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Handy: Can Jimmie Johnson Win at Martinsville for the 10th time?

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There’s no question that seven-time Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Champion Jimmie Johnson has been successful at Martinsville Speedway during his career.

The driver of the No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports is one of the most successful drivers at the shortest track in the MENCS. Johnson has an astonishing 9 wins (which leads active drivers) at the track known as the paperclip with 19 Top-5 finishes and 24 Top-10 finishes.

If you’re looking to count Johnson out as a favorite in Sunday’s First Data 500, don’t. In 31 starts at the short track Johnson has an average start of 11.1 and an average finish of 7.5.

Johnson could tie Jeff Gordon with 10 wins with a victory. That would only put him behind Darrell Waltrip who has 11 wins at the track and The King Richard Petty who leads the way with 15 wins.

Martinsville could be Johnson’s best shot at a victory to advance to the next round in the NASCAR Playoffs. The veteran driver has been in this position before and come out top at Martinsville.

Last fall Johnson won the fall race to advance to the next round. Any time Johnson wins at Martinsville in the fall it shouldn’t come as a surprise as he’s won this very race in four of his seven championship seasons.

 

Martinsville Speedway is the site of Rick Hendrick’s first Cup Series win as an owner in 1984 but any win from 2004 on is celebrated with a heavy heart. In 2004 a Hendrick Motorsports plane crashed near Martinsville’s Blue Ridge National Airport killing all 10 on board, which included Hendrick’s brother, son and two nieces.

Johnson won that race in 2004, his first at the track and wouldn’t hear of the crash until he was in victory lane. Last fall Johnson mentioned that tragedy in victory lane.

“To win on this weekend at this racetrack with the tragedy we had here in ’04, just want to thank all the loved ones we lost,” Johnson said.

Johnson heads to the paperclip after a very eventful day at Kansas Speedway where he almost saw his hopes of making The Round of 8 in the NASCAR Playoffs fade away.

Ultimately the driver of the No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet would finish in the 11th position. Johnson himself said it was a very hard-fought finish after spinning twice throughout the Hollywood Casino 400.

The veteran driver would also avoid the day’s “Big One” that would involve 14 cars on lap 197 of the 267-lap race.

“Spun out twice and thankfully didn’t hit anything too hard. When things really changed for me was on the back straightaway in that big wreck. I went through there at a high rate of speed and missed everything, Johnson said.”

Johnson’s Crew Chief Chad Knaus was also relieved when the checkered flag flew.

“It’s not what we wanted, but we have a shot at it still and that’s all that really matters, Knaus said.”

Sunday could be just what Johnson needs as he will look to leave Martinsville with not only the victory, his 10th at the track but his 10th Grandfather Clock as well.

Let’s all keep in mind that Martinsville isn’t the only track coming up that has been good to Johnson and Team 48.

The 7-time MENCS Champion has 7 wins at Texas, including four of the last six races and a win there this past April. He also has four wins at Phoenix and captured his seventh Cup Championship and the race win at Homestead-Miami Speedway last November after starting the race last in the field.

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About Sarah Handy

Sarah Handy is a NASCAR writer. You can find her on Twitter at @SarahHandy85. A college student studying Communications/Public Relations Field and an Electronics Associate at Walmart. Sarah enjoys tweeting about racing, running, reading, puzzles, video games, and photography. Born and raised in Rhode Island, Sarah avidly follows all major New England Teams (Patriots, Red Sox, Bruins & Celtics) as well as a huge fan of what she considers her “home track” New Hampshire Motor Speedway which she attend for the races each year.

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