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Last Updated Monday, Nov 2, 2009 1:47 am, EST

TUMS Fast Relief 500

Status: Final Martinsville Speedway

Race Capsule

Martinsville Speedway
  • What:

    Race 32 of 36 on Sprint Cup circuit

  • Where:

    Martinsville Speedway, Martinsville, VA

  • When:

    October 25, 2009 1:43 pm EDT

  • Laps:

    500

  • Track Length:

    0.526 miles

  • Race Length:

    263.00 miles

  • Purse:

    $5,012,362

Drivers to Watch

Ryan Newman Newman, who gained two positions in the standings but is a whopping 288 points out of the lead, has no wins, five top-five finishes and seven top-10s in 15 Martinsville starts but just one top-five -- second in this race in 2007 -- in the last eight races there. He was 23rd in this event last year and sixth earlier this season. "I like Martinsville; I like the short-track racing," Newman said. "... The more the driver has input, the more the driver has an effect. The short-track racing I definitely enjoy because of that. You go to a place like Michigan or California, it takes less driver and more car than it does at a short track, in my opinion. That is one of the things that I enjoy about Martinsville. We had a good run there in the spring. We struggled for the first two-thirds of the race and finally got the car better and got up in the top 10. I look forward to going back, especially obviously with the Hendrick support and how well they have done there in the past four or five years. It is a fun race track as long as you stay out of trouble and keep your brakes cool."
Jeff Gordon Gordon moved up two positions in the standings but trails Jimmie Johnson by 135 points. While Johnson has been "Mr. Martinsville" recently, Gordon actually has more victories (seven). He also has 21 top-five and 27 top-10 finishes in 33 starts, including a pair of fourth-place finishes the last two races. In fact, he has a streak of 13 straight top-five finishes at Martinsville, including wins in both 2003 and 2005 contests. "I'm excited about Martinsville -- it's going to be a great weekend, especially because of the double-file restarts," Gordon said. "In the past, we've always had double-file restarts, but you've got the lapped cars on the inside and just the challenge that creates in itself is exciting enough. Now you put in lead-lap cars double-file and it's really going to make things interesting because there certainly is a preferred line there. Anytime you go to a short track where there is a lot of rubbing and banging, what's going to happen is if the outside lane is not the preferred lane, then those guys in the outside lane are going to be working really hard to get in the inside lane, and vice versa. So it's going to create a lot of excitement and possibly some real drama. We'll just wait to see how it plays out. Our job is the same as always: Go there, make the car go through the corners as fast as we can, make sure we're not burning up the brakes, and get the car up off the corner and down the straightaways the best we possibly can against the competition."
Martin Truex Jr. Truex has only one top-10 finish in seven starts at Martinsville. "We didn't run well at Martinsville in the spring, but we ran well at Phoenix (finishing seventh), so we feel we have learned some things about flat-track racing that will help us this time around," said Truex. "We want to finish the season on a high note." Truex is leaving the team at the end of the season.
Mark Martin Martin is the only driver within 100 points of Jimmie Johnson, trailing his Hendrick Motorsports teammate by 90 heading to Martinsville. Martin has two wins, 11 top-five and 22 top-10 finishes in 43 Martinsville starts. He was seventh earlier this year and 24th in this race last year. He has just one top-five finish -- third in April 2005 -- in his last 14 starts at the track and has five top-10 finishes in that same time span. "We have had some great weekends this year," Martin said. "We've done better and won more than I ever dreamed of. And with that, you've got to take the not-so-great weekends, too. And that's what happened (at Lowe's Motor Speedway last weekend). It's all in how you handle it. And this team could've given up, but they didn't. We fought for the best finish we could get, and, unfortunately, that was 17th. That's just racing. That's what happens. Did the 17th-place finish hurt? Yes. But it's not over. I still say, like I've said all along, we've got to get through Martinsville and Talladega. Then we'll have a clear view of what's going to happen here with this championship. Give us those two more races to see. No one really knew what to think when double-file restarts started at any track. But, so far, I think they've worked out really well. I don't worry about them too much. With how tight Martinsville is, it's probably going to get a little intense sometimes. But overall I don't think it will be any crazier than it has been in most other races."
David Reutimann Reutimann has not fared well at Martinsville -- 17th is his best finish in five Cup starts. "We didn't run too well there in the spring (20th), but we feel we have improved our short-track program a lot since then," he said.
Casey Mears Mears has only three top-10 finishes in 13 starts at Martinsville, but two of them have come in the last three races. "I feel like I really know how to get around Martinsville now," said Mears. "Getting the car to work well around there is difficult, but once you get it working right it's a lot of fun."
Joey Logano Logano finished 32nd in his Sprint Cup debut at Martinsville back in March. "We had a right front tire blow out in March and had to make a green-flag stop," said Logano. "It put us several laps down. But once I got back out on the track and had some laps under my belt, we were running with the top 10 guys. I think it's realistic to finish in the top 10 this weekend."
