My version of this event based on a 25% race length and a 4X pit stop frequency is a 125 lap race with a full fuel load providing an estimated 47 laps under green flag conditions. This would result in approximately 2.65 pit stops during the event, more with the inevitable yellow flags.
This event marks the second race in a row that I am running with my Logitech Dual Action Gamepad (pressed into service since the demise of my Microsoft Sidewinder Precision Pro Racing Wheel). Although not ideal, I had the fastest time in practice with a mark of 21.477, and managed to secure the pole with a time of 21.517 (0.862 better than second place Brad Kesolowski).
My how nicely aligned on the grid (I chose to run the championship without full pace laps as on some of the larger tracks it tends to get boring and the immersion factor is not that great).
Martinsville is the second short track in a row, and the second with a 47 lap fuel load, so in theory at least only having three pits stops and a smaller track to begin with, there would not be much opportunity to thin out the heard. Therefore it was absolutely imperative that I maintain the lead and keep as much distance between myself and the cars behind me.
At lap six I began to encounter the back of the field, which pretty much throws out any chance of just biding my time and making laps. The # 21 car driven by Trevor Bayne would seem to be my arch nemesis on the day (that is me just coming out of the turn by the pit wall break).
Forced to actually race through the back markers or lose the lead, I ended up locking fenders with the aforementioned Bayne on lap 12, which surprisingly would not bring out a caution flag.
The caution flag would come out however when I spun out Dale Earnhardt, Jr. in the turn on lap 25. Back when I actually watched NASCAR he was my favorite driver, second only to The Intimidator.
Under the caution flag, my nightmare would begin when I entered the pits ahead of the pace car and was given a black flag penalty, one which cannot be cleared on a restart.
After the restart on lap 30, the caution flag would fly when a wreck occurred in turn three which had completely blocked the pit lane entrance (note the flagman to the left of the M&M car with the red flag). I was going to pit then to clear the black flag, but when the caution came out I was screwed.
I would pit on lap 34 under the caution, however this was fruitless as I still could not clear the black flag on a restart. To make matters worse, I would be caught speeding on pit road (my Achilles heel with the start/stop effect of the gas on the Logitech controller; I had no way to feather the throttle).
The race would restart on lap 36 with my still having the black flag looming large over my head. I finally was able to enter the pits on lap 38 under green flag conditions only to miss my pit stall completely (note the crew on the wall with tires ready to go), and…wait for it…be caught for speeding on pit road again.
Not content to just allow me to suffer alone in my misery, the Bayne strikes again. This time I am spun out on the backstretch while attempting to pit under green to clear the black flag. No caution would come out.
On lap 46 I would finally enter the pits and exit without penalty to clear however many gazillion black flags I had accumulated since the drop of the green flag back on lap one, which seems like three months ago at this point.
Whoever “they” are, apparently say that perseverance pays off. While trying to make up being a few laps down (I still have a fast car at this point, even though the hood is slightly dented), I encounter the Long John Silver’s car and start thinking of a 2-piece Whitefish Fillet Combo and not the race itself.
While finishing up my third 2-piece Whitefish Fillet Combo in my head and downing it with an ice cold Coke Zero, I am jolted back to the next lower-level of virtual being when I am plowed by the # 6 UPS car purportedly driven by David Ragan.
I would spin around and bounce off of the exterior of the pit road wall while the race remained under green. Apparently NASCAR Race Control feels I am not worth throwing a caution flag for.
On lap 80 I would wreck into Kevin Harvick on the backstretch (I had nothing to do with this one folks, other than being in the wrong place at the wrong time). The caution flag would come out, however I had my 2-piece Whitefish Fillet Combo all over the cockpit and would effectively be done for the day (or so I thought).
The restart would come on lap 85 with my being in 37th place, heading up the inside line, which was just fine for me. Although Martinsville has a much lower sensation of speed than Bristol the week before, I still prefer not to be caught on the outside of a three-wide situation.
With my hood crumpled up blocking my vision over the nose (I race in cockpit view), I had to adjust my breaking points and once I had that sorted out I surprisingly began to pass some cars around lap 100. With 25 laps to go it was starting to look like I might make some progress.
The caution flag would fly again on lap 107 when the # 37 car rammed the # 83 of Brian Vickers. Trying to maximize every spot, I would stay out on the track for the remainder of the race in an effort to pass as many cars as I could who would pit, but when you are five laps down I guess it really does not matter that much (it did though, surprisingly).
The restart on lap 110 was one ugly affair as the # 9 car of Michael Ambrose clipped the # 14 of Tony Stewart causing both to wreck right in front of me at the drop of the green flag on the front stretch. Not wanting Coke Zero all over my new racing suit, I just plowed through these clowns (my car was craptastic at that stage anyway).
The restart would come on lap 115 with my running in 34th position and I would take the checkered flag on lap 121, five laps down to the leader but picking up some more spots to finish the race in 31st place. A lot of drama for an uninspiring end result, but to be honest with the black flag sequence early on, I almost just quit this race.
Other thoughts: This post pretty much violates my self-imposed limit of 5MB of graphics files, weighing in at 24 images for 9.83MB, so I may pare it down to size depending on the amount of traffic this article generates.
Although I did not win the event, there was enough going on during the race that it seemed worthwhile.