Part 2: The Intimidator's Day at Talladega
Editor's note: This story was originally published Oct. 21, 2015. MORE: READ PART 1 HERE The Build-up "That's what we've been wanting is being able to draft up and race these guys. I think the things they've done and changes they've made will make a difference. I think you'll see a better race, a closer race." -- Dale Earnhardt, NASCAR teleconference, Oct. 11, 2000. Bobby Labonte was steaming toward his first premier series championship, heading into Talladega with a commanding 252-point lead -- more than any driver could earn in one race under the former Latford points system -- over Jeff Burton. Dale Earnhardt ranked third, 258 points off the top with Dale Jarrett further back in fourth, 388 points in arrears. Dunlap: I think he saw those upcoming races as a real chance for him to make a run. ... Earnhardt was so focused on getting that eighth championship and, I think, at that moment that late in the season he had kind of felt it slipping away. Bobby Labonte: At the time where we were in points , it was risk over reward and if you were the chaser, it was easier to make those risks. If you're being chased, this is one of those places where you bide your time and you wait toward the end of it more. Dale Jarrett (driver, Robert Yates Racing No. 88 Ford): It was such an unknown. I won't say that I dreaded the race because I looked forward to racing there. We had been very successful at Talladega, but with the unknown and being in the midst of a championship battle was something that we were a little bit leery of in making the right choices and the right calls, so, as always, you're on edge racing at Talladega. In addition to the ratcheted-up championship pressure, teams and drivers also faced polarizing new aerodynamics rules that altered the looks of the cars and the type of racing they produced. McReynolds: The aero package was interesting. NASCAR had been searching all throughout the early part of 2000. ... In the summer of that year they took about 10 or 12 of us down to Daytona to do a test, and it was really an open sheet of paper. We went down there and they told us to bring all types of spoiler material and aluminum. I don't know that they really knew what they wanted to try and we just started trying things. Helton: We'd kind of eased up to it, but back in those days, we would kind of settle in on what we would use at the Daytona 500 by the Talladega race and use it there so that everybody would get used to it or we'd find any hidden ghosts and goblins in it before we unveiled it at the Daytona 500 . Bobby Labonte: I think we were there for the test and it was like some people liked it and some people didn't. If I went from 18th to first on the last lap, I loved it. I didn't like it quite as good at the end of the day. Childress: As good as I can remember back, we had the package with the wicker on the spoiler and the wicker across the roof. It was a whole new package and the cars really drafted, really raced. Nemechek: We called that the old taxi cab strip and they put a lot of drag in the car and turbulated a lot of air. … Once the air hit that thing on the roof, there were some very unique things going on with that, and I think between our two teams we were able to understand that quicker than most. Kenny Wallace (driver, Andy Petree Racing No. 55 Chevrolet): Andy Petree was by far, in my opinion, the best at getting the most out of his race cars on the superspeedways at Daytona and Talladega. He was the king of aerodynamics and getting the car low to the ground. Petree: I loved it. In my opinion, it was one of the best packages that we ever had for restrictor-plate racing because it kept the cars obviously in a big pack, but it made a big, huge hole in the air and it took a lot more power to push that aero package, so the car had more power, more response and I thought it was one of the best packages they ever had. Bobby Labonte: Back then, we didn't run a pack of 43 cars in a full pack like you do today. I don't think we circled it as much as these guys do, say in the last five or 10 