It rains in Martinsville. It seems to be a constant that a cloud that hates racing will make its way to Virginia just to spread a little Spring shower on the historic little racetrack.

Fortunately, it cleared off enough to get some practice in for the STP 500 and the Kroger 250. Qualifying may be pushed back a bit but that should happen also.

With nothing else to do quite a few made their way in to talk about racing at Martinsville. Like so many other tracks in the wake of some hard hits Martinsville is also adding some cushion to the barrier walls. Dale Earnhardt, Jr. acknowledged this and the forward momentum NASCAR has been taking with track safety. He said there may be some way to go but it is so different than just a few years ago.

Jeff Gordon talked about his last two visits to Martinsville and that it has always been a favorite and a challenge to race and win there.

Aric Almirola spoke a bit about the Petty family and the Victory Junction Gang Camp for children with illnesses and special needs.

Then there were hot dogs and that seemed to lighten things up a bit. Gordon said he never had one of the old ones. Dale Jr. said he was gonna have a couple of the new ones. Everyone seemed to thing it was much over nothing as they still look and taste the same and let’s go racing.

Practice was put off a bit for the rain but they got some laps in. A.J. Allmendinger came off the track with the fastest laps of the Friday session. We can only wait to see if that holds into qualifying.

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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.

The sun is out. The temperature is 72. For all accounts it is a beautiful day.

And 24 hours too late…

It’s Monday. Yesterday closed out race weekend at Martinsville Speedway for the STP 500.

Thursday of last week the forecast still looked good for Sunday in southside Virginia. Sunny to partly cloudy and mid 60’s. Marvelous!

By Friday someone had flipped a switch. There was a good chance rain could blow Sprint Cup qualifying out for Alpha Energy Solutions Pole Day. There was a 60 to 90 percent chance of rain on Saturday for the Camping World Series Kroger 250.

Sunday still looked like the weather would blow out and clear up Saturday night into Sunday. (more…)

Yes, Bristol has run and done. Technically Tennessee yet many Virginians call it one of their own. Richmond and Martinsville are, straight up, Virginia racing.

Richmond comes up in late April. Mark it.

Martinsville is next up and riding a big wave of racing to bring it home. Dale Jr. gave us a win at Daytona. Harvick has a new team win. Keselowski, Edwards and Kyle Busch have wins. Denny Hamlin had some pre-season success. All the manufacturers have had victories.

New teams, new numbers and the return of the iconic #3 have made marks on the NASCAR season and the whole show is coming to Martinsville.

Do I sound excited? Well, yes… Martinsville is just down the road. If I close my eyes I can smell the steam from the hot dogs. (more…)

Trucks. Racing them seems weird on the surface of it.

They pull with engines full of torque and low gear power. Speed is not their first function of design.

Yet they are the vehicle of choice for NASCAR for high speed and tight racing as the Camping World Truck Series.

They opened the season at Daytona and with more than a month off return to racing in April at Martinsville. After that, the schedule fills up and the run for points tightens up. It is no small wonder, with an essential season reboot, that teams and drivers took a run at Martinsville in mid-March for a refresher.

Stepping, somewhat, out of the shadows of their fathers are Jeb Burton and Chase Elliott. Their fathers, Ward and Bill, carry some weight but as the sons made clear once the call to start engines is on the race is all in the driver’s seat. The advice and pep talks ride in the back of the mind and it is up to them to apply their own skills to the track. (more…)

Rain soaked garage and pits at Martinsville Speedway
Rain soaked garage and pits at Martinsville Speedway

So far it has been a great weekend for a comprehensive test of which race team has the best umbrellas. Sprint Cup qualifying was a wash on Friday. The Camping World Series were able to post qualifying earlier in the day but Cup practice has been held in the garage. The truck race is up in the air and currently holding but at the mercy of the heavy clouds over the area.

Truck qualifying has put Rick Crawford in the Circle Bar – International Trucks Ford on the pole for the Kroger 250. Points leading up to Martinsville places Jeff Gordon and the Dupont Chevy on the pole with Kurt Busch on the outside.

Friday and up to noon on Saturday has been a wet run of it but the weather is looking good for Sunday. A forecast high of 64 with sunny skies. The main event looks to be set to go off without a hitch. The trucks, however, are on a head on course for a full afternoon of steady rain. If thishappens, Clay Campbell of Martinsville Speedway has said they will run them on Monday. For those who can pull it off if the rain scenerio plays out, a day at the track can certainly beat a day at work.

A word of advice… Call your boss before the green flag drops. The sound of V8 headers is not very convincing when you are calling in sick.