Eliminates Backstretch Pits
Text courtesy Champion Sports Group April 16, 1999
Last year, Dale
Earnhardt started 31st in the Goody's 500 at Martinsville Speedway (VA). A sub-par
qualifying effort put Earnhardt squarely in the middle of the backstretch pit, a distinct
disadvantage to those pitting on the frontstretch. Earnhardt nearly managed to overcome
the pit position, finishing fourth behind Bobby Hamilton, Ted Musgrave and Dale Jarrett,
all who had the advantage of pitting on the frontstretch.
Earnhardt, as well as the rest of the field, won't have to deal with the pit problem as
the 0.526-mile Martinsville oval has been reconfigured to include all the pit stalls on
the front straight. The renovation is the biggest change to the racing surface at the
venerable old track since it was converted from dirt to asphalt for the second race of the
1955 NASCAR season.
going to be interesting to see how one pit lane works," said Earnhardt. "In
September, Clay (track owner Clay Earles) told me what he was thinking about doing and
asked how I thought the drivers and teams would feel about it. I told him if he did it
right, it could work. What it does is takes out the variables of the pace car speeds,
blending into the wrong positions and cars not catching up lagging back, causing those
pitting on the backstretch to lose ground before they even get into the pits. The negative
to all this is the time it takes to get around at pit road speed. If you come in under a
green flag pit stop then you'll lose a lot of laps, but in the long run I hope it brings
everyone to an even position on the racetrack."
has won six NASCAR Winston Cup races at Martinsville, hopes to post a solid qualifying
effort for this weekend's 500-lap event. All of Earnhardt's victories came when he
qualified with a Top 10 starting position. The last of those 10 victories at Martinsville
came in the Goody's 500, September 24th, 1995.
overcame adversity last week at Bristol after crashing his car in "Happy Hour"
practice. Starting 43rd on the field in a back-up car, the seven-time NASCAR Winston Cup
champion came through the pack to finish a solid 10th. Earnhardt will bring that same car,
#47 in the Richard Childress Racing stable, to Martinsville this weekend.
is coming together," said Childress. "We had some very good pit stops last week.
They gave 110 percent all weekend at Bristol. We pulled that car off the truck during
Happy Hour and had it on the track in less than 40 minutes. We were able to get 15 laps
under our belt to see what adjustments were needed. But basically we raced it just like we
unloaded off the truck and finished 10th."
won six races at Martinsville as a car owner, five of those with Earnhardt. RCR's first
win at the Virginia short track came in 1983 with a young driver named Ricky Rudd. It was
RCR's second trip to Victory Lane on the NASCAR Winston Cup circuit.