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Does Martinsville Need a Traction Compound?

Both the Cup and Late Model races have trended more procedural in recent years.


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Upon arriving at Martinsville Speedway for the ValleyStar Credit Union 300 on Friday morning, Late Model Stock teams were immediately drawn to a racing surface that was pretty dark, tarred with rubber put down during a Cup Series test within the past month.

That the rubber was still there was an interesting development.

The most prestigious Late Model Stock race of the year has trended towards becoming more procedural and single file in recent years -- a result of moving the race to under the lights, uncured tires amidst a supply chain shortage and a new body style that is considerably more aerodynamically sensitive.

As a result, if there is any rubber laid down for teams to race on Saturday to find clean air and a way to complete passes, it would be a welcome sign. It was for two-time NASCAR Weekly Series national champion Peyton Sellers anyway.

"The track is going to widen out," Sellers said. "I ran that outside groove today to arc it out and was able to stay on it and get it back to the bottom. Track is taking a little bit different of a characteristic due to those Cup cars that tested about a month ago and I think the rubber is going to stay on it good."

Following a dozen disallowed times after qualifications, Connor Hall will start shotgun, 22nd, in his heat and will need to get to 10th to make the main event. He will need a second lane to materialize in whatever form it takes.

"Honestly, I think a lot of that rubber was us," Hall said. "We have 93 cars after practicing for four hours. We're going to lay down a lot of rubber. Heat races will be a big tell for what it will be like. I feel really good about the car."

Bobby McCarty earned fast time honors on Friday night and doesn’t think the rubber, regardless of where it comes from will mean much, and that Martinsville will continue to trend the direction it has over the past few years.

"Which is good for us, with track position," McCarty said.

Virginia Triple Crown contender Mason Diaz says you can make the outside work off restarts for four or five laps but then it’s time to find a way down to the bottom. And he’s fine with that dynamic too.

"There’s always action throughout the field, lapped traffic is always a factor," Diaz said. "It’s very good racing."

He also doesn’t anticipate the Cup rubber working well with his Hoosiers.

"Probably not, " Diaz added. "I haven't tried to go up there because this place will always be bottom heavy. I think they laid some rubber down, obviously the track is a different color, but the track did what it does every year.

"We go up there and it's rather slow, we put rubber down and it picks up speed second half of practice. We all picked up speed at 4:30. Same tires, but we all picked up a couple of tenths, and then the rubber lays down and we slow down. The Hoosier rubber starts to lay down and we get somewhat faster and then it gets tighter. "

To that point, the race last year featured just three cautions and two of them were for stage breaks and there was minimal passing four laps after a restart once everyone made their way to the bottom.

It’s unlikely to happen for what it means for the Cup Series race two months later, but would a resin like what is used at Nashville Superspeedway be an option to create a second groove, especially since its less permanent than PJ1?

Two-time Langley Speedway track champion Mark Wertz is a fan.

"Absolutely," Wertz said. "PJ1 on the second groove wouldn’t hurt anyone. It may allow you room to drive around someone. This place is a great show no matter what but I do think it would open up some possibilities with this car."

Sellers agreed with that assertion and provided an historical anecdote too.

"100 percent," Sellers said. "Absolutely. 10 or 15 years ago, they grounded the outside groove and when they did that, it was the way to go. The racing was so good. So unless the track takes rubber and lets us move up, it’s going to be like last year, I think, so I’m a fan of adding something to the outside."

The man in charge, Martinsville Speedway track president Clay Campbell has generally been reluctant to entertain the notion, especially as his NASCAR races have been amongst the best with the old car. But between the initial challenges with the Next Gen car and the trends of the Late Model race, the tone has shifted marginally.

"Never say never," Campbell said.

Campbell said the tire shortage has been part of the trends in recent years, but also signaled a willingness to respond to whatever race happens on Saturday, weigh that with the needs of the Cup Series and Xfinity Series, and proceed from there.