Kevin Harvick Harvick has six top-10 finishes in 16 starts at Martinsville. "We work really hard on our flat-track program because we know it's one of my strong points," said Harvick. "Martinsville is one of those places where you have to have great pit stops and do everything right, and we have been able to do that."
Dale Earnhardt Jr. Earnhardt will be looking for his fourth straight top-10 finish at Martinsville and the fifth in the last six races. "We've had some pretty good runs at Martinsville, and I like racing on the short tracks," said Earnhardt. "Lance (McGrew, crew chief) has built some good race cars for me, and he is bringing a new car (this weekend). I think we've got a good shot (at running up front)."
Tony Stewart Stewart maintains fourth in the standings but trails Jimmie Johnson by 155 points. Stewart is a two-time Martinsville winner, in this race in 2000 and the spring race in 2006, and has eight top-five and 12 top-10 finishes in 21 starts. He was 26th in this race last year and third earlier this season. "All we can do is just do our job," Stewart said. "Even if we win the race for the last five weeks in a row, there is still no guarantee that we could close the gap (on Johnson). All we can do is worry about ourselves right now. It really takes the pressure off of us. All we can do is go for broke now. Anything can happen to any of the teams at Martinsville. At this point, who knows? Until somebody comes up and says OK, mathematically you are out of it, until then, we have got a shot. ... With these (new) cars you don't have the kinds of accidents where guys get turned around because the bumpers on all these cars match up so well. If you get in a situation where a guy checks up in front of you and you run into him by accident and the guy behind you hits you, you're not going to spin each other out. That's made short-track racing fun again. You're not worried about having to explain to somebody that whatever contact you had was an accident. And short tracks aren't cookie-cutter. They're all one-of-a-kind, and they all have their own personality. Martinsville fits that bill, and it also has a cool trophy that's a one-of-a-kind."
Jimmie Johnson Johnson is pulling away from the field as he heads to his best track. The man hoping to make NASCAR history by winning Cup title four years in a row takes a 90-point lead into Sunday's race at Martinsville Speedway, where he has six career wins, including five in the last six races, 11 top-five finishes and 14 top-10s in 15 starts. His only finish outside the top-10 was his first race there in 2002, when he finished 35th. His last non-victory was March 2008, and the last time he finished out of the top five was eighth in the spring race in 2005. "We've won more races in the last couple years there than probably anywhere and (are) hoping for another one," Johnson said. "But we're only halfway through this thing. So much can happen. Somebody at Martinsville can lose their brakes and clean you out. With the double-file restart there's going to be a lot of bumping and banging. Someone can get into you and knock a valve stem out or cut a tire. It's a nice points lead, but there's no need for anybody to get too excited yet." ... Despite such dominance, Johnson expects a fight on the short track. "I think Martinsville is going to be a good race," Johnson said. "I'm excited about the race in the later stages as rubber is laid on that inside groove and you can start working the outside lane. I think that will be helpful with the double-file restarts at the end, and we'll have a good lane to race with. I think that double-file restarts are going to make it more intense and more exciting -- a lot of the same stuff we've been seeing. I think at the start of a race, you might see some guys forcing their way to the bottom and maybe taking some unneeded risks to get down to the bottom lane. But I think at the end of the race you'll see guys stuck door-to-door for a long, long time and not able to clear the other guy and take that position. I think it's going to be a great race. It's been a good track to us over the years and it's been an opportunity for us to gain points on some of the other Chase contenders that maybe don't prefer or like that track."
AJ Allmendinger Allmendinger finished ninth in the spring race at Martinsville for his first top-10 finish in four starts at the track. "I'm looking forward to this weekend," said Allmendinger. "We've run really good at Martinsville the last two times we've been there. So we feel we've got a real good chance at another top-10 this weekend."
Denny Hamlin Hamlin will be looking for his fourth straight top-five finish and seventh consecutive top-10 finish at Martinsville. In the last six races, he has finished second, third, sixth, first, fifth and second. "I think some drivers just adapt to certain race tracks quicker than others, and Martinsville has been that for us," said Hamlin.
Clint Bowyer Bowyer will be seeking his fifth straight top-10 finish at Martinsville. He was fifth in the spring race. "Believe it or not, Martinsville has become a track that I look forward to going to," said Bowyer. "We ran well there in the spring. And I think we're going to be very competitive this weekend. The guys have worked really hard in preparation for this race, and I was really impressed with how we tested at Little Rock (Rockingham) a few weeks ago."
Greg Biffle Biffle remains seventh, but at 268 points out of the lead he realizes his chances of winning the Cup are practically nil. Biffle has just one top-10 finish in 13 starts at Martinsville, a seventh in this race in 2007. Biffle finished 12th there last fall and 28th earlier this season. "Martinsville has never been a good track for me but because of that, I think a good run there would be that much better," Biffle said. "We tested for this race and we're doing everything we can as an organization to make sure we're improving our Martinsville program. The most important thing is to get the car to run through the corner and beat them off the gas. If we can do that, we should be OK. If I ever get one of those grandfather clocks, I have a place saved for it in my house."
