Sawyer's Southern Va. Gem
In a driving career that spanned three decades, Virginian Elton Sawyer made 392 starts in what NASCAR now calls the Nationwide Series. Twenty-five of those starts came at Martinsville Speedway, including his first on Oct. 30, 1983.
Driving the No. 01 Pontiac owned by Emanuel Zervakis out of Richmond, Va., Sawyer started 18th and finished 30th in the Cardinal 250. He had qualified 13th overall, but back then heat races determined the starting order for everyone outside the top 10.
“It was a big deal to go to Martinsville,” said Sawyer, a native of Chesapeake, Va., and Red Bull Racing Team’s director of competition. “You had heard about it for years, and it was neat to go there.”
Sawyer speaks of Martinsville like Hoosiers speak of Indianapolis — only the track is about a fifth of the size. He owns seven top-five and 12 top-10 finishes in Nationwide competition at Martinsville, not to mention two Sprint Cup starts in 1995.
“It’s a great facility,” Sawyer said. “It’s a short track, and that’s where a large number of the guys that are in this garage now — whether it be crew chief roles or crewman roles or management roles — got started. It’s cool to go back there. I love that race track. Fortunately as a driver I had some success there. I won a late model race and ran well there at that time with the Busch cars. Hopefully we’ll have good runs there with our Red Bull cars.”
Race Day at Martinsville: Saturday's two Sprint Cup practice sessions were rained out, so all the Red Bull Toyotas have to go on is Friday's opening practice. At least the weather's supposed to clear out by the time Brian Vickers (14th) and Scott Speed (36th) roll off for the Goody's 500. Sunday's forecast calls for mostly sunny skies with high of 61 degrees.