Drivers looking for a ‘brake’ at Martinsville

MARTINSVILLE, VIRGINIA - APRIL 08: Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Subway Ford, Corey LaJoie, driver of the #7 Chevrolet, and Chase Briscoe, driver of the #14 Mahindra Tractors Ford, drive during practice for the NASCAR Cup Series Blue-Emu Maximum Pain Relief 400 at Martinsville Speedway on April 08, 2022 in Martinsville, Virginia. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

Brakes have always been an issue at Martinsville Speedway, but the larger and more durable brake package on NASCAR’s new Next Gen Cup Series race car has the potential to change the dynamic of Saturday night’s race.

Drivers should be able to charge harder into the tight corners at the .526-mile short track, and the brakes should be able to withstand more abuse, says Ryan Blaney, driver of the No. 12 Team Penske Ford.

But will that make a difference as to which drivers excel and Martinsville and which drivers can’t figure out the tricky rhythm track?

“You never know,” Blaney said. “Everyone’s kind of adapted to this car differently. So it’s hard to tell. Martinsville is a unique place. Sometimes it kind of clicks for you, so I can see some guys who have run good there for a while still be really good, and I can see some guys who maybe haven’t run the best there be really good.

“Denny (Hamlin) has always been great at Richmond, and he’s still great at Richmond. But then you have some other guys who weren’t great at Richmond that ran pretty good (in last week’s race, won by Hamlin).

“I think you’ll have that at all these tracks. You’ll have guys that always know what to do around those places and are still going to be good, but then this new car might suit other drivers who maybe haven’t been as good at these certain tracks, and they’re going to run well. So we’ll have a mixed bag, I think.”