From Pit Road: Martinsville

Martinsville Speedway

The turns at Martinsville are only banked 12 degrees and the inside groves are concrete. The 800-foot straights are totally flat and covered in asphalt. (Photo: Getty Images)

MARTINSVILLE, Va. - Martinsville Speedway -- with it long straight-aways and tight, flat corners -- puts a premium on the handling of the racecar. Talk to any crew chief and driver and the first key to success they will give you is “getting off the corner”.

The turns are only banked 12 degrees and the inside groves are concrete. The 800-foot straights are totally flat and covered in asphalt.

Tony Gibson, then with Ryan Newman, was the winning crew chief for the 500-lap race here on April 1. He’s been coming to Martinsville for years and agrees that getting off the corner is critical.

“I would say if I had to pick where I would want to be really good, it would be from the center off,” said Gibson. “You will make more gains being able to rotate the center to get the power down to get a drive underneath somebody up off the corner.”

So while it’s critical to power up off the corner, getting to the center of the turn is not an easy task.

“Braking is the biggest thing because you are already on the brakes on the asphalt part of the race track,” said Gibson who starts next week in Texas as crew chief for Danica Patrick. “You are already applying break and before you release the brake you are going for asphalt to concrete.

“If you’re ever driving down the highway and cross one of these concrete bridges, you know how it steps up when you get on and off when you come off. Well, the off part is what it’s like getting down in the corner.”

And that can get down-right tricky.

“So as it gets in the corner, the driver is pretty hard on the brake all it does is tries to pull the back tires off the ground,” continued Gibson. “The tires actually come an inch off the ground when it lands and you will see them wheel-hopping. They start wheel-hopping because the tires loose grip on the race track. They are in the air and they don’t stop very-good in the air.

“Then when you do get the tires back on the ground, you’ve got to turn left and that’s a struggle at times. If you are wheel-hopping getting in it sends you up the race track, you’ve got to wait, wait, wait for the car to settle down so you can turn and go. It’s a timing thing getting in and to the center.”

So, while every driver and crew chief will talk about getting good runs up off the corner, getting to that point in the turns can make or break the key run onto the long straights. And, with 500 laps that means getting the turn – entry and exit – right nearly one thousand times.

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