years, but it was somewhere you knew that just whatever happened, you could be running in the top five one lap and then 18th the next lap. Hailey: There was a tremendous amount of unknown with the new wicker bill across the top of the car. We had no idea what we were in for. A new aero package had drivers and crew chiefs wondering how their respective cars would react in traffic. This No. 3 Chevrolet Monte Carlo had no problem adjusting. The vehicle that carried Dale Earnhardt to his final NASCAR victory still resides in the team museum. Though the aerodynamic devices were intended to slow and bunch up the cars, the speeds shown in early practices were deemed too fast. That led to NASCAR officials making a change to the size of the restrictor-plate openings -- from 1 inch to 15/16ths -- just before final practice in an effort to further slow the cars. The modification added an extra layer of intrigue to what was already shaping up to be a true wild-card race. Petree: They had a restrictor-plate size, if I recall correctly, it was a one-inch plate that we started with, which made quite a bit of power. So we sat on the pole with the 33 car (Nemechek) and that one-inch plate changed everything as far as restrictor-plate motors. Helton: I don't think it would be called unprecedented, but it wasn't something we did every superspeedway race, but we also watched very closely the top speeds, and so if I recall correctly, it seems to me like this package during practice produced some speeds that had crept up and the aero package around the car was still such that the lift-off speed was critical to us. We shrunk the plate in the middle of that event to get the speeds in a better position for the event. Skinner: The aero platform, the whole rules thing with the engine package that they brought, for some reason everything was perfect on our car that weekend and we were extremely fast. And then NASCAR decided to put a smaller plate on, and I went up into the NASCAR truck and raised hell. It didn't take Mike Helton long to come out of his chair and explain to me that NASCAR had been there long before I was and it will be there long after I'm not. His job is to make sure that we don't put cars in the grandstands and keep our fans safe, and he basically just shut me right up and they did what they wanted to do anyway. Hailey: At that time, I was actually the dyno operator in the shop, so it was my job to run the engines on the dyno. We did a lot of testing before each race because we always had the idea, 'They may go a little smaller restrictor plate or they may go a little larger.' So we had a little background. We knew kind of what to do if they changed restrictor plates as far as the engine, as far as the tuning and everything, so it wasn't a big surprise that we had to change it. We were ready.
NASCAR simplifies manufacturer points system
Scoring will mirror system used for drivers for all three national series
2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series stage points
RELATED: Full stage lengths for every race " Race enhancements 101 The enhanced race format for 2017 provides drivers with additional opportunities to earn points throughout an event. Each race is comprised of three stages -- Stage 1, Stage 2 and the Final Stage. Drivers who finish in the top 10 in Stage 1 and Stage 2 earn additional race points , with the winner of each stage earning 10 points , second place earning nine points , third place earning eight points , etc., down to one point for 10th place. The Final Stage produces the race results and awards points across the field. Below is a cumulative running tally of how many stage points drivers have earned this year, as well as their stage wins -- stage wins will provide an additional bonus point per win for the postseason. Through Kansas Note: Does not include points earned for the Can-Am Duels at Daytona
Christopher Bell talks about importance of stage points
Christopher Bell talks about just missing a Stage 1 win that teammate Kyle Busch snagged at Kansas Speedway. Bell explains how important stage points are this season.
