MARTINSVILLE, Va. – There are no givens at Martinsville Speedway.
Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon, winners of 11 of the last 20 races at the .526-mile paper clip-shaped track, can speak eloquently to that as the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series steamrolls into Sunday’s STP Gas Booster 500.
Each had the look of the winner a year ago, restarting one-two with the white flag literally in the starter’s hand. Enter Clint Bowyer’s banzai charge that went awry, igniting a multi-car accident that produced bruised feelings lasting all the way into autumn.
Ryan Newman, who’d been a lap down minutes earlier, unapologetically wound up in Victory Lane.
“It was a win; that’s what we’re here for,” he said.
Sunday’s 129th NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at the southern Virginia track likely will feature more of the same. There have been double-digit caution flags in 25 of the last 26 Martinsville races.
Yet Johnson and Gordon remain the drivers to beat regardless of circumstance.
Johnson is the track’s most recent winner, capturing last fall’s race that boosted him to the top spot in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.™ The victory was Johnson’s seventh at Martinsville, a total he shares with Gordon, his Hendrick Motorsports teammate.