Put the basketballs away. It's time for Martinsville Madness.
The NASCAR Sprint Cup world descends on Martinsville Speedway this week for the STP 500 and a dose of racing madness that only the exciting half-mile can offer.
NASCAR hall-of-famer and seven-time Martinsville Speedway winner Rusty Wallace may have described the excitement and allure of Martinsville best:
"Martinsville is so great because there's racing side-by-side and there's a lot of beating and banging and it keeps the fans so excited. The fans can't keep from standing on their feet most every lap because cars are running so close and there is body contact almost every lap. You can count on it being that way every single lap," Wallace said, becoming animated as he talked about one of his favorite tracks.
There will be three full days of excitement beginning with Alpha Energy Solutions Pole Day on Friday, March 28, the Kroger 250 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race on Saturday, March 29, and the STP 500 on Sunday, March 30.
While Saturday and Sunday have always been thrilling with the Kroger 250 and the STP 500, Friday's Alpha Energy Solutions Pole Day should also be riveting with the new knockout qualifying instituted by NASCAR this season.
Under the new two-round qualifying format, all competitors will begin qualifying in a 30-minute group session. After a 10-minute break the fastest 12 from the first round will advance to a final 10-minute round with the top-12 starters determined by speeds in that final session. The truck series will utilize the same format in qualifying for the Kroger 250 on Saturday.
"I think Martinsville (qualifying) will be really interesting," said Sprint Cup driver Kurt Busch. "I think everyone will run until lap times drop off (instead of just one lap). I think we may see four or five laps out of cars. There are going to be more laps run and that means more opportunity for guys to get in other guys' way. There could be some congestion on track and that's going to make it interesting."
Alpha Energy Solutions Pole Day qualifying is scheduled for 4:40 p.m. on Friday.
The first on-track action of the week will be at 9 a.m. on Friday with a 2-hour, 45-minute practice session for the Kroger 250. STP 500 practice is set for noon, with the final Kroger 250 practice at 3 p.m., followed by Sprint Cup qualifying at 4:40 p.m.
Saturday's action begins with a Sprint Cup practice at 10 a.m. followed by qualifying for the Kroger 250 at 11:10 a.m. The final practice session for the STP 500 is scheduled for 1 p.m. The Kroger 250 will take the green flag at 2:30 p.m.
The STP 500 is slated to begin at 1 p.m. on Sunday.
Fan gates open at 9 a.m. each day.
Tickets to the STP 500 on March 30, the Kroger 250 on March 29 and Alpha Energy Solutions Pole Day on March 28 can be purchased by calling 1.877.RACE.TIX. Tickets may also be purchased online at www.martinsvillespeedway.com.