Martinsville ‘Benefit Race’ Boosts Johnson’s Title Hopes Again

Charlotte, NC (October 28, 2012) – Now that the Jimmie Johnson Martinsville Benefit Race is over, we can resume the rest of the 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup championship chase.

Don’t get us wrong – it’s cool that Johnson dominates Martinsville Speedway. He and his Hendrick Motorsports team raced their butts off Sunday to win the Tums Fast Relief 500 at ‘The Paperclip.’

Johnson’s record at the track now stands at seven wins and 19 top-10 finishes in 22 starts. More impressively, of the nine Chase races that have been contested at Martinsville, Johnson has won five of them.

That kind of record at any track – especially at one as unpredictable at Martinsville – spells ‘A-L-L W-O-R-L-D’ in any league.

In NASCAR, it spells championship.

To say Johnson’s skill at mastering Martinsville gives him an edge when it becomes ‘playoff’ time in NASCAR each season is an understatement. No other competitor runs or finishes nearly as well at the historic Virginia half-mile oval. For that matter, nobody comes close to posting that kind of mastery at any of the other tracks on the Chase schedule either.

Let’s face it – Martinsville is a wild card that Johnson gets to play every year in the Chase.

Now before anyone starts snorting that Johnson has an unfair advantage or that Martinsville should be omitted for the list of track hosting a Chase race, consider the following –

Nobody just handed the traditional Martinsville grandfather clock trophy to Johnson Sunday. He went out and took it seemingly always in the lead throughout the race (he did lead 193 of the 500 laps.)

Johnson also managed to stay out of the 11 cautions that totaled 64 laps Sunday. He always seems to stay out of the melees finishing all but 54 circuits out of more than 11,000 career laps he contested at Martinsville.

In case you’re wondering, that’s a lap completion rate of 99.5 percent. If you run that consistently – and run consistently as fast as Johnson does – you’re going to finish well pretty regularly.

While Johnson loves to see Martinsville on the schedule, his rivals probably don’t share his excitement for the track quite as much.

Sunday, top Chase challenger Denny Hamlin – the most accomplished Martinsville rival Johnson has – saw his championship hopes all but get snuffed out when an electrical problem relegated him to a 33rd-place finish. The disastrous result all but toasted Hamlin’s championship aspirations, as he is now 49 points out of the top spot with three races remaining.

Meanwhile, Brad Keselowski somehow managed to stay in the championship battle with a sixth-place finish. The point’s leader heading in to the race, Keselowski was as much out to lunch as Johnson was dialed in at Martinsville. An ill-advised strategy of weaving back and forth to get heat in his tires on his qualifying warm up lap translated to a 32nd-place starting spot in Sunday’s event. Only a solid effort – and some luck – kept ‘Bad Brad’ in contention for the season title, now two points behind Johnson in the standings.

Finally, Clint Bowyer and Kasey Kahne managed to survive Martinsville and stay in the championship conversation with top-five finishes Sunday. Each is more than 25 points out of first in the championship battle, so they will need to have big efforts combined with some bad luck by Johnson to be a factor when the final points are tallied.

It’s completely possible that Johnson will add another NASCAR Sprint Cup title – his sixth – to his racing resume this season. If that happens, it will in large part be because when it comes to racing at Martinsville where Johnson has no peer.

Think of it as having an ace up your sleeve in a winner take all poker game. Johnson always seems to have one at Martinsville and because of it, he is now again poised to take home all the chips in NASCAR’s high stakes championship playoff.

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