There’s an old racing cliché that to go fast you must first go slow. Well that certainly can apply to the Martinsville Speedway, site of Sunday’s STP Gas Booster 500 for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.
Time after time young drivers come to the track and try to light the world on fire by running every lap like it’s their qualifying run. This leads to brake failures, tire failures, and sometimes errors in judgment on the tight paperclip shaped half-mile.
Don’t take it from me, take it from last year’s winner Ryan Newman.
“The biggest and toughest part is just managing your brakes and somewhat managing your race car, keeping your fenders clean and things like that. We’ve all grown up racing short tracks, half mile or less, and I don’t think that that’s so much the challenge as it is just managing your brakes, your car and putting yourself in position for the end of the race.
This I think is the toughest part. That was the toughest part for me was mostly adapting to using that middle peddle the least,” Newman told reporters on a conference call Tuesday.
The biggest trouble of this mindset might come from each driver’s experiences growing up on short-tracks around the country.
“You would think that it fits right in your wheelhouse because of the style of track it is and the type of racing you do. I remember the first several races I ran there, I ran into everything. I ran into other race cars, walls, pace cars, just about everything that could be ran into, I found it.
And you know, it was real frustrating because I had thought of myself as a short track driver, and I thought that I had honed these skills on these short tracks in the Southeast, and this should be where I excel the most,” said Dale Earnhardt, Jr. during a conference call Tuesday.
It’s about taking your time and realizing that you might have run short-track races before, but nothing is as long as a Sprint Cup Series race.
“It took me a few trips to really learn to be more patient, to let the race sort of come to me, that the track is going to come and go, the balance of the car is going to change, that you don’t do all your work in the first 100 laps, and you’ve sort of got to wait out the competition and let your crew make good choices and good strategy that keeps you in the thick of things and then have an opportunity at the end,” continued Earnhardt.
Even drivers who seem like they excel on these tracks haven’t always been like that.
“I haven’t been successful until the last four or five years, but basically I just enjoy the short tracks. I enjoy the flat short tracks,” said Newman.
During the weekend’s action you might hear the word “patience” thrown around a lot as drivers try to survive and leave the track with the famous trophy, a grandfather clock. Who will win Sunday? You’ll have to tune in at 1 PM EST on FOX.