Martinsville Speedway is hard enough for seasoned veterans of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.
So don’t expect the half-mile bullring – the oldest track on the Cup circuit – to cut rookie drivers any slack.
And it certainly lived up to that reputation in Sunday’s STP 500.
There were four Sprint Cup rookies in the 40-driver field, with Ryan Blaney finishing the highest at 19th.
“It was a long day for sure,” Blaney said. “Finishing on the lead lap isn’t too bad for coming here for our first time, so it was definitely eventful but there’s a lot we can learn from this race and we can apply it later in the year.”
While it would be easy for a rookie to try and make a name for himself, common sense and better judgment dictate otherwise.
“I was pretty courteous today,” Blaney said. “You don’t want to be the rough guy when it’s your first time and you’re a rookie, so I probably gave a little bit more than I should have took, but maybe we’ll put that in our bank and utilize that in the fall.”
Blaney had somewhat of an advantage at Martinsville – he has raced there five times in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, including three fifth-place finishes and an eighth-place showing.
As for the other three Sprint Cup rookies in the field:
- Chase Elliott finished behind Blaney in 20th place. That was an improvement from 38th in Elliott’s first Cup race at Martinsville in spring 2015. Elliott also has two Truck races under his belt at Martinsville, with finishes of 20th and sixth.
- Brian Scott finished 26th in his first Cup race at Martinsville. Scott had six prior starts there in the Truck Series, with top finishes of eighth and 10th.
- 2015 Xfinity Series champ Chris Buescher had the worst day of all the Cup rookies, finishing 33rd. It was Buescher’s second career Cup start there, finishing 24th in the spring 2015 race there.
“Martinsville is a tough place and we’ve got a lot of learning to do here,” Buescher said. “I felt like we got a lot better about halfway through the race and that’s exciting for coming back.
“We’ll have to wait until the fall and see if it all turns out the way we hope, but we’ll get better next time.”