Jimmie Johnson and the NASCAR Nextel Cup Series travel to Martinsville Speedway for Sunday's sixth of the 10-race 2007 "Chase for the Nextel Cup." After finishing 14th at Lowe's Motor Speedway on Saturday, Johnson is second among the 12 ...
Jimmie Johnson and the NASCAR Nextel Cup Series travel to Martinsville Speedway for Sunday's sixth of the 10-race 2007 "Chase for the Nextel Cup." After finishing 14th at Lowe's Motor Speedway on Saturday, Johnson is second among the 12 "Chase" drivers trailing Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jeff Gordon by 68 points. Johnson is aiming for his fourth victory in the last seven races at the flat half-mile track in southern Virginia where Johnson also owns top-five finishes seven of the last eight races.
DRIVER JIMMIE JOHNSON:
IF TALLADEGA WAS TAMER THAN USUAL BECAUSE OF THE CHASE, ARE YOU WORRIED THAT MARTINSVILLE MIGHT NOT BE AS EXCITING AS IT SHOULD BE? "I don't think so. I think at Martinsville we'll put on a good show. It will be like what we saw in the spring. I don't think you're going to have the same concerns of a 'big one' on the short track. You certainly have spins and catch four or five cars but you can't clean out 15 cars. So I think everyone will be back to normal and racing hard there. With the bumpers and how tough these cars are, we might actually see a more intense and exciting Martinsville than what we had in the spring."
DESCRIBE YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH JEFF GORDON: "We're certainly still close. With him now being a father, our social scenes have ventured in different directions. We still are very close with Jeff and Ingrid. We spend time, go to dinner, and do those things. Jeff lives in downtown, I live in South Park. We're still close, absolutely still close. As time has gone on, he's helped me get off on my feet and I haven't been in the situation of needing as much help with driving the car and maybe some of the business stuff and things like that. So our conversation is probably less on the work side and more on the personal side and how each other are doing and what's new and how many diapers has he changed this week and things like that. The friendship is still there and it's as strong as it's ever been. I think as years go on, from my side I respect him and what he's accomplished more and more, especially how he's carried himself through Hendrick Motorsports, through our sport.
"And the fact that he brought me into the fold and put me in the No. 48 car and how his leadership and the way things work between the No. 24 and the No. 48, it would be easy for them to be sour and to have the dynamic be too competitive and us not work well together. But Jeff's really been the head of that and has led the team through all of that. I have more respect for him today than I did when I started driving for him."
IF YOU ARE CLOSER, IS IT GOING TO BE THAT MUCH HARDER GOING DOWN TO THE WIRE WITH HIM? "I don't think so, because our relationship has been competitive even though we've been friends. There's no doubt he wants to beat me, we saw that at Talladega. He made a move and got it done. But it's not that he hates me and wants to pass me or I hate him and want to pass him. We're friends and we have respect for one another on and off the track, but it comes down to the end of the race. That's what we're out there for is to get the job done. If we do get together and things happen, that's the stuff that puts a strain on our friendship or relationship. If you get passed and beat fair and square, that's one thing. But if you start crashing each other, that's where it would strain our friendship. I don't want to say we won't crash. You get into each other at some point. But it would take a lot to jeopardize the friendship and it's just not in either one of us to do that. It's just not who we are as racers on track."
* Johnson will drive chassis 461 at Martinsville. It finished sixth at Loudon last month in its only race. Chassis 424 will serve as the backup. It won both races at Richmond this year and finished fifth at Loudon in April.
-credit: hm k