CONCORD, NC - Max Gresham has kept himself quite busy since the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (NCWTS) last raced six weeks ago.
He's spent a lot of time around the Eddie Sharp Racing (ESR) shop. He's tested at the Rockingham (N.C.) Speedway as well as at Motor Mile Speedway in Dublin, Virginia, preparing for upcoming races. He's also worked as a driving coach on Eddie Sharp Racing's Late Model program with driver Will Gallaher.
He admits, however, that he's impatient to get behind the wheel of his No. 8 Made In USA Brand (MIUSA) Chevrolet Silverado during a regular race weekend.
"I know it takes a team time to recover from Daytona, so the gap between races is understandable," Gresham said while he prepared for Saturday's Kroger 250 at the Martinsville Speedway. "But a driver just wants to race as much as possible. It's hard to ask a racer to slow down for that long."
Saturday's race at the iconic .526-mile short track is one of the popular stops on the truck series schedule. The speedway has hosted NASCAR races since 1949 - many years before 19-year old Gresham was born.
"I really like Martinsville," Gresham said. "Most NASCAR drivers have a true appreciation for short tracks. It's where we all grew up. It's where we all learned to race.
"The cars and trucks have evolved a lot through the years at Martinsville. But one thing never changes there - it's still a track where a driver has to fight for every spot on the track."
The paperclip-like raceway has been famously described as a pair of drag strips connected with a pair of u-turns. Martinsville is tough on brakes, tough on engines and tough on nerves. Every pass frequently involves some sort of contact. Statistically, it's unlikely any of the 36 scheduled starters will finish without damage.
"The secret is to use enough bump-and-run to work your way to the front without making many enemies," Gresham said. "That's a delicate balance."
With three career starts at the historic short tack, the Milner, Ga. native has more starts at Martinsville Speedway than at any other track on the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series schedule.
Gresham started 21st and finished a career-best 11th at Martinsville last October. He and crew chief Chris Showalter have set their sights on improving on that solid result.
"We try to set goals each week and our goal for this one is a top-seven finish for Martinsville," Showalter said. "With six weeks to get ready, we're as prepared as we can be for this race. Max quickly adapted to Martinsville last year and he made up a lot of ground in the final 50 laps. We aim to pick up where we left off."
"Keep in mind," Gresham said, "a win would be a top-seven finish, too."
For Gresham, Saturday's race also jumpstarts a stretch of three races in three consecutive weekends. Gresham and Eddie Sharp Racing will be at Rockingham, N.C., on April 14, followed by a trip to the Kansas Speedway on April 20.
"This is a busy stretch for us," Gresham said. "And that's the way I like it."