All-Star change for NASCAR
The race will once again be decided by a 10-lap shootout to the finish. But, for the first time, teams will be required to enter pit road for a full stop. The order that cars exit pit road will determine how they line up for the sprint to the $1 million payout.
“The pit crew is going to be under the gun and under pressure to get the job done to get you out first,” Kyle Busch said after Wednesday’s announcement.
The remainder of the format for the May 22 race at Charlotte Motor Speedway remains unchanged. The race begins with a 50-lap segment, and there is a mandatory green-flag, four-tire pit stop after the 25th lap.
That is followed by two 20-lap segments, then a 10-minute break before the final sprint to the finish.
Under the new tweak, drivers will leave pit road after the break in the order they finished the third segment. There will be one pace lap, then the mandatory four-tire stop.
There are currently 18 drivers eligible for the race, which series sponsor Sprint consistently tweaks to add excitement to NASCAR’s version of an all-star event.
Martin Truex Jr., who has not yet earned a spot in the field, said at Wednesday’s announcement that NASCAR’s all-star event is a better showcase than the ones held by the four traditional professional sports.
“We put a lot of effort into it,” Truex said. “Not to say that other sports don’t. But I think if you watch, for instance, the NFL All-Star Game this past year, a lot of guys couldn’t even play because they were going to be in the Super Bowl. So their best of their best couldn’t even play.
“I just feel like they don’t put in the effort. It’s not as big of a deal as it is for us. It could be the million dollars that’s up for stakes.”
Kesewloski ‘Won’t Back Down’
Brad Kesewloski is sending a message to his rivals through the song he chose for his driver introduction at Bristol Motor Speedway.
Keselowski has asked to be introduced before Sunday’s race to “Won’t Back Down” by Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers.
It will be Keselowski’s first Sprint Cup Series race since he was intentionally wrecked at Atlanta two weeks ago by Carl Edwards as payback for an earlier accident. Keselowski has vowed not to change the aggressive driver style that has angered so many veterans.
Bristol started a practice last summer of allowing the drivers to pick their introductory music.
Martin still feels magic
It was about a year ago that Mark Martin set off on a NASCAR ride like few others in his stellar career.
Five Sprint Cup victories, a runner-up finish to champ Jimmie Johnson in the Chase, and, at 51 years old, a renewed passion for his life’s work.
“It was a magical year, last year, for me,” Martin said Wednesday. “And I still feel the magic each time I strap into a race car.”
Martin has yet to crack Victory Lane this year, but stands seventh in the points as the circuit returns from a week off at Bristol Motor Speedway on Sunday.
And Martin believes he’s got a more polished, savvy team ready to win.
Martin certainly made headlines with victories at Phoenix International Raceway and Darlington Raceway last spring. He even beat chase master Johnson to the punch early with a victory at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in the first of the 10 playoff races that determine the champion.
However, Johnson’s experience shone through as the No. 48 team took an unprecedented fourth consecutive NASCAR title.
“I hope (this year) that we’ll have the hammer when it’s time to go,” Martin said.
He spent lunchtime talking with about 200 or so fans who signed up for a question-and-answer session with the NASCAR star. He tackled everything from his celebrated workout regimen ( “Wednesday was leg day,” he offered) to how he meshes with his equally famous fellow Hendrick drivers (Very well, he said. “Dale Jr. really cracks us up.”)
Mostly, Martin spoke of his joy for racing.
“I’ve said several times already today, if there were any beach in the world I’d rather be on than at the racetrack, that’s where I’d be,” said Martin, grinning broadly.
Waltrip hires younger Truex
Michael Waltrip Racing plans to enter Ryan Truex in six Nationwide Series races this season.
Truex is the younger brother of MWR driver Martin Truex Jr. He turns 18 on Thursday, and that’s the legal age to compete on NASCAR’s national level.
Ryan Truex is scheduled to make his Nationwide debut on July 17 at Gateway International Raceway. His other races are tentatively scheduled to be at Michigan, Richmond, Kansas, Charlotte and Homestead.
Truex is also going to defend his title in NASCAR’s East Series this season with help from MWR.
It wasn’t too long ago, that beach chair might’ve looked pretty good to Martin.
He rose to NASCAR stardom with owner Jack Roush, winning 35 races over 19 seasons. However, much of that time, Martin burned for a championship. Anything less was a disappointment, no matter how much success he had.
And Martin came oh so close – he had 12 top-five series finishes at Roush Racing – but was never able to break through and grew more frustrated about his profession. Bothered by a surgically repaired back that didn’t feel right, Martin sought alternatives.
“I drove that (Roush No.) 6 car to win that championship and I think that left me a little hollow,” he said.
He became a part-time Sprint Cup racer in 2007 and 2008, planning to ease gradually from the only profession he’d known.
Then something surprising happened. Martin stopped worrying about titles and focused on racing. He felt as fulfilled in the car at 48 years old as he did as a smallish, 15-year-old feeling the dirt under his wheels for the first time.
He reached a deal with his friend, owner Rick Hendrick, to run full time in 2009 and the results were astounding.
Martin won his first race in four years at Phoenix, then proved that wasn’t a fluke by outlasting the field at Darlington, winning for the second time at the track “Too Tough To Tame” after breaking through there in 1993.
He’s on board with Hendrick through 2011 and can’t imagine a day without racing.
Martin says it’s not fair to compare his Roush time with last season with Hendrick, “but I’m by far the happiest I’ve ever been in my life right now.”
Martin hoped he’d finally succeed at last month’s Daytona 500, a white whale on his standout NASCAR resume. Things looked good when he won the pole for the first time. However, he finished 12th and left 0 for 50 at Sprint Cup’s most famous layout.
“Listen,” he told the fans, “I was at Daytona for a week and a half and I didn’t make one good move the whole time. It was pitiful.”