Martinsville Notebook: Friday

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MARTINSVILLE – Legendary NASCAR Winston Cup team owner Junie Donlavey celebrated his 77th birthday at Martinsville Speedway on Friday morning with the media in the infield media center, but there was nobody celebrating in the Donlavey camp following qualifying Friday afternoon for the Virginia 500.

Driver Hut Stricklin and the No. 90 Hills Bros. Coffee team finished 43 of 46 drivers Friday and will not be around for Sunday’s race. It’s the third time in eight races this season Stricklin has failed to qualify.

“I’m disappointed, we wanted to be a lot faster,” Stricklin said. “Basically, we just ran out of time. We made a lot of changes before qualifying and picked up a couple of tenths over what we’ve been practicing – actually a little bit more than that. It just wasn’t good enough for us.”

Despite the plethora of big names to have driven for him in his 51-plus years as a team owner in the Winston Cup Series, Donlavey has only one victory. Jody Ridley earned that in 1981.

Another Sadler in Cup: Native Virginian Hermie Sadler, elder brother of Winston Cup driver Elliott Sadler, has announced a four-race Winston Cup deal for the rest of this season. Beginning with the Virginia 500 at Martinsville, Sadler will attempt to qualify for four races in his own No. 13 Chevrolet, with the Virginia Lottery as his sponsor.

In addition to the Virginia 500, Sadler, the 1993 Busch Series Rookie of the Year, will attempt to qualify for the Pontiac Excitement 400 at Richmond International Raceway on May 5, the Chevrolet Monte Carlo 400 at Richmond on Sept. 8 and the Old Dominion 500 on Oct. 14 at Martinsville.

Sadler has one previous Winston Cup start, at Dover Downs International Speedway in 1996.

“Racing for the Virginia Lottery will give me a chance to promote the good work the Lottery does in supporting education and will also give a chance to have Lady Luck on my side during the races,” Sadler said.

Unfortunately, Sadler failed to qualify for Sunday’s Virginia 500, finishing 45th out of 46 drivers.

A Little Home Cookin’: There were three Virginia natives who qualified in the Top 11 for Sunday’s Virginia 500.

South Boston native Jeff Burton earned his best qualifying effort of the season, finishing third with a fast lap of 93.890 mph. Ricky Rudd was fourth, while Rick Mast was 11th.
Burton has had a terrible season to date. He’s 36th in the points coming in.

“One good qualifying effort isn’t going to change our season, and one bad qualifying effort isn’t going to change our season,” Burton said. “Obviously we’re glad to be starting up near the front, now we’ve got to do it in the race and get our season turned around.”

Marcis a Dodge Hero?: Believe it or not, Dave Marcis was the last driver to win a Winston Cup race at Martinsville Speedway in a Dodge. Marcis won the 1975 Old Dominion 500 at the 0.526-mile track.

Marcis is not entered in Sunday’s Virginia 500.

Strupp Fined: NASCAR officials announced Friday they have penalized NASCAR Busch Series crew chief Russ Strupp for rules violations (shoulder harness) discovered in inspections prior to the Jani-King 300 at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, Texas.

Strupp, crew chief of the No. 17 NASCAR Busch Series team with driver Matt Kenseth, was fined $5,000 and suspended from the next two NASCAR Busch Series races (suspension ends April 25). Strupp was penalized under Section 12-4-Q in the 2001 NASCAR Busch Series rulebook, which says “Any determination by NASCAR officials that parts and/or equipment used in the event do not conform... or have not been approved by NASCAR....”

Dillon Out for More Races: Mike Dillon, the driver of the No. 21 Rockwell Automation Chevrolet in the Busch Series, will be out indefinitely because of injuries he suffered in a wreck at Bristol Motor Speedway two weeks ago, team owner Richard Childress said Friday.

Mike Skinner, the driver of Childress’ No. 31 Lowe’s Chevrolet in the Winston Cup Series, will take over for Dillon. Skinner drove the No. 21 Chevrolet at Texas and finished ninth in last Saturday’s Jani-King 300.

Dillon has had a CAT scan, which proved to be negative, but is still very sore from both the wreck at Bristol and a test session wreck at Nashville a few weeks ago.

Hensley Resurfaces: Veteran Jimmy Hensley, a stalwart in the NCTS for many years, made his first appearance this season, attempting to qualify the No. 72 Leftbehind.com Chevrolet owned by Marrill McDonald. The Ridgeway, Va., native qualified 10th.

Hensley has not been able to find a full-time ride since being released from the No. 16 Team Rensi Motorsports Chevrolet at the end of last season.

Leftbehind.com is an Internet site promoting “Left Behind,” a series of Christian books centered on the Rapture and the Tribulation period described in the book of Revelations in the Bible.

He’s In: Jon Wood, son of Eddie Wood, the co-owner of the Wood Brothers Racing team in the Winston Cup Series, made it into the field for Saturday’s Advance Auto Parts 250, but barely.

The top 31 drivers made it in on their speed, and Wood posted the 31st-fastest speed during Friday’s qualifying session at 89.456 mph.

“We made the race, but we’ve got a problem with our motor,” said Wood, who is being sponsored this weekend by Virginia Gubernatorial Candidate Mark Warner. “That’s taken something away from this.

“We started getting a skip on the bottom end this morning and it hasn’t left yet and we’ve tried everything to fix it. At least we have something to work with, that’s the main thing. Seven boys are going home, so at least we’re not one of them.”

HE’S IN, TOO: Despite having qualified 36th for the Advance Auto Parts 250 and not earning a provisional, Coy Gibbs will be in Saturday’s race.

He missed qualifying for the race with his No. 20 MBNA team due to the fact he spun out during his qualifying effort Friday afternoon, but was able to secure the No. 51 Ware Racing Enterprises entry, which got into the field on a provisional. The 51 team, owned by former NCTS driver Rick Ware, released the ride to Gibbs in a deal struck between the two teams.

Jonathon Price had qualified the 51 truck, but graciously stepped aside in favor of Gibbs, who is currently 8th in the NCTS points chase.

“Coy is running for the championship while we’re here looking for seat time,” Price said. “It was the right thing to do under the circumstances and maybe Joe Gibbs Racing will give us a helping hand later on.”

The truck will be pitted by Gibbs’ MBNA crew, and MBNA will be the primary sponsor on the truck Saturday.

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