News and notes
Heavy hearts: Emotions are always high after racing at tight, testy Martinsville Speedway, but Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon had to contend with emotions even before today's Nextel Cup race. The last time NASCAR's premier series raced here, Johnson's post-race celebration ended abruptly with the news that a Hendrick Motorsports airplane had crashed nearby, killing all 10 people aboard. Thoughts of the lost team members and friends are constant, the drivers said, and since the racing goes on, Johnson views today's Advance Auto Parts 500 as a chance to pay tribute with another winning run. "I'd love to be able to go back myself and go through all the ceremonies," said Johnson, one of four Hendrick drivers. "Either way, I just hope it's a Hendrick car so we can keep the spirit alive." Gordon is hoping for the same thing. "The mourning period of a tragic loss like that -- there's no time period on that," he said. "I know those families still have heavy hearts and we have heavy hearts for them. So we always want to have them in our memories, but they know and we know that we have to come out here and focus on our job and move forward and deal with it the best way we can."Impounding: NASCAR's new rule forcing teams to impound their cars at some tracks after qualifying until the race means that sometimes teams work Friday for qualifying, have Saturday off and race on Sunday. That's drawing mixed reviews among crew chiefs. Some appreciate the day off, and others would rather see the work days come consecutively. At Bristol, the Nextel Cup teams qualified on Friday and raced Sunday. With the garage closed on Saturday, many crew members opted to go home. Not Matt Borland, crew chief for Ryan Newman. "Last Saturday morning I was riding around in circles looking for something to do," Borland said. "I did that for a couple of hours, picked up Ryan and we had breakfast. "I hate Saturdays off." Steve Boyer, crew chief for Sterling Marlin, used the day off to pick up some furniture with his wife, but said it "felt a little disjointed. We're so used to a three-day weekend or coming in on Saturday and having race practice that it felt strange," he said. "Even when I was driving back home on Friday night, it felt weird."
Tough truckin': Dennis Setzer has won two Craftsman truck races at Martinsville, but he had a tough day in Saturday's Kroger 250. After starting ninth and gaining on the leaders, Setzer hit the wall in Turn One with a blown right front tire just 18 laps into the race. Unable to get to the inside lane, Setzer couldn't get onto pit road as he limped around the track in his Chevrolet, forcing him to make another loop around the .526-mile oval before entering pit road. Clearly frustrated, Setzer was going faster than the 30 mph pit road speed when he left the track, so after getting new tires and fuel, NASCAR forced him to make another trip through the pits as a penalty. That put him several laps down, and it got worse when he was flagged for dragging debris under his truck and forced to make another pit stop. Instead, he pulled into the garage for extensive repairs. Setzer finished 33rd among the 36 trucks in the field. Casey Kingsland also had a tough day, spinning three times in his Dodge, each time bringing out caution flags. He finished last.
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