Two drivers at the sharper end of NASCAR's Sprint Cup standings know that track time at Martinsville is as crucial as anywhere on the schedule, and will be counting on making the most of their experience after qualifying for the Goody's Fast Relief 500 was rained out.
With Saturday's practice threatened by a forecast for more rain, Clint Bowyer's #33 Chevrolet team made the most of Friday's Cup practice session.
"I think everybody was looking at the weather, and the forecast is still calling for rain," said Bowyer, who will start third in Sunday's sixth round on the basis of owner points, "Whether we will practice or not, we'll see. That's definitely something that you have to be ready for.
"We ran some race runs, so we went through the changes that we wanted to go through over the course of the weekend all in one practice session. We hit on something - it took us a while and we didn't run as many laps as we wanted to - but we made the changes and went through the changes that we wanted to and I feel like our car was acceptable to them."
Bowyer, who trails leader Jeff Gordon by 79 points in the Cup championship standings, posted the fifth fastest time Friday, while Denny Hamlin - who won the spring race at Martinsville last year - went fastest in Cup practice. Given the amount of track time Hamlin has at the 0.526-mile short track, his speed surprised no-one.
"It's just a lot of laps around this racetrack," Hamlin admitted, "I've run so many late model races here, I've run a Nationwide race here. I've run a lot of different series here and just have a lot of laps. You learn the ins and outs of racetracks when you run a lot of laps, especially short tracks.
"There are special little ways of getting around the track that are a little bit different than the other tracks that we go to. You run a track enough, and you start to figure it out, and it's just one that I have figured out right now."
by Reid Spencer
Sporting News NASCAR Wire Service