hot as they are under the hood heats up everything underneath. We’ve melted alternators out here. There are definitely a lot of things at this track that can bite you if you’re not prepared for it.”

 On television, races at Martinsville might seem a little slow compared to other places, and in many respects they are. But what they lack in speed, they make up for in other ways.

Standing alongside the track in the infield, or sitting in a seat in the grandstands, Martinsville offers spectators plenty of entertainment. The allure for many fans is getting to sit close to the action where they can watch drivers struggle to get their cars slowed down for the turns, then accelerate without spinning the tires any more than necessary.

During practice on Friday, the only session held because of rain on Saturday, Tony Stewart lived up to his old nickname as he had smoke billowing out from his car and he slid the tires upon entry to the corners. Martin Truex Jr. struggled on several occasions to get his No. 1 Chevrolet pointed in the right direction in the turns.

Although almost all Sprint Cup drivers come from shorter tracks somewhere, Martinsville historically confounds them as much as any venue. Being fast there requires a combination of a good chassis set-up and a driver who can get into just the right rhythm to maximize the performance of the car.

 “It’s knowing that feel, it’s finding that combination that works and the next time you come back to that track you know what that feel is like and you know what you’re looking for in practice for it to be good in the race,” Stewart said.

“During the race, the track changes quite a bit, but you know when you kind of have that rhythm. You have the timing of what it was like, you just know what that feel is in the car that you’re looking for, not necessarily to be good in Happy Hour as much as to be good for the race.”

Over the years, the cars and the tires have changed, with the most dramatic change coming with the introduction of the Car of Tomorrow. What hasn’t changed is the dominance at Martinsville of the Hendrick Motorsports drivers, particularly Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon, the polesitter for today’s race after qualifying was rained out on Friday.

 “Guys like Jeff Gordon have always had it here,” Stewart said. “No matter how the package has changed, he’s been able to adapt to it quick.

 “It seems like whether it’s a three- or four- or five-race period, guys get that feel of it and know what that tire likes, what the chassis combination likes at that time, and they kind of have that and know how to adapt to it.”

Rick Minter | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, March 29 2009
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