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Jamie Mac on the Martinsville pole, but what about the tires?

 Jamie McMurray, hoping to turn things around (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

   By Mike Mulhern


    Another prerace tire debate, over new Goodyears with a stiffer left-side design and softer right-side, has Martinsville crews scrambling for setups for Sunday's Martinsville 500 at the flat half-mile, slowest on the tour and not typically a place where tires are an issue.

   Jamie McMurray, winning the pole Saturday, figures this could be a track that turns his season back around: "Martinsville is about being on the pole or it really doesn't matter…because if you get the number one pit, it is huge -- and I think that can win the race for you."
    Still Ryan Newman says tires are "the biggest question we all have in our head.
   "What is the track going to do when we have 43 cars out there with the exhausts beating down on the track?
    "Is it going to lay rubber or not? If it does, it is going to change a lot of things. (Or if) it continues to eat tires up throughout a run….
    "The way it looks on paper, there is no way we could do even close to a fuel run (on one set of tires).
    "But I think the track will change --  I just don't know how much and when -- the first run or the last run."
    Denny Hamlin, who would normally be co-favored with Jimmie Johnson, says the tire question "probably levels the playing field.
   "It's going to be interesting to see how it all plays out.
   "You figure out a setup, and you've got a tire that's been the same for a long time, and now they change it…and we've had to change everything because of it."

   Meanwhile one of the curious stories so far this season continues to play out:  Kimi Raikkonen, who won the Formula One championship in 2007 with Ferrari, is to get his first laps Monday in Georgia in a NASCAR Truck, in anticipation of teaming with Kyle Busch at Charlotte in May's Truck race.
   Busch, who owns the Trucks Raikkonen may race), says he still hasn't talked to the possible new teammate, who appears to have sponsorship to make something big happen.
   "He's shopped it around to quite a few teams, and apparently we won the war," Busch says.
   "Kimi -- from what I understand -- was real adamant about trying to work with me and our teams and being able to put a deal together."
   Busch of course has been dominating the Truck series the past few years, with most other manufacturers having withdrawn most support.
   "There is money backing him," Busch said. "We're talking three to five (races). But right now it's only Charlotte. We'll see how he feels about Charlotte."
   Charlotte however isn't an easy track even for a veteran. Juan Pablo Montoya says he certainly wouldn't pick Charlotte for a NASCAR debut.
   "They were adamant about Charlotte," Busch says.
   A challenge? Yes, Busch says. "You're close to wide open around there."


  Tires? Again? (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)



Goodyear - Again

Goodyear once again blows it with tires of dubious ability. That the race had as many cautions as it did was in part due to Goodyear. The sanctioning body needs to get out of its tire myopia and allow Firestone and Hoosier to compete directly against Goodyear.

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