2017 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Owner Standings
MORE: Monster Energy Series owner standings " XFINITY owner standings Rank Owner Trk # Points Ldr Next Race Wins Stage Wins Playoff Points Attempts 1 Maurice Gallagher Jr. 21 242 0 0 0 3 3 5 2 Kyle Busch 4 227 -15 -15 1 2 7 5 3 Kyle Busch 51 207 -35 -20 2 4 14 5 4 Rhonda Thorson 88 191 -51 -16 0 0 0 5 5 Brad Keselowski 29 171 -71 -20 0 0 0 5 6 Duke Thorson 27 170 -72 -1 0 0 0 5 7 Tom Deloach 17 170 -72 0 0 0 0 5 8 Maurice Gallagher Jr. 24 161 -81 -9 1 1 6 5 9 Mike Curb 98 147 -95 -14 0 0 0 5 10 Maurice Gallagher Jr. 33 139 -103 -8 1 0 5 5 11 Shigeaki Hattori 16 139 -103 0 0 0 0 5 12 Tom Deloach 7 126 -116 -13 0 0 0 5 13 Joe Nemechek 8 124 -118 -2 0 0 0 5 14 Ricky Benton 92 114 -128 -10 0 0 0 5 15 Kyle Busch 18 111 -131 -3 0 0 0 5 16 Jeff Bolen 66 107 -135 -4 0 0 0 5 17 Norm Benning 006 104 -138 -3 0 0 0 4 18 Brad Keselowski 19 99 -143 -5 0 0 0 5 19 Duke Thorson 13 97 -145 -2 0 0 0 5 20 Randy Young 02 93 -149 -4 0 0 0 5 21 Matthew Miller 99 88 -154 -5 0 0 0 5 22 Jennifer Jo Cobb 110 78 -164 -10 0 0 0 4 23 Al Niece 45 78 -164 0 0 0 0 5 24 Jay Robinson 49 64 -178 -14 0 0 0 5 25 D J Copp 83 61 -181 -3 0 0 0 5 26 Mark Beaver 50 60 -182 -1 0 0 0 5 27 Mike Mittler 63 58 -184 -2 0 0 0 5 28 Shane Lamb 44 57 -185 -1 0 0 0 5 29 Chris Larsen 52 55 -187 -2 0 0 0 5 30 Tim Self 22 54 -188 -1 0 0 0 3 31 Tracy Lowe 1 49 -193 -5 0 0 0 5 32 Charles Henderson 75 48 -194 -1 0 0 0 4 33 Richard Wauters 5 36 -206 -12 0 0 0 2 34 Tim Self 132 35 -207 -1 0 0 0 1 35 Rick Ware 12 32 -210 -3 0 0 0 5 36 Mark Rette 130 12 -230 -20 0 0 0 1 37 Norm Benning 6 11 -231 -1 0 0 0 4 38 Jennifer Jo Cobb 10 10 -232 -1 0 0 0 4 39 Clay Greenfield 68 8 -234 -2 0 0 0 1 40 Beverly Mittler 136 7 -235 -1 0 0 0 1 41 Chris Fontaine 47 0 -242 -7 0 0 0 1 42 Jim Rosenblum 28 0 -242 0 0 0 0 1 43 Mike Harmon 74 0 -242 0 0 0 0 1 44 Jerry Brown 86 0 -242 0 0 0 0 1
Monster Energy All-Star Race format 101
RELATED: All-Star Race to honor 1992 classic BUY TICKETS: See the All-Star Race in person at Charlotte The 2017 Monster Energy All-Star Race will celebrate the 25th anniversary of the first All-Star Race under the lights in 1992. That race signaled a new era that became a tradition for the fan-favorite event. Below is a breakdown of how the event will unfold and answers key questions on the format, eligibility and more. Programming info for the Monster Energy All-Star Race When: Saturday, May 20, events start at 6 p.m. ET with the Monster Energy Open followed by the Monster Energy All-Star Race Where: Charlotte Motor Speedway TV: FS1 Radio: MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio What is the format? The race will have stages of 20 laps, 20 laps, 20 laps and 10 laps for a total of 70 laps, run over four stages, as a nod to the 1992 race, which also had 70 laps. Only 10 cars will earn a spot in the final 10-lap segment. How does one advance to the 10-lap segment? The winners of the first three stages will lock up a spot in the final segment as long as they remain on the lead lap. The rest of the 10-driver field will be determined by the drivers with the best average finish in the first three segments. Yes, that means drivers will be eliminated from the race before the final stage. How is the starting lineup for the last segment determined? Cars are lined up by average finish of the first three stages with the best average finishing driver starting positioned first and the worst average finishing driver positioned 10th. Pit road is then open for an optional pit stop. The order off pit road sets the lineup for the final segment. Are there any strategy plays in this race? Great question. Yes, there are. Each team will be granted one set of softer tires to use at their discretion as part of the tires allocated for the race. A softer tire provides the car with more grip and thus, speed. There is a catch, though, as teams that choose to put on softer tires for the final stage must start behind those drivers that choose regular tires. RELATED: Sneak peek at 'soft' tires How does a driver qualify to be part of this event? Those eligible for the Monster Energy All-Star Race include drivers who have won a points event in either 2016 or 2017. Drivers who have won a previous Monster Energy All-Star Race and compete full time or drivers who have won a Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series championship and compete full time also are eligible for the event. Based on that criteria, these 16 drivers are already in the field (as