Preview: STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway

Preview: STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway

by March 29, 2014 0 comments

Ridgeway, VA – As if the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season couldn’t get any more exciting, the teams enter Martinsville Speedway for Sunday’s STP 500 after making the long trip from California.

So far this season, there have been five different winners in the first five races, and I personally think the trend will continue this weekend. My pick for the STP 500 is six-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion, Jimmie Johnson. He leads all current drivers with an average finish of 3.9 and oh by the way, Johnson hasn’t reached Victory Lane this year, so if he’s going to make The Chase, this will be his best shot.

“Always exciting to come back to Martinsville and with this being the site of Rick Hendrick’s first win, 30 years of Hendrick Motorsports and obviously 2004 with the plane crash there is a lot of motivation when we come to this race track,” Jimmie Johnson said. “It’s great to be back and it’s nice to know that this track is strong for the Hendrick cars and very strong for myself. We would love to check the win column box. We are certainly close and we were knocking on the door last weekend and I think we have had a couple other looks at wins. I think we are really understanding this 2014 package and getting some speed out of our cars and we should be contending and racing for wins I believe.”

Last weekend Denny Hamlin had to sit out the Auto Club 400 due to a small piece of metal in his eye. However, he entered Martinsville Speedway on Friday and topped the charts in the first practice session. He’ll also start Sunday’s race on the front row just beside teammate, Kyle Busch who captured the pole. Denny Hamlin is third on the best average finish list of current drivers. In 16 races at Martinsville Speedway, Hamlin has an average finish of 8.1.

“It’s frustrating because I’m in great health,” Denny Hamlin said Friday. “I’ll play all these drivers in any sport they want to play.  I’m in good health, just literally last year I got in a wreck and I hit the wall at the worst possible spot that broke my back and this year something, somehow flies into my eye in the middle of a race weekend and two really good doctors — it was so small that they couldn’t see it. It is just really bad luck on that part of it. As far as the health stuff, I feel better than I ever have.”

NASCAR unveiled the new Air Titan 2.0 on Friday morning at Martinsville Speedway. The new track drying machine delivers air at the speed of 568 mph and raises the air temperature by 70 degrees over ambient at the blade. For those of you who are new to the sport, the Air Titan 2.0 could dry a football field in only 20.5 seconds.

“Essentially it’s a quick drying process that has two steps:  The first thing we endeavor to do is remove as much water off the track as we can so it’s a rapid water removal, then it’s followed by an accelerated evaporation process of the remaining water film, Gene Stefanyshyn, NASCAR Vice President of Innovation and Racing Development said. “ The Air Titan 2 is a self-contained unit, it’s a low pressure unit, and it’s capable of team deployment and independent tactical deployment, so we’ll be able to pick these units individually and send them to the areas on the track where they need to be sent.  We have a 20-unit fleet and a number of units deployed will be dependent on the track size. The system is contained in a specially-equipped Toyota Tundra.”

Compared to the Air Titan 1.0, it more than triples the blade capacity, consumes 78 percent less fuel per hour, emits 80 percent less CO2 per hour and most importantly, it reduces drying time by 25-50 percent depending on the dew point and other atmospheric conditions.

So far the weather forecast doesn’t look good for Saturday’s track action. As of early this morning, the Air Titan 2.0 fleet was in full force. Weather permitting, the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series will have their second and final practice sessions. The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series will qualify and the Kroger 250 is set to start at 2:30 p.m. Sunday’s STP 500 forecast looks to be a beautiful day for 500 laps at the paperclip.

Hunter Thomas
Hunter Thomas is a journalist who grew up in Darlington, S.C. His first motorsports-based endeavor was working as the Public Relations Director at Dillon Motor Speedway in Dillon, S.C., and his journalism start came while he was freelancing at his hometown newspaper, the News & Press while in college.

Hunter has been working within the NASCAR industry since 2010, and throughout the years, he has done everything from PR/Marketing for drivers and teams in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, NASCAR XFINITY Series and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, to working at Rockingham Speedway. As a journalist, Hunter has covered everything from regional short tracks to NASCAR, ARCA Racing Series, World of Outlaws, Red Bull Global Rallycross, NHRA and much more.

Follow Hunter Thomas on Twitter by following, @HunterThomas08

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