Martinsville Speedway is one of those tracks that sometimes a novice fan or a new fan looks at it and thinks it really couldn’t be that difficult to race on.
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When you compare the speeds at big tracks such as Daytona International Speedway or even Texas Motor Speedway next week to those at Martinsville, it just reinforces that belief.
Martinsville is deceiving. It is flat and small. Sure, the cars aren’t going 200 mph, but it is just as tough, if not tougher than any of those big tracks. To get around Martinsville takes so much finesse. It also takes a lot of patience.
Let me be the first to tell you that patience isn’t something a lot of drivers have.
Carl Edwards will easily tell you that Martinsville drives him crazy. The place is just that difficult. This may be hard to believe, but in all of his 84 wins, NASCAR legend Bobby Allison was never able to win there.
The place is also one of NASCAR’s most historic tracks. It has so much history. The track opened in 1947. So it has been around longer than NASCAR itself. We’ve lost some tracks over the years like Rockingham (North Carolina Motor Speedway) and North Wilkesboro, but Martinsville Speedway continues to thrive. Twice a year, NASCAR’s focus is on Martinsville.
To win at Martinsville, you have to have a great combination of driver and car. With the track being so small, the brakes are easily the most important piece on your car. You get high RPMs on the short straightaways, but then you have to slow the car down to turn left and go back the other way.
You have to have a driver who has the finesse and patience to feather the throttle and not use the brakes. Our own Darrell Waltrip has won there an amazing 11 times, and he will be the first to tell you the winning driver is the one who figures out how not to use the brakes that much.
See, you can’t burn your brakes off the car. Having them there at the end of the race when you need them makes all the difference in the world.
Let’s face it, NASCAR drivers are built to go fast. The irony of Martinsville is that to go faster, you actually have to learn to go slower. Guys who are so used to going fast struggle when they get to a place like Martinsville because they need to learn that patience it takes to get around the place.
Obviously, as we end the month of March, for the basketball folks this is March Madness time. To me, Martinsville is the ultimate NASCAR version of March Madness. Trust me, come Sunday evening there will a number of drivers who feel mad walking out of that track.
We could very well witness a lot of retaliation for past offenses this weekend. The place is so hard to pass on. It’s a narrow track. Also don’t forget this is one of those tracks where the work on pit road will be more important than ever. You cannot afford to lose even one spot in the pits come Sunday.
This is a long race Sunday. It’s asking a lot from these drivers to be that patient for that long of a period of time. I am not going to be surprised in the least to see some tempers flare Sunday afternoon.
The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series will also be at Martinsville Speedway. They will run Saturday afternoon. Last year there, we saw the tempers boil over between Johnny Sauter and Ron Hornaday. They went after each other when the race was over.
Hey, I say bring it on Saturday and Sunday. Like NASCAR says, “Boys have at it,” and for me, that’s what I like.