This week NASCAR goes from it's biggest track to it's smallest. But don't think for a minute that this week's race at the Martinsville Speedway wont have the excitement that Talladega did. It's just instead of being bogged down and bottled up because of the restrictor plates, this week the tight corners of the track will take care of keeping the cars close. It's anything but a party.
""It's just a tough parking-lot-style of racing," said Brad Keselowski, who is currently third in the points. "You're racing on a flat surface on the straightaways and all the way through the corners. You just stay so hard on the brakes into the corners that you don't know when you're gonna slide over that edge of how you need to be running."
This track has pretty much dominated by two drivers lately, Denny Hamlin and Jimmie Johnson, even though Kevin Harvick did win the race in the spring.
"I have raced at Martinsville more than I have raced at any other track when you consider total laps," said Hamlin. "Growing up in Virginia I had the chance to race here in some other series and all that track time definitely gave me a comfort level at Martinsville. That carried over to trucks and Nationwide Series and now to the Cup Series. I feel really confident at this track and I know we bring great cars – those things together usually lead to success. It’s also a lot of pressure because this is a race we circle as one where we expect to be really competitive.”
"Quirky tracks have always worked for me. And this track certainly is that," added Johnson. "When I first came here, the first year or year and a half, there was no way I thought this track would be one that I liked. But in time, and in learning how to drive it, there is just one way to really get around here. And a lot of tracks have a lot of other options but there's one very specific line you have to run and when a guy finds it, and he can set his car up to it, you go and go and go for years. And that's what Denny has been able to do and what we've been able to do and Jeff (Gordon) has done."
Gordon is another driver with an armload of wins at Martinsville. Look for those three as always to be up front. The Childress teams have also started to figure out the paperclip shaped track as evidenced by Harvicks win in the spring. Hamlin's success is also starting to rub off on his Joe Gibbs racing teammates as well. And it is short track racing so you really never know.
Said Harvick, "I guess you could say it's dumb luck as to how it's going to go. You can guess all you want, but it's never going to be right. It seems as you go through the years we've been there and just had a ton of cautions and lately we've had some long stretches where we've pitted under green. A lot of it depends on what tire they bring as to what kind of racing you see."