tampabay.com

History on Hamlin's side at Martinsville

By wire services
Published April 2, 2006


MARTINSVILLE, Va. - Denny Hamlin's poor qualifying effort on Friday could be deceiving. While he's back in 41st place on the grid today after nearly wrecking on his qualifying lap, history indicates he'll run much better than that in the race.

Last year in his first Nextel Cup race at Martinsville - and his third overall in Cup - he qualified fifth and finished eighth.

In Saturday's final practice he was sixth-best despite body damage from an incident with Dale Jarrett.

And being a native Virginian, he has logged lots of laps on Martinsville's paper-clip-shaped oval in Late Model cars.

But he acknowledges that with each Cup race at Martinsville being a 500-lapper, it doesn't take long for Cup veterans to overcome any edge in track experience that local racers might have.

"Even with the amount of laps I've had here, probably 75 percent of the Cup field has more laps here than I do," Hamlin said.

"It's a track I feel comfortable at. I know what I want to feel, but I don't think I can whip up on those guys. It's definitely a tough track to get around."

TRUCKS: David Starr held the lead through eight restarts over the final 121 laps to win for the fourth time in the series.

Starr drove the last 185 laps on the same tank of fuel and tires, and had little trouble holding off Ted Musgrave in the final eight-lap green flag run to the finish in the Kroger 250.

It was the second consecutive truck race at Martinsville Speedway that set records for cautions. The final restart came after the 16th caution pushed the number of laps run under yellow to 87, breaking the track records of 15 cautions for 83 laps set last fall. The 16 cautions set a record for the series at any venue.

Musgrave finished second - 0.942 seconds back - to give Toyota the top two spots and give Musgrave four top-five runs in four races in the series this year. Matt Crafton was third in a Chevrolet after holding off Mark Martin.

NHRA: Cory McClenathan led Top Fuel qualifying for the 30th time in his career, completing a quarter-mile run at 4.531 seconds at a top speed of 329.42 mph in the O'Reilly Spring Nationals at Baytown, Texas.

John Force topped the Funny Car lineup with his track-record 4.695 and 328.06, Jason Line led Pro Stock at 6.686 and 206.29, and Angelle Sampey topped Pro Stock Motorcycle at 7.038 and 190.59.

Gary Scelzi also became the first defending Funny Car champion to fail to qualify for an event in 21 years.

Mark Oswald was the last to record a DNQ as the reigning champ when he couldn't break into the Indianapolis field in 1985.