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NASCAR Notebook for Wednesday

by Dave Grayson
Wednesday, March 25, 2009

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Jimmie Johnson leads in 2008 at Martinsville
The elite teams of NASCAR's Sprint Cup Series moves on to race number six on their schedule at the Martinsville Speedway this Sunday. For the second week in a row Sprint Cup drivers will be facing the rigors of short track racing and all of the potential side effects that comes with it. Beyond the extra level of driver patience that comes with racing on a short track, there is also a major issue involving brakes.

The Martinsville Speedway can chew up a set of brake pads faster than any track in the country. But the one major concern over this weekend could be Mother Nature. Rain is in the forecast for Friday through Sunday for that portion of Virginia. Here's the breakdown for Sunday's Goody's Fast Pain Relief 500 which will be aired by Fox Sports on March 29th at 2 pm eastern time.

The Martinsville Speedway is a 0.526 mile oval. The race will be 500 laps for a total of 263 miles. It's basically a flat track with only 12 degrees banking in the turns and no banking on the straightaways at all. The speedway seats 91,000. Martinsville has a very tight pit road. It has the needed 43 pit boxes but they are only 14 feet wide and 28 feet long which means the drivers are going to have to be very careful regarding entering and leaving their pit areas. The pit road speed is 30 MPH.

The Martinsville Speedway's impressive history dates back to its 1947 opening as a dirt track and it remains today as one of the oldest, continuously operated, facilities in the country. The first ever race there was in 1948. The first NASCAR sanctioned event occurred in September of 1949. The track surface was changed from dirt to asphalt in 1955. The first 500 lap event was held a year later. In 1976 the track's turns were covered in concrete and the combined track surfaces added to the speedway's uniqueness. Over the years there has been 121 NASCAR Sprint Cup races that has produced 45 different winners.

The defending race winner from this time last year is Denny Hamlin. Jimmie Johnson won the fall race last October.

Jeff Gordon has the most wins, among the active drivers, with seven. Gordon also has won the pole position for the race seven times. Richard Petty has the most wins of all time with 15.

Tony Stewart holds the track qualifying, at 98.083 MPH, set in October of 2005.

Kurt Busch proved that you can win a Martinsville race from the rear of the field. He won the 2002 race starting from the 36th starting position.
 
The highest number of caution flags during a Martinsville race is 19 and occurred in October of 2005. The October 2004 race holds the record for the most yellow flag laps at 125.On three occasions there has only been one yellow flag during a race at Martinsville with the most recent coming in 1971. That same event also holds the record for the fewest caution laps with three.     

There are 48 entries for Sunday's racing meaning five of the teams will leave Virginia early and disappointed. There are 13 teams who are out of the top 35 in owner's points, also known as the go or go home list, and will have to qualify their way into the race on speed. However the inclement weather forecast could likely increase the level of pressure the go or go homers have to deal with every race.

If Friday's qualifying is rained out, and it's very possible, then NASCAR will revert to the owner's points beyond the top 35 to fill the field. That means that drivers Scott Speed, Aric Almirola, Paul Menard, Dave Blaney, Scott Riggs, Joe Nemechek, Jeremy Mayfield and Todd Bodine will make the race. It also means that Sterling Marlin, Tony Raines, Mike Garvey, Dennis Setzer and Derrick Cope will be loading up for the trip home.

THE VEGAS REPORT.

To no real surprise the Las Vegas based World Sports Exchange-WSE has Jimmie Johnson sitting on top of their odds list to win at Martinsville at 4 to 1. That's a very good choice because Johnson has won four of the last five races at Martinsville. He's finished fourth or better in the last seven races and has 13 top ten finishes. It's no wonder crew chief Chad Knaus is chomping at the bit to get to this track.

Also high on the WSE's winning odds list are Jeff Gordon and Denny Hamlin who are ranked at 5 to 1 to win at Martinsville. Kyle Busch comes in at 6 to 1 this week. Other notables include Dale Earnhardt Jr at 12 to 1 while Carl Edwards, Kurt Busch and Kevin Harvick are rated 15 to 1 this week.

At this point in time the WSE is also releasing early numbers on the 2009 Sprint Cup championship. Going into the next race they are rating Kyle Busch at 4 to 1 to win his first championship. They list Jimmie Johnson and Carl Edwards at 5 to 1.

Again we need to remind you that NASCAR would prefer that you not make wagers on their races. That one hundred dollar bill that you're thinking about using to make a bet could buy enough race track beer and nachos to serve at least five people.

THERE'S ALSO A TAILGATE PARTY

The companion race is Saturday's Kroger 250 for NASCAR's Camping World Truck Series which also can be seen on Fox Sports at 2 pm eastern. The race has 36 entries and the defending champion is Dennis Setzer.

There are some rather interesting entries in this race. Kevin Harvick returns to the series in the #2 Kevin Harvick Inc Chevrolet. Mikey Kile will be making his series' debut in the #29 Greased Lightning Chevrolet owned by Brad Keselowski who, of course, is Dale Earnhardt Jr's driver in the Nationwide Series. The Speed Channel's Hermie Sadler will be putting the helmet on again and will drive the TNA Wrestling-Acredale Vending Chevrolet owned by Andy Hillenburg who also owns Rockingham Motor Speedway. Veteran Ken Schrader will be in a self owned Chevrolet with the backing of  long time sponsor Federated Auto Parts. Italian road racer Max Papis returns to the series in the Geico Toyota for Germain Racing.   

AND FINALLY.

In what could turn out to be an extremely large corporate garage sale, there are persistent comments regarding the financial stability of businessman George Gillett. The rumors state that he may be in the midst of a financial reorganization to help reconcile some of his debt structure. Gillett entered the world of NASCAR approximately two years ago when he purchased majority interest in Evernham Motorsports from team founder Ray Evernham who still owns a minority interest in the operation. Then last year Gillett purchased the assets of Petty Enterprises from Richard Petty. The two operations officially merged and was renamed Richard Petty Motorsports.

Gillett also owns the National Hockey League team known as the Montreal Canadiens, and also owns a team based in Liverpool, England that plays in the Premier Soccer League as well as several ski resorts and golf courses. The rumors are saying that Gillett is over extended and may be selling the hockey team. There are no indications at this time that says he may be forced to consider refinancing, or even selling, his racing operation.

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