"They touch once! Twice! Drag race!"
18 laps to go. “Green flag, green flag!” Clear track ahead on the restart and you’re the reigning NASCAR Champion. You’ve got this, right?
That’s what Jimmie Johnson was telling himself on the final restart of the 2007 Goody’s Cool Orange 500 at Martinsville Speedway. But there was one thing that would make the final push to the checkers a bit more of an undertaking than usual: a mirror full of red flames and the number 24.
13 laps to go. In the booth, Larry McReynolds confidently says, “He’s actually stretched it out on his teammate, Jeff Gordon.”
10 laps to go. Larry sings a different tune: “Boys, Jeff Gordon in the 24, with 10 to go, he’s pulled right up to the rear bumper of his teammate.”
Laps click by as the mentor digs deep into his toolbox in an effort to get around his prodigy.
1 lap to go. Just before the No. 48 sails into turn three for the final time, cool headed crew chief Chad Knaus cautions Johnson: “He’s gonna hit ya, be ready for it.”
Checkered flag in sight. Mike Joy expounds: “They touch once! Twice! Drag race! JOHNSON!”
By a fender.
In a little bit of disbelief, Jimmie radioed to his team: “That was my hero I just beat there.”
In victory lane Johnson said he was “speechless for that. I’ve looked up to him my whole career, before I was even actually racing. That was amazing there at the end. That was the hardest driving I have ever done. Then to have my bumper beat off by my teammate in a way that didn’t jeopardize either one of us, really class act by Jeff.”
Teammate or not, Jeff sure gave the back bumper of the No. 48 the ultimate test. Johnson even said one of the shots “might have set off an airbag in a street car.”
Can Johnson and Team Lowe’s make more memories at the “Paper Clip” this weekend? Tune in to FOX Sports 1 Sunday at 1 PM ET to see if Jimmie can tie his hero with nine wins at the historic Martinsville Speedway.