Nearly every team in racing has a track they consider one of their biggest challenges. For Carl Edwards and the No. 99 Fastenal team that track is Martinsville Speedway. The paper-clip shaped half-mile track is a tough for drivers and crews alike with the tight racing space and an even tighter pit road.
In 15 starts at Martinsville, Edwards has earned one top-five and five top-10 finishes. He had not led a lap there until 2011 when he paced the field for three laps in the spring and 28 laps in the fall. Crew chief Bob Osborne explains some of the things the Fastenal team has done to work on improving their statistics.
“We haven’t always had a strong handle on a set-up at Martinsville and we have to improve on that for sure, but as far as car preparation goes we actually just try to make the lightest car possible that we can come up with to go there,” Osborne said. “At the end of the day the downforce is pretty minor in the scheme of things making the car go fast, so we don’t look to keep the body panels in perfect position and we’re looking for the lowest CG (center of gravity) we can possibly have in the race car. It’s really the lightest package we can put together and go to the race track with. The car we are taking was new at Martinsville last year and finished ninth.”
In addition to a good race car, pit stops are equally important at Martinsville. Last fall qualifying was rained out which gave Edwards the pole based on leading the point standings, and the coveted first pit stall.
“Your position on pit road can surely determine your day’s outcome,” Osborne said. “It’s a very tight pit road and there are not a lot of great spots there. A lot of the race tracks we go to have various number of openings and we consider them top spots on pit road, but we don’t really have that at Martinsville. The fact that the track is so small means pit road is just as small so being able to get the pole and get that first pit stall makes a huge difference in the outcome of our day if we are lucky enough to have it.”
Coming off a top-five finish at California last weekend, and a top-10 finish at the last Sprint Cup race at Martinsville, Osborne and the Blue Team are optimistic for the race on Sunday.
“Any time we go to Martinsville I’m smiling if we get out of there with a top 10 for sure,” Osborne said. “If you look at our races over the last three or four years our performance hasn’t been terrible. We’ve had a handful of top-10 finishes so we want to improve on that. We’d like to consistently run in the top five every time we go there. We still have weekends at Martinsville where we go laps down and we need to get out of that type of situation. Realistically I’ll be happy with a top 10, but we are shooting for a top five and get our program in position at Martinsville to compete for wins.”