It seems that Martinsville has become a place for the Good the Wet and the Ugly this weekend.Ã‚Â The good comes in the form of NASCAR making a good decision.Ã‚Â Canceling qualifying because of the wet conditions in favor of a practice session is a smart move.Ã‚Â Sending the cars out to race without a practice would simply have been a dangerous choice.Ã‚Â We now know that the drivers have had time to get at least a feel for the car and that the crew chiefs will have had some time to analyze the data and have some idea of what changes to make in the early stages of the race.Ã‚Â It is safer for all of the drivers involved and anything to keep the drivers safe is a good call in my mind.Ã‚Â Because of the rain out the drivers starting positions will be determined by the points they have earned up to this point in the season.Ã‚Â This means that Points Leader Carl Edwards will start from the pole beside his teammate Matt Kenseth.Ã‚Â How does Edwards feel about being awarded the pole?
“Qualifying, I think, is one of the most important parts of this race, and it’s no secret that’s been a tough thing for me and Matt as well,” Edwards said after the cancellation was announced. “So I think it’s a best case for us that we get to start on the front row, and even better is the pit stall selection.
“I think that’s going to last all day. No matter how much we have to work on the car or things we have to do, that first pit stall will be great. This is my first time having it, I believe, so it’s the best qualifying we could have hoped for.”
Ã¢â‚¬Å“Practice didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t go as well as qualifying went for us, thatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s for sure,Ã¢â‚¬Â Edwards said. Ã¢â‚¬Å“But we got the car better. I think the last run for us went pretty well. IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m glad we got that practice in now because in the beginning we werenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t very good. I think it would have been a pretty big struggle to start like that. Now we go do our real homework and try to figure out by gathering information from the other cars weÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re going to see if we canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t make this thing faster but make it faster for longer periods of time.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“WeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve got everything going for us right now. WeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re leading the points. WeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re starting up front. We got a great pit stall. We just need to make the car such that I can drive it and (crew chief) Bob (Osborne) can adjust it all day and weÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ll be fine.Ã¢â‚¬Â
The Wet – Well that one is kind of obvious.Ã‚Â Rained out practices and qualifying means reduced time on the track, a green race trackÃ‚Â (the only rubber on the track is from yesterdays truck race) should definitely make for an even more unpredictable Martinsville race than we are used to.Ã‚Â Drivers patience will wear thin quite easily if the handle of their cars is not figured out in the early stages.
Matt Kenseth who is starting on the front row beside his teammate agrees that the starting position is crucial, but mentions the downside of limited practice time as well.
“This is one of those places where your car is a lot different on a 30-lap run than what it is on a 100-lap run,” Kenseth said. “You’ll see some guys that are real fast taking off and their cars turn really good and it seems like they end up getting really loose. And then there are guys that maybe start a little slower, but are really fast at the end of the run.
“Certainly it’s easier when you can start up front. The only aggravating part about it is you don’t have anywhere to go except backwards, so it gets aggravating if your car is not real fast and you’re losing positions.”
And the Ugly – Drivers patience is already showing to be wearing thin before the race has even started.Ã‚Â An on track incident between Kevin Harvick and Greg Biffle has made headlines after the 2 touched bumpers near the end of the one and only practice session of the weekend.
Harvick, who had ignition box issues earlier in the practice, bobbled coming out of Turn 4 and was hit and pushed across the start/finish line by Biffle.
That didn’t appear to sit well with the driver of the No. 29 Chevrolet, who then tapped Biffle’s left-rear fender when the two cars entered Turn 1. Both drivers stopped their cars side-by-side on the backstretch. And when they eventually returned to the garage, Biffle’s No. 16 Ford appeared to bump the back bumper of Harvick’s car while being pushed by their respective crews.
Biffle climbed from his car and hustled over to Harvick’s stall, where the two drivers appeared to have an animated discussion while being surrounded by NASCAR officials and crew members.
Biffle told The Virginian-Pilot newspaper that the incident began with Jeff Gordon Ã¢â‚¬Å“in the middle of the cornerÃ¢â‚¬Â before the initial contact on the frontstretch.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“Harvick stopped beside Jeff and kind of pulled down on him,Ã¢â‚¬Â Biffle told the newspaperÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s website. Ã¢â‚¬Å“I think he was upset because Jeff had pulled out on the track in front of him on new tires. So, IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m coming at full speed. Kevin took off right when I got there, so then I was on HarvickÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s bumper coming down the frontstretch and he lifted early and you canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t blame me for that. Shoot, I didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t know he was coming out of the gas like that. I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t know what his agenda was.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“I, naturally, bumped him and actually I kind of wiggled him because when he came out of the gas, I shot to the top to try go (by) because I wasnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t sure if he was coming out of the gas to come into the garage. Normally, you do that off ofÃ‚Â 2.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Harvick was not available for immediate comment but from the perspective of crew chief Gil Martin, Ã¢â‚¬Å“Biffle ran into us.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Ã¢â‚¬Å“Kevin stopped on the straightaway because we werenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t going to get our car tore up,Ã¢â‚¬Â Martin said. Ã¢â‚¬Å“Then he brought his big brothers with him down to our stall to confront (Harvick) like it was some sort of home invasion.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t think it was intentional. It was just practice. WeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ll be all right. The car was pretty good in practice, but the track is going to change so much. You just have to be ready for whatÃ¢â‚¬Ëœs going to happen.Ã¢â‚¬Â
BiffleÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s crew chief, Matt Puccia, who accompanied his driver down to the No. 29 stall, described the on-track incident as Ã¢â‚¬Å“wrong place, wrong time.Ã¢â‚¬Â As far as the exchange in the garage, Puccia said Biffle just wanted to clear the air.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“I think Harvick might have taken (the bump) the wrong way,Ã¢â‚¬Â Puccia said. “Tempers got a little heated and, unfortunately, we got in the middle of it. Greg went down there just to tell him it wasnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t intentional.”