MARTINSVILLE, VA – Race cars always look faster at night under the lights. This Friday night, though, it won’t be an optical illusion.
Qualifying speeds should soar well past the track record when the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour rumbles into Martinsville Speedway for the Made In America Whelen 300.
The absolute track record at Martinsville Speedway is 101.014 miles per hour (18.746 seconds). It was set by Greg Sacks in 1986, not in a NEXTEL Cup car, but in a NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour car.
By comparison, the NEXTEL Cup record on Martinsville’s .526-mile oval is 97.043 mph (19.513 seconds), set by Ryan Newman last fall.
Newman had the advantage of a recently-paved, perfectly smooth race track. And that smooth racing surface is the reason most everyone expects the Modified record to tumble on Friday.
“As far as track conditions, I came up to Martinsville for a tire test (earlier this year) and it was just as smooth as it could be,” said Junior Miller, driver of the Martinsville-based Riggs’ Racing Dodge. “My prediction is the track record over there will be broke by probably two-tenths (of a second).”
During that test in May, Miller’s best lap was 18.80 seconds (100.723 mph), better than the NEXTEL Cup mark and well within reach of Sacks’ 20-year-old mark.
“We ran close to the track record over there in the tire test without a qualifying setup under the car,” said Miller. “The track is good and smooth. There’s going to be a huge track record and a really good show for the fans.”
The fastest 20 cars will nail down starting positions in Friday evening’s time trials. The next 15 spots in the 43-car field will be filled through the 50-lap Chatlee Boats Last Chance Race Saturday evening. The final eight positions will be filled by the top drivers in points standings who do not qualifying through time trials or the last chance race.
Almost 60 entries have been received for the Made In America Whelen 300, including the top drivers from both the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour and the NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour. This will be the first time the two tours have raced together in a companion event.
“This is a huge race for us …. To us Martinsville is like Daytona is to the Cup guys. It’s huge, the biggest race we have,” said Miller.
Spectator gates will open at 4 p.m. Friday with the cars taking to the track for a 90-minute test session at 4:30 p.m. Qualifying will begin at 8:30 p.m., followed by an autograph session on the track. Fans will enter the track through the flagman’s stand at the start-finish line for the autograph session.
On Saturday spectator gates will open at 3 p.m. Practice will also begin at 3 p.m. The 50-lap Chatlee Boats Last Chance Race will take the green flag at 7 p.m. Saturday with the 250-lap feature beginning at 8:30 p.m.
Tickets for qualifying are $5 for adults and children under 12 are admitted free. Qualifying tickets may be bought the day of the event at the track’s ticket windows.
Tickets for the Made In America Whelen 300 on Saturday are $20 for adults. Tickets for children 6-12 are $5 and children under six are admitted free. Tickets may be purchased in advance by calling 877.RACE.TIX or at the track’s ticket windows. Ticket windows will open at 9 a.m. Saturday.