- Last Updated on Wednesday, 25 March 2009 19:04
- Published on Wednesday, 25 March 2009 19:04
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For competitors and fans alike, short tracks are the sparks that ignite a deep passion for racing. Whether behind the wheel or in the stands, for many, the love of racing was bred on local short tracks across America.
For the fifth consecutive season, the Sprint Cup Series travels to both half-mile tracks on the circuit, Bristol Motor Speedway and Martinsville Speedway, in back to back weeks. The excitement and highly charged emotions that come with short track races energizes all who watch.
“The two week short track stretch of the schedule offers the drivers a greater set of challenges, both from mental and physical standpoint,” said NASCAR Sprint Cup Series director John Darby. “If the average lap time for a speedway is around 30 seconds and the average lap time at Bristol is let’s say, 15 seconds, then the driver has half the time to think and react on the race track. They are seeing the corners twice as fast as they’ve seen them so far this season. Things happen quicker and the drivers must react quicker. That reduction of reaction time lends itself to creating a new element of excitement for our fans and for the race teams.”
Based on his five wins at Bristol Motor Speedway, one would think that the track is a favorite of Kurt Busch. It is in fact his “Absolute Favorite” track and one at which he always looks forward to racing. The fact that Busch is off to his best start in his nine-year Cup career has only added to his excitement. Speaking during practice prior to last Sunday’s Food City 500 Busch said, “Coming off the win two weeks ago in Atlanta only added to the oomph we’re bringing to Bristol. We have the momentum growing and the excitement building within and around our team.”
Despite having five Bristol wins, Busch hasn’t won at the track since March 2006, his fifth start with Penske Racing. Busch grabbed his first win at Bristol in just his third trip to the Tennessee track. Younger brother Kyle won the spring race at Bristol in 2007, then came back in the fall race last season to lead 415 of the 500 laps and it appeared he was about to notch his second Bristol win. It was not to be as with the laps winding down Carl Edwards put the bumper to the left rear corner of Kyle’s Toyota, moving him up the track. While Kyle was regaining control of his car, Edwards scooted past to claim the win. Busch had to finish second.
Last Sunday Kyle came right back with another dominating performance at Bristol. He led for 376 laps, and even though it came down to a green, white, checkered finish, the younger Busch would not be denied as he logged his 14th career win.
With all the success the Busch brothers have had at Bristol, Martinsville is a whole other story. Kurt Busch scored his lone win at the Virginia short track in the fall 2006 race. Kyle has yet to visit victory lane at the half mile Virginia track.
When you talk Martinsville, you have to talk about the Hendrick Motorsports teammates, Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson. Heading into this season, Gordon leads active drivers with 6 wins at the tight paper clip shaped half mile. Teammate Jimmie Johnson is right behind with 5 wins. The last few years it has been all about Jimmie. While Gordon scored his last Martinsville win in the fall race in 2005, teammate Johnson has owned the fall race, since his first Martinsville win in the fall race of 2004, Johnson has won four of the last five fall races, including the last three straight. Johnson’s lone win in the spring race was in the 2007 Goody’s 500.
Talking short rack racing, it’s hard to bet against the Busch brothers or Gordon and Johnson. If any driver is due, it’s Jeff Gordon. He leads the points race, but goes into Sunday’s race at Martinsville with a career high slump of 46 races since he has had a win. It’s hard to believe, but true: Jeff Gordon has not won since the Bank of America 500 in Charlotte, in October of 2007.