Different strokes

RIDGEWAY, VA - APRIL 06: Mark Martin, driver of the #11 FedEx Freight Toyota, talks to crew chief Darian Grubb inthe garage area during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series STP Gas Booster 500 on April 6, 2013 at Martinsville Speedway in Ridgeway, Virginia. Martin is driving in place of Denny Hamlin, who is injured. (Photo by John Harrelson/Getty Images)
RIDGEWAY, VA - APRIL 06:  Mark Martin, driver of the #11 FedEx Freight Toyota, talks to crew chief Darian Grubb inthe garage area during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series STP Gas Booster 500 on April 6, 2013 at Martinsville Speedway in Ridgeway, Virginia. Martin is driving in place of Denny Hamlin, who is injured.  (Photo by John Harrelson/Getty Images)
RIDGEWAY, VA – APRIL 06: Mark Martin, driver of the #11 FedEx Freight Toyota, talks to crew chief Darian Grubb inthe garage area during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series STP Gas Booster 500 on April 6, 2013 at Martinsville Speedway in Ridgeway, Virginia. Martin is driving in place of Denny Hamlin, who is injured. (Photo by John Harrelson/Getty Images)

MARTINSVILLE, Va.—As NASCAR Sprint Cup practice progressed on Saturday, Mark Martin was working hard to find a happy medium for the No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota he’ll drive in Sunday’s STP Gas Booster 500 as a substitute for injured Denny Hamlin.

Martin started out Friday with Hamlin’s baseline setup, and it wasn’t to his liking. Unable to overcome a tendency for the car to drag the race track, Martin qualified 35th Friday afternoon.

“So far, I haven’t really gotten comfortable yet,” Martin said on Friday.  “It’s pretty different, and the way Denny runs here is quite different than my style. We’ll have a lot more time [Saturday].  We’re working on getting it to feel like I need it to feel…

“We just drug the race track so bad. At the start of practice, the front drug the race track so bad it was unbelievable. We’ve got to get that better.”

Toward that end, Martin and crew chief Darian Grubb made progress on Saturday. In the final session, the dragging problem ameliorated, and Martin liked the way the car was turning through the corners.

Regardless, winning the race in Hamlin’s stead will be a tall order. In 128 Cup races at Martinsville, only one driver has won from a starting position outside the top 24. Kurt Busch accomplished the feat in 2002 from the 36th spot.

About Greg Engle 7420 Articles
Greg is a published award winning sportswriter who spent 23 years combined active and active reserve military service, much of that in and around the Special Operations community. Greg is the author of "The Nuts and Bolts of NASCAR: The Definitive Viewers' Guide to Big-Time Stock Car Auto Racing" and has been published in major publications across the country including the Los Angeles Times, the Cleveland Plain Dealer and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He was also a contributor to Chicken Soup for the NASCAR Soul, published in 2010, and the Christmas edition in 2016. He wrote as the NASCAR, Formula 1, Auto Reviews and National Veterans Affairs Examiner for Examiner.com and has appeared on Fox News. He holds a BS degree in communications, a Masters degree in psychology and is currently a PhD candidate majoring in psychology. He is currently the weekend Motorsports Editor for Autoweek.