By: Billy Tewes
Martinsville might have to be renamed “Jimmie Johnsonville” after Jimmie Johnson took home the Grandfather clock at this afternoon’s STP Gas Booster 500. The mayhem at Martinsville was contained due in part to a dominating performance Johnson. Johnson led 347 of the 500 laps en route to his second win of the year and his 8th career win at Martinsville.
Johnson dominated this weekend from start to finish. Johnson took the pole position in qualifying Friday afternoon with a speed of 98.4 which was good enough for a brand new track record. Very few drivers were able to challenge Johnson and it seemed as if his car was on a rail all day long.
Early on, it seemed as if the Joe Gibbs Racing cars of Kyle Busch and Matt Kenseth were going to be the dominating drivers. But after lap 363, Jimmie Johnson would prove to be too much to handle. Johnson and his #48 Lowes team were no lower than fourth position the entire 500 laps of the race. This comes as no surprise as I noted in my last blog, the Hendrick cars have always been extremely good at Martinsville.
Martinsville is generally a one lane race track. It is nearly impossible for drivers to pass and that caused trouble, especially when it came to flat tires. Drivers tried desperately to get to the bottom lane on restarts as well as when trying to pass another driver. In some instances, the cars would collide and one drivers’ fender would dig into the tire of the driver next to them. Drivers had to bump each other out of the way for position and that caused for a lot of beat up cars and dented hoods. This race was old school Martinsville at its finest!
Last week I mentioned that Dale Earnhardt Jr might win his first race of the year. Unfortunately for him, he would end up finishing 24th, worst of all the Hendrick cars. Johnson, Gordon and Kahne would finish first, third and fourth respectively. I also mentioned in last week’s blog that there had been five different winners this year. My thunder was completely ruined this week as Dale Earnhardt Jr did not win and Johnson became the first multi race winner.
I want to talk about one really cool thing that came out of Martinsville that I’ve never seen before. With 15 laps to go, Kurt Busch broke a brake line. The combination of the brake fluid spraying on the hot engine caused a huge engine fire. This video shows the accident and also shows that Kurt Busch reaches into his dash and pushes a button that triggers a fire extinguisher that is inside the engine compartment. This is a really neat feature that was designed with the generation six car that really shows how safety minded the engineers were when they built this car.
With Martinsville in the books, Nascar moves out West to the Texas Motor Speedway where high speeds will be the storyline. Texas Motor Speedway is a mile and a half track with high banked turns that allow drivers to hit over 200 MPH. Will Jimmie Johnson carry the momentum of winning this week into back to back victories? That is quite possible; however my pick for next week is going to be Matt Kenseth. Kenseth is coming off a disappointing finish at Martinsville after leading nearly 80 laps. Kenseth has won twice at Texas and he has truly found his way with Joe Gibbs Racing this year. He has already won at Las Vegas, a similar track and has won Texas twice in his career.
Matt Kenseth’s last victory at Texas in 2011.