Juan Pablo Montoya Montoya, who dropped three positions in the standings and is 195 points out of the Cup lead, has just one top-10 finish in five starts at Martinsville, and that was eighth in this race in 2007. He was 14th last fall and 12th last spring. "We are bringing the best cars every week and making sure we don't leave anything on the table," he said. "Whether it is qualifying or practice, you are still going to make mistakes, but hopefully you make the least mistakes. Something that has been very impressive this year is how the pit crew has really stepped up their game, and everyone at the shop (has, too). The detailing on the car has gone a lot better. Everybody is motivated on the team. It is great to see."
Jeff Burton Burton has one win, 10 top-five and 14 top-10 finishes in 30 starts at his home track. "We've run well at Martinsville, and we have run not so well. We've never run terrible but we've never run great, either," said Burton. "It's definitely been an up-and-down track for us. We've been playing catchup all along (this year), but I think we've made some gains on our short-track program."
Jamie McMurray McMurray finished 10th in the spring race at Martinsville for his eight top-10 finish in 13 starts at the track. "It's always been a good track for me and one that I've consistently been fast at," said McMurray. "We had a great run earlier this season (at Martinsville), so my goal is to run well again on Sunday."
Brian Vickers Vickers has only one top-10 finish in nine starts at Martinsville. "The important thing about Martinsville is not to overdrive it," said Vickers, who will celebrate his 26th birthday Saturday. "Take care of your equipment. Martinsville has all three of the biggest components that these types of cars hate -- accelerating 3,500 pounds, stopping 3,500 pounds and turning 3,500 pounds in a tight radius."
Kasey Kahne Kahne is another driver who improved two positions in the standings, but he's 331 points behind the leader. Kahne has just one top-five and two top-10 finishes in 11 starts at Martinsville. He hasn't scored a top-10 there since he was seventh in this race in 2006. He was 33rd last fall and 19th in the spring. "As a driver, I've learned a lot about racing here," Kahne said. "But I also think that my car has gotten better at this track. The first time I was here, I could barely go around it. I wasn't even close to qualifying well here. The next year, I was better and the car drove 10 times better than the year before and we ran second. It's a tough track and I think that some people pick this track up quicker than others, but I also think that you need a car with a good setup to win a race here. Patience plays a big role at Martinsville, but hopefully not as much because you're not worried about aero here. It's more about handling and getting the car to turn and trying to get as much forward drive off the corner as you can. That's the good thing about Martinsville -- there's no real aero tight here. If you're tight, you're tight -- your car just isn't turning that day."
Carl Edwards Edwards dropped two positions in the standings and is 341 points out of the lead going to Martinsville, where he has just one top-five finish and two top-10s in 10 starts. He was third in this race last year and 26th earlier this season. His other good finish at the track was a third in the spring race in 2008.
Matt Kenseth Kenseth has three top-10 finishes in the last five races at Martinsville but still said, "I've never really been very good at getting around Martinsville. We've run good at Martinsville before and we've had some good finishes there, but we've run bad there as well. For me, it's just a particularly frustrating race track."
Marcos Ambrose Ambrose finished 14th in March in his first Cup start at Martinsville. He made his first NASCAR start at the short track on Oct. 21, 2006. "Well, a lot has changed since my first truck race at Martinsville," said Ambrose. "I was very nervous and I didn't know what to expect. In our first time out at Martinsville in the Cup car, we ran competitively and brought it home in one piece to finish 14th. I'd like to think we will do even better this time around."
Kurt Busch Busch climbed one position in the standings and is 177 points out of the lead with five races remaining. Busch has one win (fall 2002), two top-five finishes and four top-10s in 18 Martinsville starts, but he hasn't cracked the top 10 in his last seven appearances there. He was 36th last fall and 18th this season. "It's always been demanding enough at Martinsville in the past," Busch said of racing on the paper clip-shaped asphalt layout, the shortest track on the circuit. "We've already seen just how perilous it can get out there on the other tracks with the double-file restarts, and this will no doubt be the most treacherous situation yet. Short and sweet -- you don't want to get caught up on the outside lane. As bad as it's been in the past, with the lapped cars in one lane and the lead-lappers in the other, this will be the insane end of impossible. With all the lead-lap cars going at it double file on the restarts there, the outside lane will be a no man's land and you'll do whatever you can to get the preferred inside groove. Just think about it. It's such a disadvantage to be caught up in the outside lane, you'll be forced to root and gouge and do whatever it takes to get back down there on the inside. I guess that saying things will get a little wild out there would be an understatement. The wow factor will be way up there and the TV and radio guys will have plenty to talk about, that's for sure."
Kyle Busch Busch has four top-10 finishes in nine starts at Martinsville and admitted he doesn't feel "comfortable" at the .525-mile track. "We've got some work to do on trying to figure it out," said Busch. "I'm not sure why I can't get my stuff to run well there because we have the same stuff (as teammate Denny Hamlin). And Denny runs well there."