October 10, 2017 | 9:00 P.M. EST
Elliott: “We don’t have many opportunities to test in general, so when you have the chance to come test at a track you struggle at, you typically don’t get to do that.”
With 12 drivers on hand for a two-day NASCAR organizational test that began Tuesday, “rhythm” was the word of the day at Martinsville Speedway ahead of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series’ visit to the track for the First Data 500 later this month.
The First Data 500 falls at a crucial point in the NASCAR Playoffs schedule. As the first race in the Round of 8 for the Cup Series drivers, Martinsville represents an opportunity to clinch a spot in the Championship Finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
As a result, young guns Kyle Larson, Chase Elliott and Ryan Blaney – all Playoff contenders – said that they were doing everything they could to maximize the two-day session.
Larson, whose Chip Ganassi Chevrolet will be sponsored by First Data for the First Data 500, noted that the goal for the trip to Martinsville was “just to get our car faster and get me a little bit better here…just figure out the rhythm that I’ve been missing.”
Elliott posted his first career top-five finish at Martinsville this spring. He said he is hoping to carry lessons learned then into the October 29 race.
“The spring was my best race here. Just trying to find that rhythm…and try to have ourselves as prepared as we can,” Elliott said. “Just trying to find some consistency in what I’m doing behind the wheel.”
With tests being more rare than in the past, Elliott pointed to these two days as important for him considering his past results at Martinsville.
“We don’t have many opportunities to test in general, so when you have the chance to come test at a track you struggle at, you typically don’t get to do that,” Elliott said. “I’ve never been able to come and just spend a couple of days at this track, which is good for me.”
Blaney will be driving for the Wood Brothers Racing team, which operated out of nearby Stuart, Virginia, for many years, and the youngster said it would be “a huge deal” to earn win No. 100 for the team on their home track.
“It’d be great, any win at any racetrack…would be special,” Blaney said. “But, to do it here, being the home track for both of us – the Wood Brothers and myself – would be very neat…a huge deal.”
Blaney echoed Larson and Elliott in focusing on learning as much as possible during the test.
“This isn’t my best track, but I feel like we’ve gotten better here,” Blaney said. “Knowledge is the biggest thing that any team is looking to gain here…At an open test, we can come and try things that you really wouldn’t typically try on a race weekend.”
Kevin Harvick (Stewart-Haas), Ty Dillon (Germain Racing), Austin Dillon (Richard Childress Racing), Kyle Busch (Joe Gibbs Racing), Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (Roush Fenway Racing), Brad Keselowski (Penske Racing), Landon Cassill (Ford R&D), Alex Bowman (Chevrolet R&D) and Drew Herring (Toyota R&D) are in attendance at the test in addition to Larson (Chip Ganassi Racing), Elliott (Hendrick Motorsports) and Blaney (Wood Brothers).
The First Data 500 is the first race in the Round of 8 of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs. If the winning driver is in the Playoffs, he would be the first to clinch a spot in the Championship race at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Last fall, Jimmie Johnson won his ninth grandfather clock, on the way to winning his record-tying seventh NASCAR Cup Series championship.
Tickets can be purchased by calling 877.RACE.TIX or online at www.martinsvillespeedway.com.