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October 7, 2001

Joe Nemechek Notes, Quotes: Martinsville 500

With comments from crew chief Chris Carrier
Coming off a strong run at Charlotte, hampered only by overheating problems caused by debris on the track, Joe Nemechek and the #33 Oakwood Homes Chevrolet team head to the .526-mile Martinsville (Va.) Speedway this week for Sunday's Old Dominion 500.

Still working on sponsorship possibilities beginning in 2002 makes every race an important one for the team and car owner Andy Petree. Oakwood Homes, citing the downturn in its industry, has already announced it will not return next season. The company is working with Petree to help the team secure new sponsorship next season, however, even to the point of agreeing to allow a 2002 sponsor to move onto the car at some point this season.
Petree, who is one of the very few multi-Winston Cup championship leaders in the sport, is known as one of the sharpest business and forward-thinking minds in the Winston Cup garage. Having been a part of the sport all of his adult life, and a good bit of his teenage years, Petree has participated in the sport from a variety of angles - and with tremendous success. One of the more profound thinkers in the garage, Petree is often an automatic "stopping place" for media. 

Nemechek, 38, climbed behind the wheel of Andy Petree Racing's Oakwood Homes Chevrolet at the beginning of last season, notching three top-five finishes and his highest-ever finish in the NASCAR Winston Cup standings. Known as "Front Row Joe" for his incredible qualifying prowess, the Lakeland, Fla., native has six poles in his career, and is almost always toward the front in qualifying. The two-time NASCAR Busch Grand National champion picked up one Busch win in 14 starts last season, maintaining his status as one of the winningest Busch drivers in the history of the series. 

Chris Carrier, who serves as crew chief for the Oakwood Homes Chevrolet, is one of the brightest minds in the garage. Carrier took on the leadership role for Nemechek's team at the beginning of this season, and has been instrumental in developing a strong communication program with his team's Andy Petree Racing team mate, the Square D Chevrolet of Bobby Hamilton.

THE THOUGHTS OF OAKWOOD HOMES CHEVROLET DRIVER JOE NEMECHEK:
"A lot of Martinsville is being able to keep what you had to start with. The cars that lose the least, no matter what parts of the car you are talking about, are usually the ones you find up front at the end.
"Hold on to what you have. Hold on to your brakes. Hold on to your patience. Hold on to your sheet metal. Hold on to your temper. Do all of those things, and with a little bit of luck, you could
have a pretty good day at Martinsville. Start losing any of those, especially early in the race, and it could be a pretty long day.

"The track is two dragstrips hooked up by a couple of paper clips. You are on the straight-aways for such a short time, the cars that can get through the turns the best and the fastest are going to be the successful ones. That's what you're trying to do all weekend in practice. You want to be able to get into that first and third turn hard - but not hard enough to wear on the brakes - and be able to get back on the gas the quickest without being too loose coming out of two and four. If you can do that, you're going to be tough to beat.
"Luck's a big deal at Martinsville. That's either going to be really good for us or really bad. We're due some good luck, and Martinsville is a place where that sure could come in handy. Then again, if our luck holds steady where it is now, it could be a long day at Martinsville.

"You make your own luck a lot of times. Qualify well and stay up front, that solves a lot of problems really quickly. It's still a tough track to race but running up front makes life a whole lot easier."
THE THOUGHTS OF OAKWOOD HOMES CHEVROLET CREW CHIEF CHRIS CARRIER HEADING INTO MARTINSVILLE:
"You really need to keep the fenders on the car. It might not be the all-important deal it is at a Talladega or something but you still want to keep as much of the car on the car in all of the right places as you can. All of those pictures you see of guys in Victory Lane holding nothing but a bumper might be cool to look at but that's not the best way to be there. Dings and doughnuts aren't as big a deal but you still need to keep as much of the car on your car as you can. 

"The main thing is keeping the fenders off the tires. You might be able to beat and bang for a little bit but if those fenders come down on the tires, you're in the pits and you've lost two or three laps pretty quick. The other thing is keeping the crush panels from bending or anything. Enough beating and banging and you get a hole in them, and that's going to be rough on the driver when those fumes from the brakes and engine start coming in.
"Brakes are still a big, big deal. They are a whole lot better on these cars than they were 20 years ago and there are all kinds of new ways to keep them cooler than there were 20 years ago, but you can still burn them up pretty easy. Even if you keep them on the car, you have to go easy on how much you use them. Use them too much and you build up a lot of heat. That heat can raise the temperatures on the tires, making them grow (inflate) more. Then your car is chattering in the corners so you have to use more brake, which generates more heat and creates bigger and bigger problems.

"Taking care of your equipment is the deal at any race but it really comes into play at Martinsville. You have a little bit more sheet metal leeway than you do at some tracks but it's still really important."