Martinsville II: Jimmie Johnson preview

Johnson has posted two top-10 finishes in three career races on the Virginia short track MARTINSVILLE, Va. (Oct. 14, 2003) -- Team Lowe's Racing driver Jimmie Johnson returns to Martinsville Speedway hoping to continue his success on NASCAR's...

Johnson has posted two top-10 finishes in three career races on the Virginia short track

MARTINSVILLE, Va. (Oct. 14, 2003) -- Team Lowe's Racing driver Jimmie Johnson returns to Martinsville Speedway hoping to continue his success on NASCAR's famed short tracks. Johnson has proven his ability on this style of track over the last two seasons, posting one top-five and five top-10s in seven combined races at Martinsville and Bristol. The only trouble Team Lowe's has encountered on short tracks as been at Richmond, which is one of only three tracks where Johnson has not posted a top-10 finish in his Winston Cup career.

If Team Lowe's wants to continue closing the gap on points leader Matt Kenseth and the rest of the top-five, it must extend its string of top-10 finishes at Martinsville Speedway.

Jimmie Johnson Quotes

WHAT IS IT LIKE TO DRIVE ON PIT ROAD AT MARTINSVILLE SINCE IT IS SO NARROW? "It's extremely narrow and it's difficult for a lot of reasons. It's such a shorter distance around than what the pace car does that we almost have to stop in certain spots just getting to pit road with people trying to get in their pit stalls and you can't pass the pace cars so there are a couple of issues there. It's really narrow and our stalls are extremely small. Coming in around somebody or pulling out around somebody is very tight. You don't know if you're going to hit a tire or the back of a car or clip a crew member so you've got to be on your toes and be very careful."

HAVE YOU HAD CLOSE CALLS THERE? "Everybody does."

WHAT'S THE MOST DIFFICULT PART? "In my eyes, the hardest thing is just getting in and out of your pit stall. The length of the stall is only two feet longer than the length of your car. So you can imagine how difficult it is to get in your stall halfway decent and not block the guy behind you and not get blocked in yourself. From a competition standpoint, that's the thing I worry about the most. With the congestion that there is on pit road, maybe it's more of a safety risk. But as a competitor, the thing I worry about the most is making sure we qualify well so we've got a stall with an opening."

WITH PEOPLE TALKING ABOUT THE NO. 12 TEAM OF RYAN NEWMAN SO MUCH, IS IT SORT OF A MIND GAME WITH THE REST OF THE COMPETITORS THAT IS HELPING THEM TO DO WELL? "There's always going to be someone who wins the most races or that is the champion or that is the dominant guy. That's just part of it. There's always going to be that person that's the one you want to knock off the top. I just hope it's us one of these years (laughs) with all those cool stats. But I don't think so."

DO YOU PAY CLOSE ATTENTION TO THE NO. 12 TEAM? "Yeah, especially at tracks where the fuel mileage issue comes into play. Those guys are obviously playing that game the best and have figured out an advantage in those races. It almost worked out for them at Lowe's Motor Speedway last weekend, which was pretty amazing at a track where the tires fall off so fast. It still almost worked for them."

WOULD YOU LIKE TO SEE NASCAR HAVE A TRAVELING SAFETY CREW? "Absolutely. I think it would be a great step. In a perfect world, having a traveling safety crew with doctors like the Indy Car organization has would only bring positive things. Only positive things would come of it."

DO YOU THINK THE DRIVERS ARE GOING TO HAVE TO COME TOGETHER WITH ONE VOICE TO MAKE THAT HAPPEN? "I know the drivers and team owners have been pushing for it. I'm not exactly sure what's going on with it. I've heard rumors that it might happen next year. I've heard that it won't. I'm not exactly sure why. I think as far as everything is drafted up now, it is the track's responsibility now to supply adequate safety personnel. I don't know the details. I know from a competitor's standpoint, we would do anything possible to make sure we have the same people week in and week out performing those duties so that in bad situations they have a (medical) history about the patients and drivers and everything else that goes along with it."

HAVE YOU BEEN IN A SITUATION WHERE YOU THOUGHT THE ATTENTION YOU GOT FROM THE SAFETY CREWS WAS LESS THAN WHAT YOU THOUGHT IT SHOULD BE? "I personally haven't. Fortunately, I haven't needed any care. I have obviously seen the frustration with some of the drivers this year on a slow response time like Jeff (Gordon) at Watkins Glen. He crashed at the end of the race and was picked up by the ambulance and the ambulance had to fight the same traffic that any fan would have to fight leaving the race track due to the route it was taking. It ended up taking 20 minutes to get to the Infield Care Center."

DO YOU HAVE ANYTHING SPECIAL IN STORE FOR RYAN NEWMAN AT MARTINSVILLE? "If I remember right, Ryan has qualified well at Martinsville but it hasn't been one of his better races. But maybe it'll be a different player up there this week. Hopefully it's us. We've been in the top 10 I believe, and racing in the top five throughout the last three races there. We've been very competitive. Hopefully we'll have what it takes."

HAVE YOU BEEN SURPRISED BY THE PERFORMANCES OF SOME OF THE OLDER DRIVERS THIS YEAR? "Those guys are always going to be strong. Veteran experience goes a long way in our sport. That's what it's about. I'm looking forward to getting some more experience under my belt."

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About this article
Series Monster Energy NASCAR Cup
Drivers Matt Kenseth , Jimmie Johnson