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CUP: Welcome To The Martinsville Auto Show

Virtually nobody in the garages at Martinsville Speedway this weekend is expecting that replacing wings with spoilers on the cars is going to radically transform the quality of racing today.

But if cool looking cars are your thing, the prediction is that today’s Goody’s Fast Pain Relief 500 is going to knock your socks off (Unless, of course, you watch racing in your bare feet, and in that case, the race will, well, knock your socks onto your feet).

Driver after driver and crew chief after crew chief have stepped in front of voice recorders and note pads this weekend and said, “no difference” when asked if racing will be better, worse or same.

The track is too small and slow to give anybody an accurate read on whether or not spoilers will solve the problem of boring racing.

Wait until Texas Motor Speedway and Talladega Superspeedway in mid-April for the final report, they say.

But looks? The spoilers are things of beauties drivers report.

Which begs the question: So what? Is this a race or the Detroit Car Show?

So, plenty drivers said.

Here is exactly what several selected drivers said about cars looking good as well as racing well:

Clint Bowyer, No. 33 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet: “We’re all car guys, you know? You haven’t been racing your whole life and not be a car guy. We’ve always been very proud of our race cars because there’s a lot that goes into building them. And when they look racy, they look fast and you’re proud of them. And I think going back to the spoiler, the car just looks like a race car again. I’m a huge fan of this new Nationwide car that’s coming out, the front ends. You can recognize a lot of the factories original look. I think you’ll like the way they look and I hope they’ll implement some of those things into the Cup cars because they just look cool. They look racy and fast and everybody is pretty proud of them.”

Jeff Gordon, No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet: “Well, one thing we’ve learned, and NASCAR has learned, is that perception means a lot to the fans and in the media. It’s not always about performance. We’ve had some great racing over the years with the rear wing, but I’ve never been crazy about the way it looks. But I will say that the spoiler looks really good.

“What race car driver doesn’t want to drive a cool looking race car? That’s always been important.”

Tony Stewart, No. 14 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet: “It looks like a car with a spoiler on it to me. We’re worried about making them go fast. I mean, I’m not entering it in a car show for appearance, so it doesn’t really matter to me. I’m trying to figure out how to make it handle good. Sorry, I don’t think about that stuff.”—The race

What: Goody’s Fast Pain Relief 500

Where: At Martinsville (Va.) Speedway

When: Sunday, 1 p.m. ET

TV: Fox, noon ET

Radio: MRN/Sirius Satellite Ch. 128

Track layout: .526-mile oval

Banking in corners: 12 degrees

Race distance: 500 laps/263 miles

Estimated pit window: 140-150 laps

2009 winner: Jimmie Johnson

2009 polesitter: Jeff Gordon

Today’s polesitter: Kevin Harvick (based on points)

Points leaders: 1. Kevin Harvick, 774; 2. Matt Kenseth, 773; 3. Jimmie Johnson, 760; 4. Greg Biffle, 750; 5. Tony Stewart, 685; 6. Kurt Busch, 677; 7. Jeff Burton, 677; 8. Dale Earnhardt Jr., 621; 9. Paul Menard, 614; 10. Kyle Busch, 606; 11. Jeff Gordon, 603; 12. Clint Bowyer, 601.—Trivia time

Martinsville races have been won from the pole 18 times. In two seasons, Martinsville races have been swept by the same polesitter. Which two drivers won from the pole twice at Martinsville twice in the same season?

Rain in forecast

It could be a long day for racers and spectators at Martinsville today. The forecast calls for a 70 percent chance of rain and thunder today and 80 percent tonight. Monday looks much better with rain chances shrinking to 30 percent.—Quick facts

Races: 122

Pole Winners: 55

Youngest Pole Winner: Ricky Rudd (24 years, 7 months, 14 days)

Oldest Pole Winner: Morgan Shepherd (45 years, 6 months, 14 days)

Youngest Race Winner: Richard Petty (22 years, 9 months, 8 days)

Oldest Race Winner: Harry Gant, 51 years, 8 months, 12 days)

Race Winners: 45

Races Won from Pole: 18

Last Race Won from Pole: Jimmie Johnson (10/19/2008)

Qualifying Record: Tony Stewart 98.083mph (10/23/2005)

Race Record: Jeff Gordon 82.223mph (09/22/1996)—History lesson

The last five winners at Martinsville: Denny Hamlin (under caution), Jimmie Johnson (by .774 seconds), Jimmie Johnson (by .708 seconds), Denny Hamlin (by .398 seconds), Jimmie Johnson (under caution).

Active drivers who had their first Cup starts at Martinsville: Mike Bliss (1998), Travis Kvapil (2004), Michael McDowell (2008), Scott Speed (2008)—First start

Martinsville: Good or bad place to begin a career?

Travis Kvapil got his first start at the .526-mile paperclip and here are his thoughts:

“It took all the aerodynamic variables out of it. It was just a matter of getting the feel of the car on a little half-mile track. We came here and ran really well. We didn’t upset anybody and finished all the laps and had a decent finish. For me it was all positive having Martinsville as my first Cup race.”—Keep an eye on…brakes

They take a beating because of the long straights leading to tight turns.

Tony Stewart was asked if they would be an issue for him this week. He said:

“I’ll be honest, even when guys were still having trouble with brakes; we were one of the teams that historically didn’t have trouble week to week. That is part of why we have been decent on road courses too is because our brake package is pretty good. I’ve guess I’m just not really hard on brakes for some reason.

“It never seems to really be an issue for us. I don’t think we have really worried about it for three or four years now. The brake packages have gotten better all the way across the board, even with teams that really struggled with brakes seem to have a lot better under to control now.”—Trivia answer

Fred Lorenzen won twice from the pole at Martinsville in 1964, and Jeff Gordon won twice from the pole in 2003.—Up next

Following a bye week for Easter, the Cup series will be back in action at Phoenix International Raceway on April 10 for the Subway Fresh Fit 599.

Mark Martin won that race from the pole a year ago.

Jim Pedleyis a veteran, award-winning sports journalist who has worked at, among other places, the Boston Globe, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and the Kansas City Star. Pedley spent more than 10 years covering auto racing for the Kansas City Star. Pedley can be reached at