There is a photo in Jimmie Johnson’s new book, “On The Road,” that shows Johnson up against his No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet after the October NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway. His head is down as he wipes the sweat from his forehead, smoke from Tony Stewart’s victory burnout swirls behind him. Johnson named the photo “Smoked.” (Stewart’s nickname is Smoke.)
One year later, Johnson returns to the .526-mile paperclip-shaped Martinsville oval for Sunday’s TUMS Fast Relief 500 having established himself as a clear contender for this year’s title. Currently second in points, he would like nothing more than to add to his grandfather clock collection (the race trophy) as he returns to the smallest track on the circuit but from where his trophy haul is arguably the biggest. Johnson has six wins in 21 Martinsville starts and owns the highest driver rating in the series (121.4 average of a possible 150 points).
Most impressive is his consistency in top-10 finishes. In 21 races run at Martinsville, he has finished outside the top-10 only three times – a 35th-place finish in his first race in April 2002, an 11th-place run last April and a 12th-place finish earlier this year. Johnson credits watching his teammate Jeff Gordon make laps at the paper clip-shaped oval with helping him figure out what he needed to do to “get around the track better.” His 14 top-five and 18 top-10 finishes should put to rest any doubts that the five-time champion has figured it out.
With a six-pack (what Johnson has dubbed his run for a sixth title) on the line, Johnson knows he doesn’t need another grandfather clock to tell him time is running out to accomplish just that. Not getting “Smoked” this time at Martinsville would certainly help.
Source: Jimmie Johnson