Manic Monday In Martinsville

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MARTINSVILLE, Va. – Tony Stewart had momentum and a strong car all weekend at Martinsville Speedway, but all he had to show for it was a busted engine and a 41st-place finish.

Stewart, the defending race champion who finished second last weekend in the UAW-GM Quality 500 at Lowe’s Motor Speedway, had a trying time at Martinsville. Friday, he had a shot at the Old Dominion 500 pole but had to qualify in raindrops and posted the eighth-fastest time.

That didn’t exactly make him happy, but he went back to work Monday, trying to post his fourth straight top-10 finish at Martinsville. He appeared to be on his way, getting into the Top 5 in the opening laps.

But on Lap 125, Stewart slowed heading into Turn 1. When he got back on the gas in Turn 2, the engine exploded, sending a huge plume of smoke in the air on the backstretch and bringing out the race’s fifth caution.

That was only the second time this season that Stewart blew an engine. He also had engine problems at Atlanta in March.

Stewart didn't have much to say about his engine problems. When asked if he had any warning that his engine would expire, he said, "no."

When asked how good his car was before the engine problems, he said, "It was running second, wasn't it?"

Another Cup race for Green: Richard Childress has still not made an announcement on a full-time driver for 2002, but it is expected he will make that decision within the next week or so.

In the meantime, Jeff Green, who will drive RCR's No. 30 AOL Chevy next season in the Winston Cup Series, will drive the No. 31 Lowe's Chevy at Homestead in the Pennzoil 400 on Nov. 11. Robby Gordon, who took over for Mike Skinner to drive the remainder of the races in 2001 a couple of a weeks ago, will not be able to participate in the Homestead race due to a commitment to run the Baja 1000 off-road race that weekend.

Gordon will still drive the other four races, at Talladega, Phoenix, Rockingham and Atlanta.

Spin Cycle for Sadler: Hermie Sadler didn’t have a large “X” on his car, but he appeared to be a target early in the race. Sadler was hit by Dave Blaney and spun on Lap 49, the second time he looped it. But Sadler was hardly done. On Lap 153, Stacy Compton got Sadler, sending the No. 13 spinning off Turn 2.

Sadler, who wound up finishing 28th, did a good job in all three incidents, not hitting the wall, slipping it back into gear and continuing on.

The race was Sadler’s second Winston Cup event of the year. He failed to qualify in April for the Virginia 500.

The native Virginian said he hopes that his performances this year will help him land some sponsorship for next year so he’ll be able to run more races. He failed to qualify in his first three attempts this season, but made his first Winston Cup start at Dover in September and finished 27th.

“We have a lot of things going on right now,” Sadler said. “I am talking to sponsors about sponsoring my car and I'm talking to various owners about driving their cars. I just want to race and run well whether it's in the Winston Cup Series, the Busch Series or the Craftsman Truck Series. I hope to know within a few weeks what the Virginia Lottery (his sponsor at Dover and Martinsville) plans to do next year. We’ve had a great promotion that has benefited everyone involved.

“If we're unable to put together a full season next year with a sponsor or another team, I would like to run at least 12 to 15 races. There are several sponsors that would find that beneficial and can tailor their marketing programs around the different markets where NASCAR events are held. Not all companies have 12 million dollars to spend in advertising and the Virginia Lottery has shown this year that a successful marketing program can still exist in NASCAR without running the full schedule.”

Nadeau Gets Mad, Gets Even: Jerry Nadeau was penalized a lap for an altercation with Buckshot Jones under a yellow flag on Lap 74. Nadeau had spun in Turn 3 to bring out the third caution and apparently vented his anger toward Jones.

Nadeau, who lost one lap when he spun, made up both laps, passing Jeff Gordon to get back on the lead lap on Lap 186. Nadeau wound up finishing 24th.

Going Backward: Kevin Harvick appeared at Martinsville for the first time all weekend Monday, and he had to start at the rear of the field. Rick Mast practiced and qualified the car while Harvick was at the Busch Series race at Memphis Motorsports Park, so the first lap Harvick made at Martinsville was in Monday’s Old Dominion 500.

Racing for the Busch Series title is the reason why Harvick stayed in Memphis, and he extended his points lead to 203 over Jeff Green with three races left in the season.

The fact that the Old Dominion 500 was rained out Sunday allowed Harvick to race his No. 29 GM Goodwrench Chevy on Monday, and he had made his way into the Top 15 through the first 150 laps.

Harvick was happy with his performance Sunday at Memphis.

“That was a great day for us,” Harvick said. “We accomplished what we came here to do. We are interested in the points lead right now, either building it or maintaining it. We finished behind Jeff but we built the lead. With three races left, every race is critical.

“I’m really happy to be able to compete in the Cup race. That (the rainout at Martinsville) was really good to hear during the race.”

Harvick had a chance to win the race late, but was penalized by NASCAR for "rough driving" in an incident with Bobby Hamilton. He wound up finishing a disappointing 22nd.

Jeff Burton also had to start at the rear of the field after his team had to go to a backup car because Burton crashed in oil from Ricky Rudd’s blown engine Saturday. Burton had a great run Monday and finished in the fifth position.

Dave Marcis started in the back, too, because he replaced Dick Trickle, who qualified the car Friday while Marcis was on a hunting and fishing trip in Wisconsin. Marcis finished 35th.

Elliott Blows Up, Too: Like Stewart, Bill Elliott blew an engine, too, going away after a busted radiator lost all its water and cooked the engine.

“We busted a radiator in an altercation in Turns 1 and 2,” said Elliott, who finished 42nd. “It blew all the water out, and the next thing I knew it was hot… It’s just a tough situation. Martinsville is such a bullring. You could have (touched another driver) three or four more times, and everything would have been OK. On this particular day, it knocked a hole in the radiator and all the water came out of it.”

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