Tony Stewart will make his final start at Martinsville Speedway Sunday and with it his final start at a short track.
Stewart has made 33 previous Martinsville starts entering the Goody’s Fast Relief 500. He’s also competed on NASCAR’s other short tracks – Bristol Motor Speedway and Richmond International Raceway. Stewart has won at all three facilities.
But don’t ask the NASCAR veteran what short-track etiquette is.
“I’m finding the longer I’m here, the definition is different for everybody,” Stewart said in a team release. “When I started in the sport, you had Dale (Earnhardt) Sr., Rusty Wallace, Dale Jarrett, Mark Martin, Bobby Labonte and a host of guys who had a pretty strict etiquette and you played by the rules.”
If not, Stewart said a driver was likely to end up with a wrecked racecar.
Races at short tracks have often produced beat-up racecars and plenty of tempers. Tight corners and short straightaways make space limited, and the fight for position often results in the bumper being used.
Bristol and Martinsville became infamous for the bump-and-run.
However, drivers also understand when it’s appropriate to give way to a faster car rather than putting up a fight. Over the last few years, racing at Martinsville has become tougher because of the groove.
The fight is to stay on the bottom because being in the high lane isn’t conducive to maintaining or gaining positions. Getting shuffled to the outside can result in losing numerous positions.
As a result, Stewart says that has changed the field’s behavior. Lately, racing at short tracks seem to have become less bumping and more pushing and shoving.
“Now you see guys do things, especially at Martinsville, that they don’t normally do anywhere else,” Stewart said. “You fight to get to the bottom of the racetrack because you have to. You just can’t run that second groove. You see them making really sketchy moves to get down as soon as they can.”