MARTINSVILLE, Va. – The physical and emotional demands of Martinsville Speedway are legendary among Sprint Cup drivers. Veteran Jeff Burton calls 500 laps on the tight half-mile oval “the hardest” test drivers face every year.
The constant in-the-throttle, on-the-brakes, pushing and shoving action that is Martinsville Speedway tends to create love-hate relationships among the competitors. They love the Sprint Cup Series’ oldest track one day, hate it the next and then love it again.
That was evident after the recent Goody’s® Headache Relief Shot® 500 Powered by Kroger. Some drivers were left shaking their heads, some close to shaking their fists, and then there was Jeff Gordon, kissing the grandfather clock winner’s trophy after his eighth Martinsville victory.
Carl Edwards, who has struggled at Martinsville throughout his career, was dejected after bringing out the first two cautions of the race, even though he wound up 12th. “It’s tough to sit in the car and realize I caused both of them. The problem with me is that I’ve almost come to accept how badly we run at Martinsville,” he said.
Matt Kenseth, who normally runs poorly at Martinsville, turned in a stellar second-place performance, only out done by Gordon. Unlike Edwards, Kenseth wasn’t upset, just realistic after the race. “I just got beat honestly by experience and a better driver of this track.”
On the other hand, Greg Biffle was steamed after one of his best Martinsville runs ever was hurt by a late pit stop to fix damage to his rear bumper, damage he claimed was created by Jimmie Johnson.
“If he’s running for the title, he (Johnson) better not tear my rear bumper cover off because that will be the last race he finished,” said Biffle, who was out of sorts even though he finished ninth.
Veteran Jeff Burton had every reason to be frustrated. He was the victim of one of Edwards’ spins on just the second lap of the race and wound up near the rear of the field on the restart. He battled back to lead at one point, ran in the top 10 for a good portion of the day and ended up 11th. But instead of a frown, he was wearing a smile at the end of the day.
“We had a bit of a bump in our game plan with that spin early on, but we didn’t get that beat up and fought back,” said Burton, who calls Martinsville his home track. “That was some fun racing out there all day today for Martinsville.”
Amidst all the frustration and frayed tempers created by 500 laps of exciting and intense driver, there was at least one other driver with a smile.
“I love this race track. It just feels natural,” said Gordon standing beside his eighth grandfather clock. “It feels like home in so many ways.”