The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series heads to Martinsville Speedway in Ridgeway, Virginia for the STP 500. This will be the sixth race of 36 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season. After the Easter break, the STP 500 will kick-off a 12 week stretch of NASCAR racing before the next off weekend on Father’s Day weekend. A total of 40 drivers will head to Martinsville to compete for the 40 spots granted.
Martinsville Speedway is the longest running track on the NASCAR Circuit since its inception in 1949. Martinsville Speedway is the shortest track on the NASCAR circuit being only .526 miles in length. Many drivers and fans call Martinsville, “The Paperclip, due to its shape and size. The track is at an elevation of 740 feet. The width of the track is only 35 feet. Pit road begins at the entrance of turn three and the exit is at the exit of turn two. Pit Road is only 46 feet wide. The tight turns of Martinsville are 588 feet in length and the straights are only 800 feet long. The turns have a banking of 12 degrees, while the straights have no banking. The turns are concrete and asphalt, while the straights are pure asphalt.
The STP 500 will be the 135th race held at Martinsville Speedway. 59 drivers have won poles at Martinsville. 48 drivers have won a race at the speedway. 21 drivers have won from the pole. Joey Logano holds the track qualifying record of 100.201 mph set back in the fall of 2014.
Last year’s race experienced 21 lead changes among nine drivers. The caution flag flew 18 times for a total of 109 laps. 21 cars finished on the lead lap, while 39 drivers were running at the finish.
Teams will not have to worry about a new tire compound for this weekend. The right side of the tires are the same compound code from 2014, and the left side compound codes have been used since 2013. Cup teams will have five sets of tires for practice and qualifying. For the race, teams will have 10 sets.
Drivers are ready to race at the first true short-track of the season.
NASCAR Sprint Cup Series point leader, Kyle Busch, explains the key to win at Martinsville in his press release. “It’s a tough racetrack and, anytime you come in the pits and make an adjustment on your car, you certainly hope it goes the right way, or you make enough of it, or you don’t make too much of an adjustment. It seems like I haven’t quite scienced that out for the last run there. The last run can be tricky, too, because you can be coming off a 50-lap run on right-side tires and take four and you’ve only got 30 (laps) to go, or you could have 80 to go and you know you have to manage that run all the way to the end.”
In a press release, Kevin Harvick talks about the uniqueness of Martinsville. “I think a lot of us grew up on short tracks and Martinsville is a place where I’ve raced a lot, whether it’s been with the Trucks, or even the Xfinity Series, in which we were fortunate to win the one race we got to run there. It’s a track where I feel like we could have won more races than we probably have in the record books. It’s a place where you enjoy racing and it’s very similar to Talladega by the fact that you just never know when something’s going to happen. You just never know when it can turn and that’s really what short-track racing is all about. And it’s something that happens a lot at Martinsville.”
For the first time since 2011, the Wood Brothers will return to their hometrack this weekend with Ryan Blaney at the wheel. In an interview with Sporting News, Ryan Blaney talks about the return to Martinsville.
"It's really a home race for those guys, and almost for me, too. I grew up in High Point, North Carolina, an hour away from Martinsville, and I vividly remember every Martinsville race I went to, watched my dad (Dave Blaney) run it. And it's really neat to go back and bring the Wood Brothers back there and have them in their hometown and home state. Hopefully, we'll see a bunch of Wood Brothers fans out there. I think we will."
Action from the Martinsville Speedway will begin at 11 am with NASCAR Sprint Cup Series practice on Fox Sports 1 and Motor Racing Network.
Friday, April 1
11 a.m., NASCAR Sprint Cup Series practice, FS1
4 p.m., NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Coors Light Pole Qualifying, FS1
Saturday, April 2
10 a.m., NASCAR Sprint Cup Series practice, FS1
1 p.m., NASCAR Sprint Cup Series final practice, FS1
3 a.m., NASCAR Sprint Cup Series final practice (re-air), FS1
Sunday, April 3
11:30 a.m., NASCAR RaceDay, FS1
1 p.m., NASCAR Sprint Cup Series STP 500 FS1