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August 27, 2008

Press Release: Martinsville Bulletin

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

By JOHNNY BUCK - Bulletin Sports Editor

Turns out Martinsville Speedway isn't the oldest track in the area - not when the Virginia Museum of Natural History has dinosaur footprints on display.

NASCAR driver Jeff Burton learned that detail Tuesday while getting a tour of the museum. He was in town to promote the Oct. 19 TUMS QuickPak 500, a Sprint Cup race at the historic half-mile speedway where he kindled an interest in racing as a child.

"It's really cool to come here to race. As a kid, I came here to watch cars race and became fascinated with racing because of that," said Burton, a South Boston native.

"I think it's important to not only showcase the local race track, but to showcase what else is going on locally. And this (the museum) is something that's exciting. This is something that people need to know about and that people would want to come to."

Burton got a tour of the facility from the museum's earth sciences curator, Jim Beard. Burton learned that 14,000 years ago, musk ox and sloths once roamed the part of Virginia where he grew up.

"Bet you didn't know we had these in South Boston," he quipped to a reporter.

He also discovered that the red clay that serves as a racing surface on so many area dirt-tracks was formed when iron-bearing minerals, often found in granite, weathered and broke down.

"The stuff of legend," he said of the dirt - not his own career.

Burton did talk about his career Tuesday afternoon, however, focusing primarily on the 2008 season. He currently ranks fifth in the points standings with just two races remaining before the 12-driver Chase for the Sprint Cup field is finalized. Martinsville is the sixth race in the 10-race Chase.

"To be able to come race at Martinsville and be at a Chase race, that's a really cool deal," he said. "Because honestly, if you really think about the history of racing, this is what racing's all about. (It's) short-track racing, a lot of action, and you're going to be doing it with people racing for millions of dollars. And more importantly, they're racing for that cup."

Speedway President Clay Campbell said Martinsville's continued inclusion in the Chase makes sense.

"I think if you took the short track out, then you've got just superspeedways and the intermediate tracks," he said. "I think to really get a true champion - somebody that's good on all different tracks other than road courses - you about have to have a short track in there."

Many drivers fortunate enough to make NASCAR's version of the playoffs will be chasing more than the Cup, however. They'll also be pursuing Kyle Busch and Carl Edwards, two drivers with a combined 13 wins between them.

Under the current points system, all 12 Chase drivers will have their points totals set to 5,000 at the start of the Chase. In addition, each driver will receive 10 bonus points for every race won during the regular season.

"They have a head start, more of a head start than what we've seen in the past because of the new points structure," Burton said of Busch and Edwards. "When they started this new points structure, a lot of people said, "˜Well you're still not awarding the people that win; you're not awarding them enough.' I think that they'll second-guess that comment now, because you're talking about going into the

Chase as much as 80 points ahead. Maybe even more.

Still, Burton allowed that the format provides ample time for drivers to rise and fall in the points standings.

"A 10-race schedule is a long time," he said. "I know it doesn't sound like many races, but when you talk about running the Cup races over a 10-week period, a lot of things change. And the hottest team when it starts may not be the hottest team when it ends."

Burton, who considers the speedway one of his "home tracks" along with Richmond International Raceway, is hoping his team will get hot by the time Martinsville rolls around.

"It's awesome that Martinsville's part of the Chase," he said. "It ought to be part of the Chase, because the racing's so intense. It's wild from start to finish. I hope to be a part of it; I hope to be a big part of it."

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