Martinsville Madness

Martinsville Madness (April 6, 2013)

I know the eyes of the sports world will be on that little basketball tournament in Atlanta this weekend. But on the in between day, don't sleep on the race at the little track in Virginia.

The Martinsville Speedway IS "madness" and we aren't in March anymore, so ratchet it up a notch. Short track, short tempers, that is what Martinsville is all about. In past races at the 1/2 mile track, we've seen finger  pointing, helmets fly, Ward Burton even threw his heel guards once.

"It is so important to remain focused," said former Martinsville winner Jeff Burton. "It's harder at Martinsville Speedway than anywhere else we go on the schedule. Keep your eye on the ball and try not to let the things going on around you dictate what you do. Your goals need to dictate your actions. I think Martinsville is the hardest race track to stay focused on your goals."

His teammate would agree.

"It's a balance between being patient and making the right moves," said Kevin Harvick. who won at Martinsville in 2011. "You can get lapped pretty quickly if your car is off. You want to take care of your race car, but you want to take advantage of the opportunities when you get them."

It will be interesting to see if drivers are a little more patient, maybe have their emotions more in check this weekend. This will be the first race back since the Joey Logano/Denny Hamlin seemed to go to far and ended with Hamlin out as many as six weeks with a broken vertebra. Mark Martin will sub for Hamlin in the 11 this weekend.

"I think that young, less-experienced drivers when they get to this level race as hard as they can and make mistakes and learn from those mistakes.  That's in general.  That's not speaking about any particular situation," said Martin. "I would rather not wreck because I'd rather have a chance to finish, but I think his point was that you can get lulled into a sense of security that you can't get hurt in these cars because they're safer and I think that's what his point was."

Martin joins Harvick and Burton as a former Martinsville winners on track this weekend, but Mark's win was in 2000. Recently the man he is subbing for has battled Jimmie Johnson for king of the paperclip-shaped track. Hamlin has four Martinsville victories, Johnson has seven. Jeff Gordon is pretty good there, too he has seven clock trophies to match his teammate. Other Martinsville winners include Tony Stewart (3), Kurt Busch and Bobby Labonte.