| April 18, 2004 (2004-04-18)|
Martinsville Speedway, Martinsville, Virginia
Permanent racing facility
0.526 mi (0.847 km)
500 laps, 263 mi (423.257 km)
68.169 mph (109.707 km/h)
The 2004 Advance Auto Parts 500 was the eighth stock car race of the 2004 NASCAR Nextel Cup Series. It was held on April 18, 2004 at Martinsville Speedway in Martinsville, Virginia before a crowd of 91,000. The 500-lap race was won by Rusty Wallace of the Penske-Jasper Racing team after he started from seventeenth position; It was Wallace's fifty-fifth and final victory of his career. Bobby Labonte finished second and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. came in third.
2004 Advance Auto Parts 500 Wikipedia
Martinsville Speedway is one of five short tracks to hold NASCAR races; the others are Richmond International Raceway, Dover International Speedway, Bristol Motor Speedway and Phoenix International Raceway. The standard track at Martinsville Speedway is a four-turn, 0.526-mile (0.847 km) oval. Its turns are banked at eleven degrees, and neither the front stretch (the location of the finish line) nor the back stretch is banked.
Before the race Kurt Busch led the Drivers' Championship with 1,032 points, nineteen ahead of Matt Kenseth in second, and a further sixteen in front of Dale Earnhardt, Jr. in third. Tony Stewart was fourth on 946 points, and Elliott Sadler was a further four points behind in fifth. Ford was leading the Manufacturers' Championship with 48 points; Chevrolet was second with 43 points, and Dodge was a close third on 42. Jeff Gordon was the race's defending champion.
Three practice sessions were held before the Sunday race: one on Friday and two on Saturday. The first session lasted 90 minutes, and the second and final sessions lasted 45 minutes. Jeff Gordon was fastest in the first practice session with a lap of 20.325 seconds; Ryan Newman was second and Jimmie Johnson third. Kasey Kahne took fourth position with a time of 20.371, and Busch placed fifth. Robby Gordon, Earnhardt, Jamie McMurray, Ricky Rudd and Sadler rounded out the session's top-ten drivers.
Although forty-four drivers were entered in the qualifier; according to NASCAR's qualifying procedure only forty-three could race. Jeff Gordon clinched his third consecutive pole position at Martinsville Speedway with a time of 20.252 seconds. He was joined on the front row of the grid by McMurray. Newman qualified third, Earnhardt fourth and Kevin Harvick fifth. Ward Burton, Busch, Johnson. Sadler and Jeremy Mayfield rounded out the top ten qualifiers. The driver that failed to qualify was Todd Bodine. After the qualifier Gordon said, "We came with our basic setup that we sat on the pole here the last time with and we had to make some adjustments. We tweaked on it and at the end of practice, I felt like we hit on some things. I took off and the car did everything I really wanted it to do. I couldn't ask for much more than I got out of the car."
On Saturday morning, Mark Martin set the fastest time in the second practice session with a lap of 20.561 seconds, ahead of Harvick and Terry Labonte. Ricky Craven (with a time of 20.599) was fourth-fastest; Mayfield was fifth and McMurray sixth. Jeff Gordon, Scott Riggs, Johnson and Robby Gordon followed in the top ten. Later that day, Earnhardt paced the final practice session with a time of 20.580; Johnson was second and Busch third. Jeff Gordon was fourth-fastest, ahead of Newman and Harvick. Terry Labonte was seventh-fastest, Robby Gordon eighth, Jeff Green ninth and Craven tenth. Jeff Burton was afflicted with a problem with his brakes in the closing stages of the session; he spun backwards into the wall and heavily damaged his car's left side. Burton switched to a back-up car.