of May 17): Chris Buescher, Kurt Busch, Kyle Busch, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick, Jimmie Johnson, Kasey Kahne, Matt Kenseth, Brad Keselowski, Kyle Larson, Joey Logano, Jamie McMurray, Ryan Newman, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Martin Truex Jr. How else can one make the field? The Monster Energy Open is back, and will take place on Saturday night prior to the All-Star Race. The Open, comprised of those full-time teams not already in the All-Star Race field, includes three stages: 20 laps, 20 laps and 10 laps. Each stage winner earns a spot in the All-Star Race. Clint Bowyer, Ryan Blaney and Daniel Suarez won stages to transfer into the All-Star Race. In addition, the Fan Vote returns, and Chase Elliott will make the field as the Fan Vote winner. How is the starting lineup for the race determined? Qualifying will be held Friday night and include a no-speed-limit, four-tire pit stop. Each team will have three timed laps, one of which will include the mandatory four-tire stop. The five quickest teams will advance to the final round of qualifying to determine starting positions one through five. What is the prize? No points are on the line, but the winner gets a cool $1,000,000. &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;span _rtetemp=&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;quot;spchk&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;quot; style=&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;quot;background-color: #ffffaa;&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;quot; _rtespchksugg=&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;quot;Lt"alt"ult"flt"let"lit"lat"lot"ltd"t&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;quot;&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;am&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/span&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;p;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;
No. 43 fails Talladega post-race inspection
RELATED: Race results The Richard Petty Motorsports No. 43 Ford driven by Aric Almirola to a fourth-place finish in Sunday's GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway failed post-race inspection, according to NASCAR officials. Competition officials revealed Sunday evening that the No. 43 was not in compliance after its post-race pass through the Laser Inspection System (LIS). Such an infraction may result in a points penalty and a possible suspension for crew chief Drew Blickensderfer under the NASCAR deterrence system . "That's one that's pretty cut and dry," Steve O'Donnell, NASCAR executive vice president and chief racing development officer, told SiriusXM NASCAR Radio's "The Morning Drive" program on Monday. "Similar to the 2 car (at Phoenix in March) but the penalty is in place. It's unfortunate, they had a really good run. But it's one of those things, if you fail post-race on the LIS, the penalty is pretty consistent there." Almirola's fourth-place finish matched a season-best for the No. 43 team, which notched its other top-five effort in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season-opening Daytona 500. Post-race inspection also revealed one missing lug nut on the Tommy Baldwin Racing No. 7 Chevrolet, driven by Elliott Sadler to 17th place on Sunday. The infraction is likely to merit a $10,000 fine for crew chief Ken Davis, according to the deterrence policy. The cars of the top three finishers are all scheduled for further inspection this week at the NASCAR Research & Development Center in Concord, North Carolina: -- The Roush Fenway Racing No. 17 Ford of race winner Ricky Stenhouse Jr. -- The Chip Ganassi Racing No. 1 Chevrolet of runner-up Jamie McMurray -- The Joe Gibbs Racing No. 18 Toyota of third-place Kyle Busch &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;
Sadler on solid run, poor finish: 'We can't hang our heads'
