We’re on the eve of racing back on this side of the world. The “west coast swing” was indeed an interesting twist to watch with Kevin Harvick taking two and Brad Keselowski coming out on the last lap at Fontana to grab the third.
If you are on your way to Bristol, turn around. They flipped it. Martinsville is on before Bristol this year. The STP 500 and Kroger 250 are this weekend. They are bringing the haulers in today (Thursday 3-26).
So far it has been Team Penske, Stewart-Haas and Hendrick Motorsports in the checkers. Two of these winners have already referenced Martinsville as a highlight and a welcome sight to return to the east and the roots of racing.
Kevin Harvick, on a visit to the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte, said he is looking forward to Martinsville Speedway
“I think as you look at the West Coast swing and the three races and the travel and everything that comes with it, I think everybody is extremely excited to come back to Martinsville… To start the weekend to be able to drive your own vehicle to the race track and end the weekend coming home and sleeping in your own bed is something everybody is excited about.”
Harvick spoke about the aspects that make Martinsville one of the jewels of the season.
“You add in the short track factor and just getting back to the roots of everything we’ve done leading up to our Sprint Cup careers…. It’s like Talladega in the fact you never know when something is going to happen. Just like last year we were rolling good. We had qualified bad and came up through the field and worked into the top five. A restart went wild and we wound up backwards in the fence. That’s really what short-track racing is all about and that happens a lot at Martinsville.”
He said it is a balance of driving and keeping the emotions in check and keeping the car in a condition to finish up front. With the bumping around in tight spaces there are going to be tempers and dents and Martinsville is special in the way fans get to see all of it from their seat.
Jimmy Johnson also visited the Speedway and a group of kids from local Rich Acres Elementary School. The “Go Far Club” kids and Johnson talked about health and fitness and Johnson’s training to drive and run. As a runner, cyclist and swimmer he spends quite a bit of time staying fit and that translates to stamina behind the wheel.
The #48 driver also hit on fond memories of winning at Martinsville but also the frustrations of learning to do it. An apparent turning point came several years ago when he was lapped by Tony Stewart and that lit a fire of determination to grasp the skills needed to master the historic track.
He has 8 wins at Martinsville…
Clint Bowyer also visited Martinsville just this week and was also excited to get back to the roots of NASCAR and the east coast. Like Johnson, Bowyer mentioned the frustrations of racing here and the learning curve to get into the groove. From the driver’s seat he said it is a lighter touch than you would think to drive it and if you get off your line, brake too soon or late, gas on too soon or too late you get bounced. It is a race not only against the other drivers but also against the track to keep that perfect line for 500 laps.
Bowyer also said the hot dogs are still Martinsville hot dogs. It’s the thing of being here at the race surrounded by all that is Martinsville that makes the flavor happen as he finished one of the pink, chilli dogs. He said everything that makes racing here so unique is what makes the hot dog what it is.
At the end of the day it is still a hot dog and just one of the aspects of historic racing at Martinsville Speedway.
Racing is on this weekend (March 27-28-29). Grab a jacket as the temperatures may be a little low but the sun is expected to be shining and the dogs will be hot. The Camping World Series Kroger 250 is Saturday. The Sprint Cup STP 500 is Sunday. Virginia Lottery Pole Day is Friday.