This weekend we head back to our favorite half mile of mixed pavement surfaces: Martinsville Speedway.
As much of a staple in NASCAR tradition as the “Paperclip” is, it is as much a staple of Team Lowe’s tradition to run well at the Southern Virginia short track.
Last October, Johnson and crew overcame mid-race troubles to score their series leading ninth win – a victory which launched him into the Championship Round at Homestead. Relive the huge win with a look back to our story from that day here.
Things have been all uphill since Jimmie’s 35th place finish in his first start there in April, 2002. After that, he reeled off 17 top ten finishes IN A ROW, including 3 wins in a row and five in a six race stretch.
Ever since his first win on that fateful October day in 2004, Jimmie has racked up eight more Grandfather clocks to equal his former Hendrick teammate Jeff Gordon for third on the all-time wins list at the track.
Ten years ago this weekend, Jimmie and Jeff put on a race for the ages – take a look back at our story from last year here to see the door slamming drag race to the finish. Last week, Jimmie was asked about the epic duel: “It is one of the highlights of my career. I’m not sure Jeff sees it the same way because he finished second, but for me growing up as a Jeff Gordon fan, and knowing his success at Martinsville and my early starts and years at Martinsville were just so painful. To have that duel to the finish is just something every driver wants. I’m thankful for the bumpers at that point were pretty much in line because if it was the old Monte Carlo style vehicle I think I would have been in the Turn 4 wall with all the contact that we had. But, there is no better way to finish a race than side-by-side, door-to door.”
From that unforgettable moment, to the 2009 victory on the 25th Anniversary of Rick Hendrick’s first as an owner, to last fall’s momentous triumph, Martinsville Speedway has been a little extra special for Jimmie Johnson and Team No. 48.
Not only is it a favorite, it might just be Johnson’s best track. His nine wins and 7.3 average finish lead the field (he may have 10 wins at Dover, but his average finish of 9.5 is only good for third currently). Jimmie has the most wins of any active driver at 11 tracks – but Martinsville and Kansas are the only tracks where he also has the best average finish to accompany his record win tally.
Jimmie’s 19 top five’s and 24 top ten’s are unparalleled by anyone he’ll face Sunday, and his three poles tie for the most actively. Perhaps most impressively, he is 142 laps shy of leading 3,000 laps – a feat he accomplished at Dover last year, and one only six other drivers have ever accomplished at any track in NASCAR history. Jimmie could achieve another little piece of history this weekend with a top ten – his 332nd, which would tie him with NASCAR legend Lee Petty.
Can “Seven-Time” bolster his stats at Martinsville and in the NASCAR record book this weekend? The numbers would say yes, but you’ll have to tune in to FOX Sports 1 at 2 PM ET on Sunday to find out!