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Sunday, April 3, 2011

Here we go again … tire woes likely in Martinsville race; Mark Martin to start No. 800

It’s been a rough year for Goodyear, and the bad news keeps on coming.

At Martinsville, there is concern that the surface is not rubbering in. Drivers are reporting extreme wear in about 30 laps. On a half-mile track, that’s not good and is a recipe for a lot of blown tires, accidents, caution laps and pitting for tires.

“It is pretty disappointing,” Dale Earnhardt Jr. said about the situation. “Just hopefully we can figure out what is wrong; why the tires aren’t as good as they should be and get it fixed.”

Unlike the Bristol weekend, when a new tire was brought in, this weekend NASCAR and Goodyear are sticking with what they have, which could mean a long and dangerous race on Sunday.

"Right now there's one groove,” Kyle Busch said on Saturday. “If you run on the inside down the straightaway, you're running through marbles. If you run on the outside in the corners, you're running through marbles. There's only one particular lane that you're not running through balls of rubber then you just slide in the next corner. As soon as you get into the next corner you might as well just park it because you're just going to go through the corner. I don't see it getting any better tomorrow. Anything could surprise us, but I doubt it."

When asked if NASCAR would have to throw competition cautions due to the tire issue, Busch said: "We'll just wreck each other so we'll make our own cautions. I don't think we'll have to throw cautions because we're
blowing tires or anything like that. We'll wreck ourselves. There's going to be a lot of hurt feelings and a lot of beat up fenders."

NASCAR officials insist this isn’t as bad of a situation as Bristol, and I hope they are right. The last thing I want to see is the race winner being the only guy who doesn’t blow a tire, or a race with an endless amount of pit stops.

Mark Martin reaches major milestone
Congratulations to Mark Martin on his 800th start, which will come this weekend at Martinsville.

He joins an elite list of drivers by reaching this number, and has indicated he has no intention of ending his career at the conclusion of 2011.

Anyone who has watched NASCAR for any length of time can’t help but like and respect Mark Martin, who is widely viewed as the best current driver never to claim a title in the Cup series (he’s been 2nd five times). And though it’s still possible he could achieve that goal before really retiring (after a few false starts), whether he does or not won’t change the fact that he’s one of the all-time greats.
With 40 victories, 264 top fives and 429 top 10s, that’s not a statement that can be debated.

"I've had a really good 799 starts. We've had a lot of wins, a lot of success and a lot of fun. I've made friends out here that will be friends forever, and I can't imagine anything else I would have rather been doing than racing all of those days,” Martin said. “Beyond the stat itself or the records or whatever, it's the experiences of it all that are the most important to me."

He now trails only: Richard Petty (1,185), Ricky Rudd (906), Dave Marcis (883), Terry Labonte (870), Kyle Petty (829), Bill Elliott (825), and Darrell Waltrip (809), on the list of starts … If he keeps racing for a while, he could pass everyone but Petty.

Here are some key races in Martin’s career:
1 – On April 5, 1981, Martin made his first series start at North Wilkesboro Speedway, finishing 27th. Martin made five starts in 1981, scoring two top 10s and two poles.
6 – In his first Daytona 500, on Feb. 14, 1982, he finished 30th.
58 – On Feb. 14, 1988 in the Daytona 500, Martin made his first start with owner Jack Roush. Together, they started 617 races, winning 35 of them.
100 – On June 25, 1989, at Michigan International Speedway, Martin made milestone start No. 100. He finished 12th.
113 – On Oct. 22, 1989, at North Carolina Speedway (Rockingham), Martin led 101 laps en route to his first career win.
200 – On Oct. 25, 1992, at Rockingham, Martin made milestone start No. 200. He finished 30th.
223 – Martin reached double digits in wins with a victory at Bristol Motor Speedway on Aug. 28, 1993. The win was the third of four consecutive victories for Martin, the longest win streak of his career.
300 – On March 31, 1996, at Bristol, Martin made milestone start No. 300. He finished third.
326 – Finished seventh in the Daytona 500 on Feb. 16, 1997, his 16th-consecutive top-10 finish, dating back to the previous season. That is tied for the 16th-longest streak in series history.
383 – In a victory at Dover International Speedway on Sept. 20, 1998, Martin led 379 laps, the most of his career.
400 – On May 2, 1999, at Auto Club Speedway, Martin made milestone start No. 400. He finished 38th.
500 – Reached career milestone start No. 500 on March 24, 2002 at Bristol. He finished 11th.
506 – Won NASCAR’s longest race, the Coca-Cola 600 (then named the Coca-Cola Racing Family 600) at Charlotte Motor Speedway on May 26, 2002.
600 – On Nov. 7, 2004, at Phoenix International Raceway, Martin made milestone start No. 600. He finished 15th.
700 – On Feb. 25, 2008, at Auto Club Speedway, Martin made milestone start No. 700. He finished 16th.
723 – On Feb. 15, 2009 at the Daytona 500, made his first start for Hendrick Motorsports, finishing 16th.
730 – At the age of 50 years, three months and nine days, Martin won at Phoenix on April 18, 2009, to join Harry Gant, Morgan Shepherd and Bobby Allison as the fourth over-50 driver to win a NASCAR Sprint Cup race.
733 – Won one of NASCAR’s crown jewels: the Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway on May 9, 2009.

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