“It Feels Good”—Can Junior Keep It Up?

Martin at Martinsville

Almost 30 years ago, Mark Martin scored his first career Top 5 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series finish at Martinsville (photo courtesy: Geoff Burke, Getty Images Sport)

Earlier this week, NASCAR conducted a two-day test at Charlotte to collect data with the new Sprint Cup spoiler that replaces the previous wing—a switch expected to remain in play for the remainder of the 2010 season that culminates with NASCAR’s series-crowning Ford Championship Weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway (Nov. 19-21). For ticket information, stay tuned to THEChampionshipTrack.com or call toll free (866) 409-RACE.

Dale Earnhardt Jr., heads to Martinsville hoping to capitalize on last weekend’s solid run at Bristol. With a seventh-place finish there, Junior sits eighth in the standings for the Sprint Cup Championship, which will be crowned at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Nov. 21. Though he has never won at Martinsville in 20 career Cup starts, Earnhardt has tallied eight Top 5 and 10 Top 10 finishes.

“The real, real important thing is to get everything we can out of every week,” Earnhardt said. “Even if you are having a bad day, you need to get everything you can out of it, even if it does sound cliché."

While South Florida-resident Juan Pablo Montoya tells listeners that Martinsville is entirely different from Bristol [see sidebar], Earnhardt is looking to build on 2010 progress in climbing in the Sprint Cup Series Championship standings after missing the Chase last year.

"It feels good; it's more of a relief than anything,” Earnhardt said. “We've got five races in the bank. We just need to keep working on one after another and do the best that we can.”

Earnhardt’s Hendrick Motorsports teammate, Jimmie Johnson, is another driver worth watching at Martinsville Speedway relating to the Sprint Cup Series car's switch from a rear wing to a spoiler. JJ has had plenty of success at the site of Sunday’s Sprint Cup showdown, with six wins at Martinsville; he has not finished outside of the Top 10 since his Cup debut in 2002.

"I haven't formed a large opinion yet on the spoiler, largely because the time we spent on track we've just been adjusting to a new tire and for us a new setup for this racetrack," said the driver of the No. 48.

A third Hendrick teammate, Mark Martin, is in need of a strong run Sunday. It was nearly three decades ago at Martinsville that he earned his first career Top 5 Sprint Cup finish. Driving the No. 02 entry in 1981, Martin started fifth and finished third. In 44 total Cup starts at Martinsville, he has earned two wins, 11 Top 5s and 23 Top 10s. Two of those Top 10 finishes came last year, in his first season with Hendrick Motorsports.

The next race in the pursuit of NASCAR’s Sprint Cup Series Championship—to be crowned Nov. 21 at Homestead-Miami Speedway—is slated for Sunday, March. 28, at Martinsville, and will be broadcast on FOX at 1 PM.

All three of NASCAR’s premier racing series—the Sprint Cup, Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series—again will crown Champions during Ford Championship Weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway (Nov. 19-21). For ticket information, stay tuned to THEChampionshipTrack.com or call toll free (866) 409-RACE.

MotorRacingNetwork.com contributed to this report.

On the Move: South Florida's Montoya

Montoya at Vegas

“It's hard; there is no comparison”

Last weekend at Bristol, South Florida-resident Montoya was threatening to record his first oval victory before getting collected in a late-race wreck, as Greg Biffle and Mark Martin got together to trigger a multicar wreck involving 13 drivers, Montoya included.

Montoya shook off the bad fortune to earlier this week top the speed charts during testing at Charlotte for the new rear spoiler, left-side deck lid and window fins aimed at keeping the cars from going airborne. NASCAR Sprint Cup teams experimented in Carolina with the new aerodynamics package that kicks of at Martinsville and is expected to remain in play for the remainder of the 2010 season, which culminates with NASCAR’s series-crowning Ford Championship Weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway (Nov. 19-21).

In Race 5 of the 2010 Sprint Cup campaign at Bristol, Montoya was strong early and led four times for 29 laps before being caught up in the Biffle-Martin mishap. Does the early success carry over to Martinsville this weekend?

"It's hard; there is no comparison,” Montoya said. “Both are short tracks but this is really fast. You've got to carry a lot of speed through the corners [at Bristol], where at [Martinsville] you've really got to brake. You're looking for completely different things out of the car."

Montoya has notched Top 16 finishes in all six of his career starts at Martinsville—his average finish of 11.0 is 5th-best among active drivers—including a career-high third-place finish last fall.

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