RELATED: Daytona results " 'Big One' at end of Stage 1 " Recap DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Elliott Sadler climbed out of his wrecked No. 1 JR Motorsports Chevrolet in the Daytona International Speedway garage, looked over his car and still managed a reluctant smile even as the race field roared by on track. After leading three times for 40 laps of the Powershares QQQ 300 , Sadler was knocked out of the race on Lap 107 of the extended 124-lap XFINITY Series opener. Contact between Sadler and Austin Dillon from behind in the tight pack of front-running cars sent Sadler's Chevy spinning on track. And while his crew tried to make repairs, the damage proved too much to fix in the allotted five-minute time window on pit road and he had to settle for a 24th-place finish after starting the race 11th. "Someone got into the back of us just trying to bump draft," Sadler said. "It wasn't anything intentional, it was just go-time. When he hit us it lifted the rear tires off the ground. The OneMain Financial car was really fast. We can't hang our heads because we were way fast and way good. We'll rebound (next week) in Atlanta. "It's been fun the whole day, really. We had a really good car, it's a shame to see it get torn up. We did get our bonus points and if we can do that every once in a while it will set us up here for a championship run. "You have to be aggressive, it's Daytona. That's part of racing here, you've got to be if you want to win." Ryan Reed ultimately won the race to take a likely playoff berth, but Sadler looked like the class of the field for most of the three-hour opener, which included two lengthy red flag periods (totaling more than 40 minutes) for multi-car accidents. RELATED: Sadler sweeps first two Stages Sadler, last year's XFINITY Series championship runner-up, led a race-best 40 laps through the first two stages, earning 20 regular-season points for leading at both the Stage 1 (10 points ) and Stage 2 (10 points ) breaks. He additionally received two playoff points -- again for winning the first two race stages -- that could come into play should he make the playoffs. His P24 finished granted him an additional 13 regular-season points , totaling 33 for the day. Saturday's effort places Sadler third in the XFINITY Series standings, 14 points behind race winner Reed. "At least we don't leave with nothing to show for it," Sadler said, managing a smile. "We got points to take with us into the playoffs and build on that. Our car was fast and we'll build on that. Accidents happen. "With new points system it was fun to race like that, to be honest, and get to each stage and see how people are reacting. Definitely a lot of fun. "It's just typical racing. It's Daytona. You've got to go and be aggressive if you want to win. It's a shame we don't have anything to show for it." On the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series side, Sadler was one of four "open" teams to earn a starting position in Sunday's Daytona 500 (2 p.m. ET, FOX, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) and will start 40th in the 40-car field driving the No. 7 Golden Corral Chevrolet. &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;
How NASCAR driver points are awarded per race
Under the charter system that was established in 2016, NASCAR's premier series events have 40 cars in the field. Each finishing spot in the field earns a driver points , from a maximum of 40 points to the driver who finishes first, down to one point for the driver who finishes 40th. These points accrue over a season and determine the driver standings, as well as the owner standings. New for 2017 is the addition of three stages to every points -paying race. Drivers can earn race points through their performances in Stage 1 and Stage 2. Drivers who are running first through 10th at the conclusion of Stage 1 and/or Stage 2 will receive points , starting with 10 points for first place, nine points for second place, down to one point for 10th place. Points earned in those two stages are then added to what drivers earn after the Final Stage, which sets the full race results. Points are accumulated over each of the 36 races. There is a reset for the 16 drivers in the playoffs after the regular-season finale at Richmond, the series' 26th race of the season. There are additional points resets in the postseason after the completion of each three-race postseason round. Additionally, a driver can earn bonus playoff points for the following: -- Five playoff points to the race-winning driver -- One playoff bonus point to the driver who wins Stage 1 and/or Stage 2 in every event Those points are added on to a driver's total once the postseason starts. The accumulated playoff points will carry over at the start of the Round of 16, Round of 12 and Round of 8. Other key items to know: • The driver who starts the race receives the points ; a relief driver does not earn points . • Bonus points are not awarded in the final race of the season to the Championship 4 drivers. Below is a look at how a driver earns points based on finishing position at the end of the Final Stage.
