Paul Menard had a special outfit on when he arrived at Martinsville Speedway for a test Wednesday.
His shirt was a throwback with the car of Wood Brothers Racing co-founder Glenn Wood. Wood, a member of the NASCAR Hall of Fame, passed away in January at the age of 85. Menard is the current driver for the Wood Brothers.
“I felt it was an appropriate shirt to wear today,” Menard told reporters at the Speedway Wednesday. “Every time we come to Martinsville I try to honor the Woods in some way. Glenn was a great man, first and foremost. I got to spent quite a bit of time with him last fall. He was very with it. He knew everything that was going on with the race team and was up on the rules changes and how the races were playing out. Definitely with it right up until the end and he was just a great man.”
Menard is currently racing for the Wood Brothers’ 100th career win in their 69 years in NASCAR. While he hasn’t had the best success this year – he has just two to-10s and no top-5 finishes – he feels a win is definitely within reach.
And when the NASCAR Cup Series returns to Martinsville on October, it’s a total crapshoot, and anyone can find victory lane.
“It could happen any week,” he said. “Every week is new, every week is different. We have to run up front consistently but anything can happen. The top half of the field can win on any given Sunday or Saturday night.
“It’s (Martinsville) kind of one of those wildcard tracks like a speedway would be. I actually compare Martinsville to Talladega a lot because, they’re totally different racetracks obviously, but anything can happen. If two guys are racing hard in front of you and they make a mistake you can get caught up in it pretty quick. You obviously have to be aggressive to maintain track position and pass and be upfront. Obviously have to be very cautions at times.”
Other notes from Wednesday’s test session:
Blaney hoping for more success at Martinsville
While Ryan Blaney has yet to find victory lane at The Paperclip, he’s consistently gotten better each time he’s returned, with two top-5s and an additional top-10 in his last four races at Martinsville.
It was a tough climb to find that comfort at Martinsville, though. And he isn’t resting on his laurels. He’s seen wins slip away and he’s ready to put together a full race for the Grandfather Clock.
“I don’t think we’re due. I think we’ve run well enough here the last couple years,” he said. “Honestly the first couple times I ran here it was bad. It was real bad. I ran awful and we finally kind of figured it out a little bit… And the spring race this year I thought if we could have got the lead we would have won the race. We just lost some spots on that last pit stop and that really set us back, but I think we’ve done a good job of getting really close and seeing the front and being in contention and leading laps, it’s just a matter of finishing it out and putting all the pieces together. But I don’t think it’s out of the question we’ve been in contention. We’ve done well getting through here.”
Bowyer racing for the Martinsville fans
Bowyer joked that it took him 30 races at Martinsville to get the hang of the short track.
In all honesty, he said it was closer to six or seven, but he admits The Paperclip was not a place he enjoyed at first, something he said is typical of young drivers.
“It seems like every year we have a rookie here and I think it was used once, it’s like a dart without feathers. You just can’t find a hole and hide out here. You can’t get in a comfortable place where you’re like, ‘All right I’m’ away from everybody let me just learn, let me get it figured out.’ There’s no time for that. You’re always constantly in traffic.”
One thing he loves about the small confines of Martinsville Speedway, though, is how up close and personal everyone feels. From the fellow drivers on the track to the fans in the stands.
“Martinsville is always a premium. That’s for a racer, that’s for a fan. And that’s no joke,” he said. “When I look for a track to be able to put on a show and be entertaining for a fan it’s always been here… Literally when we won here you’re standing here in Victory lane and the guy he didn’t even have to scream to you, he’s right there, and you can go up and have a beer with him, you don’t have to walk far… And I’ve always liked that.
“Now you’re talking about closeness for competitor on the racetrack, it doesn’t get any closer action than at Martinsville. Tight racing quarters, double-file restarts have always been extremely intense… even if you’re the leader you’re into lapped traffic almost immediately and it’s constantly frantic trying to get around the guy in front of you. But it’s a lot of fun.
“I always digged this place. I shouldn’t say that. I haven’t always dug this place. This is definitely an acquired taste.”
Cara Cooper is the sports editor of the Martinsville Bulletin. You can reach her at (276)638-8801 ext. 241.