Uncharacteristic 80-degree temperatures, which are about 20 degrees above normal, will produce a hot, greasy track at Martinsville.
Tyler Reddick’s crew chief Billy Scott says the hotter than normal temperatures will definitely affect the amount of rubber laid down on the track.
With two spots in the Championship 4 field available, William Byron enters the cutoff race 30 points above the cutline, while Ryan Blaney is 10 points to the good.
NASCAR’s current Cup car doesn’t produce the type of bump-and-run racing that was characteristic of Martinsville Speedway for decades, but two new variables in Sunday’s Xfinity 500 could result in a different style event.
Uncharacteristic 80-degree temperatures, which are about 20 degrees above normal, will produce a hot, greasy track. Couple those temperatures with a new tire that has more tread depth than the previous one and crew chiefs say track position will be critical. For the six drivers vying for a berth in the championship four, their crew chiefs agree that qualifying in the top 10 is essential.
“I don’t know that you’re going to come from the 20s and win the race,” says Rudy Fugle, crew chief for William Byron.
When Goodyear conducted its most recent tire test at Martinsville temperatures were in the mid-60s, some 20-degrees cooler than Sunday’s prediction. Chris Buescher’s crew chief Scott Graves says they’re “not really sure exactly what it’s (tire) gonna do.”
Tyler Reddick’s crew chief Billy Scott says the hotter than normal temperatures will definitely affect the amount of rubber laid down on the track during the event. Jonathan Hassler, crew chief for Ryan Blaney, agrees saying he expects more rubber on the track than what has occurred over the last couple of years.
“That will change the balance (of the car) from what we’re used to,” Scott says. “We felt like we had a pretty good car and a good run in the spring, but between having a different tire and now the big temperature difference, it will certainly be important to get it right in practice.”
Fugle hopes the additional rubber on the track will create one-and-a-half to two grooves, thus providing more passing opportunities. However, Hassler believes passing will still be extremely difficult no matter what occurs.
“You’ve got to more or less miss the corner to get a bumper on somebody else,” Hassler says. “It’s definitely not the Martinsville of old.”
Scott attributes the change in driving tactics to the parity that exists with the current car.
“At a place like Martinsville, the aero stuff comes less into play. They’re able to shift and regain their momentum if something goes wrong mid-corner,” Scott says. “The circumstances make it tough. I don’t think the tire is going to be the fix for it.”
Fugle notes there’s been a different tire for each Martinsville race since the Next Gen car was introduced last year.
“We’ve been in the notes from the tests last year, this year’s test,” Fugle says. “We’ve made changes. We’ve been working in the simulator. Last year we went into the cut race with a five-point lead and probably over achieved, and now that we have that experience of not getting through that, there’s no taking anything for granted.”
Byron enters the cutoff race 30 points above the cutline, while Blaney is 10 points to the good. The four drivers below the cutline are Reddick at -10, Martin Truex Jr. and Denny Hamlin at -17 each, and Buescher at -43.
Below are the Martinsville statistics for each of the six drivers vying for a berth in the championship four. Kyle Larson and Christopher Bell are already locked into the title round due to victories in the previous two races.
How the Sweet Six Have Fared at Martinsville
Two will join Kyle Larson, Christopher Bell in the Championship 4.
William Byron (4,126 points): In 11 starts: 1 victory; 4 top 5; 6 top 10 and 2 DNF. Led 221 laps and completed 5,103 of 5,304 laps for 96.2%.
Ryan Blaney (4,106): In 15 starts: 0 victory; 7 top 5; 9 top 10 and 0 DNF. Led 377 laps and completed 7,305 of 7,309 laps for 99.9%.
Tyler Reddick (-10): In 7 starts: 0 victory; 0 top 5; 1 top 10 and 1 DNF. Hasn’t led any laps but has completed 2,989 of 3,304 laps for 90.5%.
Martin Truex Jr. (-17): In 35 starts: 3 victories; 10 top 5; 16 top 10 and 2 DNF. Led 1,016 laps and completed 16,792 of 17,343 laps for 96.8%.
Denny Hamlin (-17): In 35 starts: 5 victories; 18 top 5; 24 top 10 and 2 DNF. Led 2,226 laps and completed 16,824 of 17,343 laps for 97%.
Chris Buescher (-43): In 16 starts: 0 victory; 0 top 5; 1 top 10 and 1 DNF. Hasn’t led any laps but has completed 7,432 of 7,809 laps for 95.2%.