Several drivers head to short track to prepare for April race
MARTINSVILLE, Va. -- Defending NASCAR Camping World Truck Series champion James Buescher was one of five drivers taking part in the first day of a two-day test session March 12 at Martinsville Speedway.
Buescher, 13th in the series’ season-opening event last month at Daytona International Speedway, was joined by Turner Scott Motorsports teammates Miguel Paludo and Jeb Burton, Chase Elliott and Caleb Holman.
The Kroger 250 is scheduled for Saturday, April 6, the second of this season’s 22 stops for the series.
"It’s a tough place.You’ve got to stay on top of it."
-- James Buescher on Martinsville
“We basically have a whole new package for our short-track program this year,” Buescher, 22, said. “The plan is to take what we learn here, go back to the (shop) … go through all the notes and make sure we hit every detail we can to make sure the trucks are right when we come back here for the race.
“With NASCAR opening up the testing rule, it’s kind of nice to be able to come test at Martinsville. The last couple of years we’ve tested at Motor Mile (in Radford, Va.) to try to get ready for this race. You have to kind of have to guess if what works there will help you here. This takes a lot of the guesswork out.”
Early morning rain delayed the start of the day’s activities, but by 11 a.m. the sun was out and trucks were busy putting laps down on the 0.526-mile short track.
“It’s been a little green this morning,” Burton said of the track surface, “so we were taking it easy. Once some rubber gets built up, it will get a little tighter in the corner. … Today, it’s more about figuring out what we need to be the best we can be when we come back. It doesn’t pay to practice. We’ve got to go kick their butt (in the race).”
Buescher scored four wins a year ago en route to the title, and finished with two top-10s at Martinsville. However, his sixth-place finish in the fall race, he said, was deceiving.
“We finished third in spring and thought we had it figured out,” Buescher said. “We ran up front all day long and really never fell out of the top five all day. We thought we had a shot to win the race.
“We thought we’d finally figured Martinsville out, and then we came back in the fall and we didn’t. Halfway through the race I think I was a lap down. So to come back and finish sixth -- we kind of threw up a Hail Mary, got some track position and worked hard to get a top-10 finish. But we definitely weren’t that strong all weekend long. … I guess what we figured out about Martinsville is don’t take it for granted … it’s a tough place. You’ve got to stay on top of it.”
The Kroger 250 will be Elliott’s first appearance in the series. The development driver for Hendrick Motorsports is fielding a Turner Scott entry in nine races this season.
That being the case, he said the test provides a good opportunity to learn “the characteristics of the track.”
“Obviously (it’s) very unique,” Elliott said. “You’ll hear a lot of Cup guys talking about this place being a lot of fun. It’s notorious for putting on some good races and I think you’ll see that here in a few weeks.
“I’m still trying to get the hang of it; by no means have I got it figured out. I’m just trying to get an idea of what I need to do to go fast when it’s race time.”
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