Funny thing about Jimmie Johnson, he has enough grandfather clocks to open a small store. At Martinsville Speedway, where it is a tradition to present the winner with a Ridgeway grandfather clock, still one of the most interesting trophies in all of sports, let alone the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, the driver of the No. 48 Chevy from Hendrick Motorsports would love to add a ninth clock to his collection.
He, however, hasn’t collected these masterfully crafted timepieces with the intent to sell. Instead, he’s earned them by hard racing in close quarters against the fiercest of competition and coming out victorious. So, with only four races to go before the season comes to an end, it will be the Goody’s Headache Relief Shot 500.
Martinsville has a layout called, by most race fans, “The paper clip.” It is short track racing at its best, and I for one, am glad to see NASCAR not forget its roots and come to southeastern Virginia twice a year.
Although Johnson will certainly be excited to receive another clock, he’s probably going to be more excited to see what the win does for his position in the standings and how much of a gap he’s able to open up between him and his closest rival, Matt Kenseth, who sits just four mere points out of the Chase lead.
In Kenseth’s first trip to the .526-mile track with his new No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota team back in April, he finished a respectable 13th. Johnson, however, won the event after leading 348 of the event’s 500 laps. The win was his second consecutive victory at Martinsville, after winning last fall’s race. Overall, five of Johnson’s eight victories have come in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup with three of them (2006-08) in seasons that he won the championship.
At the start of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Race for Chase competition, the lead belonged to Matt Kenseth. He was able to hold on to the top spot until last weekend at Talladega, when neither he nor Johnson finished in the top 10 for the first time in the postseason. Kenseth entered the weekend with a four-point lead, but left Alabama trailing Johnson by four points.
That brings us to Martinsville, the smallest track on the NASCAR series. But just because it is small, does not mean it is an easy track to run on. As a matter of fact, with 40 plus cars on a half mile track, there is bumping and trading paint for three plus hours.
Johnson has history on his side. The leader after 6-of-10 Chase races has gone on to claim the championship in 6-of-9 seasons, including Johnson in 2008-10. His eight victories at the paper clip shaped track is most among active drivers, trailing only Richard Petty and Darrell Waltrip on the all-time wins list at Martinsville.
In 23 starts at the track, Johnson has 16 top fives, 20 top 10s and three poles with a series-best finishing position (3.9), running position (5.9), passing differential (296), laps in the top 15 (7,849), laps led (2,156), green-flag speed (91.569 mph) and driver rating (123.8). He also has the second fastest laps run (889) and quality passes (596) at the short track.
9-10 a.m. ET, NASCAR Camping World Truck Series practice, FOX Sports 1
10:30-11:50 a.m. ET, NASCAR Camping World Truck Series final practice, FS1
Noon-1:30 p.m. ET, NASCAR Sprint Cup Series practice, FS1
3:40 p.m. ET, NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Coors Light Pole Qualifying, FS1
5 p.m ET, NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Keystone Light Pole Qualifying, FOX Sports 2
10:30-11:25 a.m. ET, NASCAR Sprint Cup Series practice, FS2
Noon-12:50 p.m. ET, NASCAR Sprint Cup Series final practice, FS1
1:30 p.m. ET, NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Kroger 200 (200 laps, 105.2 miles), FS1 on air at 1 p.m. ET
Radio is on MRN and Sirius XM.
Sunday’s Sprint Cup Chase schedule:
1:30 p.m. ET, Goody’s Headache Relief Shot 500 Powered by Kroger (500 laps, 263 miles), ESPN on air at 1 p.m. ET
Radio is on MRN and Sirius XM