Short-track swing could turn tide on track, in standings
BUY TICKETS: See the races at Martinsville " MORE: Full schedule RELATED: Pre-Martinsville standings " Stage lengths The first short-track swing of the 2017 schedule begins this week at the venerable Martinsville Speedway and even before leaving California’s two-miler last weekend, NASCAR’s best conceded they were eagerly awaiting this portion of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season. Gone are the days of NASCAR road course aces, superspeedway specialists or short track experts. Not only has the sport demanded high expectations at every stop, drivers have to perform everywhere at an even greater level with the current points system . April's short track swing features Martinsville's .526-mile oval on Sunday (2 p.m. ET, FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio), Bristol's .53-miler in three weeks followed by Richmond's three-quarter mile oval to close out the month. And while this portion of the schedule brings a smile to most drivers faces and a sentimental nod to their early careers, it also means a big competitive kick in their anticipation. "I love the short tracks and short-track racing," said Dale Earnhardt Jr., who has wins at all three upcoming short tracks. "We don't get to do a lot of it, so that makes you love it more. Being able to come to these tracks and knowing you are only going to get to run here a few times, it makes you really appreciate it and work hard. You have to really try to take care of the car to run all the laps and get everything out of it you can." RELATED: Full results for every Martinsville race " Driver stats at Martinsville Earnhardt's Hendrick Motorsports teammate and reigning seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson may be the happiest guy on the grid when he takes Sunday's green flag. He's at an unfamiliar 17th place in the Monster Energy Series standings with only one top 10 in five races this season so far. However, Martinsville has been his playground, his mecca, his "I got this." Johnson's nine wins there are most among active drivers and he has 24 top-10 finishes in 30 starts. He's led 2,838 laps there -- an amazing 1,475 laps more than any other driver on Sunday's grid. And he's won at Bristol (once) and Richmond (three times) too. "We certainly are not where we want to be right now," Johnson said. "Last weekend at California was so frustrating. Nothing went our way. As a competitor you have to put that stuff behind you and focus forward, so I'm looking forward to getting to Martinsville. " The last race at Martinsville was an amazing finish , a very emotional one for me -- so meaningful -- and it obviously paved the way to our seventh championship. It's a special place for us, it suits my driving style and I wish we raced at Martinsville more than twice a year." Toyota driver Denny Hamlin is another who has shown a real knack for the series' short-track portion of the schedule. He has a career best five victories at Martinsville -- including a remarkable three consecutive from 2009-2010 -- with 17 top-10 finishes in 22 Martinsville starts in all. He also has wins at Bristol (one) and his home track of Richmond (three). RELATED: Hamlin explains why 'feel' is more important than lap times His Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Kyle Busch is the defending winner of the spring Martinsville race and has 10 wins total at the three upcoming venues including five at Bristol. And while drivers such as Johnson, Hamlin and Busch seem to have had immediate and bountiful success on the high action short tracks, Martin Truex Jr. could say his good feelings have been an acquired taste there. In his first 18 starts at Martinsville, for example, he had an average start of 18.1 and an average finish of 23.1. In his last four races -- with Furniture Row Racing -- he's had an average start of 5.5 and an average finish of 9.3. "From my standpoint Martinsville has gone from a puzzle to a place where I continue to feel more comfortable," said Truex. "We've had some good runs there recently and this weekend will be a good test to see where we stand with our short-track program. "We know we can get it done at the intermediate and superspeedway tracks." It's been a familiar refrain in the garage. In the past, a driver might show a real flair for a certain type of competitive surface. But in modern NASCAR every week, ever track is an opportunity that can’t be overlooked. There's no denying the "back home" good feeling of this upcoming short track portion of the schedule, however. It's the ultimate in challenge and gratification, a showcase for short tempers and a source of deep pride. "To me, the toughest part of Martinsville is you just never have a moment to breathe," said Richard Childress Racing driver Austin Dillon. "You have to be on your game nonstop for 500 laps because somebody's on you, or you are on top of somebody the whole time, and there's just no room for error." And that's exactly what fans are counting on. &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;
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