Martinsville Rear View Mirror
By: Pete Pistone - @PPistone on October 27, 2013 | 7:43 P.M. EST
The racing was tight Sunday at Martinsville Speedway. (Photo: Getty Images)
In case there was any doubt why NASCAR needs more short-track racing, I present the weekend’s racing at Martinsville Speedway.
Both Saturday’s Camping World Truck Series race and Sunday’s Goody’s Headache Relief Shot 500 Sprint Cup headliner were perfect examples of why less is more in terms of track length.
The smallest track on the schedule provides maybe the best pure racing of the year. And along with the beating, banging and absolutely zero talk about aerodynamics and side-by-side racing, there’s usually a strong dose of drama and emotion as well.
Sure there were too many caution flags on Sunday to slow the action for more than 100 laps and stretch the race out to a nearly four-hour marathon. But there wasn’t a lack of things going on to keep fans’ attention.
Throw in the history, ambience and aura of racing at a track that has been on the NASCAR landscape literally since the beginning of the sport and there may not be a more perfect place to race than Martinsville.
It’s a shame the experience is unfortunately the exception rather than the rule. Rather than having to wade through consecutive weeks of mediocre racing on the glut on intermediate-sized tracks that dot the NASCAR schedules until a Martinsville, Bristol or Richmond comes along, how great would it be if it happened on a more regular basis?
The reality is it won’t because there won’t be any short tracks added to the Sprint Cup schedule in the immediate future. Hopefully NASCAR can somehow create a more competitive and exciting rules package to help the mid-size track product.
But at least fans know twice a year the oasis in the desert of sometimes dry racing comes when Martinsville rolls around on the calendar.
The battle for worst luck of the year between Denny Hamlin and Mark Martin would probably end in a tie. Hamlin’s trials and tribulations have been well documented dating back to his Fontana crash and back injury and carrying through Sunday’s race. The JGR driver did do a good job of rallying back after being collected in a multi-car accident but ultimately finished seventh. Martin’s woes began nearly the minute he strapped into the No. 14 entry as the injured Tony Stewart’s replacement and another chapter was added when he crashed into a sliding Kurt Busch on Sunday. Hamlin’s 2014 will be an important rebound year in his career, while Martin’s driving future is yet to be decided.
Jeff Burton had an eventful day on his way to an 11th-place finish. The veteran driver was knocked out of the way early by Carl Edwards. There was no payback and by the time the checkered flag flew Burton had a couple more close encounters including another spin in the late going. Still no word on what Burton plans to do next year despite his comments something was in work and an announcement was forthcoming.
Saturday’s truck series controversy between Kevin Harvick and Ty Dillon/RCR was something NASCAR has needed for a while. Both drivers were wrong trying to wreck one another on track following their racing incident and the idiot that tossed a rubber mallet at Harvick’s truck on pit road should be tossed from the sport, but the anger and fireworks was a much-welcomed spark. Harvick apologized for his comments about the relationship between team owner Richard Childress and his grandsons’ racing careers, but you know there was more than an ounce of truth to his feelings,. You can be sure the final weeks of the season are going to be more than awkward at RCR headquarters.
Speaking of the Truck series, there was more than a little disappointment among some fans that the 2014 schedule didn’t deliver more of a punch. While it’s great to have Gateway return to the slate as well as New Hampshire, losing Rockingham and an Iowa date stings. And the talk about more short-track facilities and road courses turned out to be just that. The complexity of putting NASCAR’s national touring series schedules together is no doubt deep. But there has to be a way to get the Truck division back to its short-track roots. Like the Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series, hopefully 2015 will see big changes to scheduling.