Danica, Stenhouse prep for first taste of Martinsville


The Sprint Cup Series’ two full-time rookie competitors – Danica Patrick and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. – are bracing for a tough battle this weekend at Martinsville Speedway.

The shortest track on the NASCAR circuit has a well-deserved reputation for beating and banging, and for triggering tempers amongst impatient drivers. Patrick and Stenhouse, last year’s NASCAR Nationwide Series champion, have never competed on the Virginia half-mile. For them, keeping themselves calm amidst the chaos will be critical.

“It’s a tough place,” Patrick’s crew chief, Tony Gibson, said to NASCAR.com’s David Caraviello. “It’s a tough place for any veteran to go, let alone a rookie. It’s going to be a big challenge for [Patrick]. It’s worse than Bristol, because you’re constantly in traffic and guys are constantly bumping into you and into the side of you.

“Martinsville will be her biggest challenge, for sure, and the focus will be just on finishing clean and learning as much as she can so we can prepare for the second time she goes to Martinsville in the fall. If she can do that, she’ll be in good shape.”

As for Stenhouse, he’s been steady so far in 2013, posting Top 20 finishes in all five races and sitting a respectable 12th in the Cup standings. The Mississippi native has been preparing diligently for his Martinsville debut and hopes to achieve a solid finish in his first time out.

“We tested at a similar shaped track last month and learned a lot so we will carry that into this weekend,” he said. “I knew coming in to this year that there were two tracks on the circuit that were going to be new to me, Martinsville and Sonoma. I think if we can leave Martinsville with a top-15 finish, then it would be a success.”