Although he’s tied in points with Kevin Harvick for the final transfer spot to the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Championship 4 race at Homestead-Miami Speedway, Jimmie Johnson feels a higher sense of urgency due to the addition of playoff points to the postseason format.
“It’s not back to zero with all those stage points,” Johnson said. “For us to advance moving forward, we’ve got to win.”
Johnson’s best shot at victory in the Round of 8 is likely Sunday’s round-opening First Data 500 at Martinsville Speedway (3 p.m. ET on NBCSN). The No. 48 Chevrolet driver leads active drivers with nine checkered flags at the Southern Virginia short track and is the defending race winner.
In addition to his nine Martinsville wins, Johnson boasts 19 top fives, 24 top 10s and a series-best 7.5 average finish at Martinsville. He also leads active drivers at “The Paperclip” in driver rating (116.9) and average running position (8.0).
Johnson won last year’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series championship and is chasing a record eighth series title. He is tied with Dale Earnhardt and Richard Petty for the most championships in series history.
“Martinsville is not a bad track for us, so hopefully we can repeat last year’s performance there,” Johnson said. “It’s pretty simple from here on out, we’ve got to get some speed in our cars and we’ve got to win a race.”
Crafton confident about win in Round of 6
With the win and advance format used in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Playoffs, Matt Crafton has to like his chances to advance to the Championship 4 race at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
He has two career wins at Round of 6 tracks Martinsville Speedway and Texas Motor Speedway. In 16 career starts at Phoenix, he has 11 top 10s and a 9.2 average finish.
Crafton opens the Round of 6 with Saturday’s Texas Roadhouse 250 at Martinsville (1 p.m. ET on FS1). In addition to his two wins, Crafton has eight top fives, 18 top 10s and a 10.8 average finish at Martinsville. He has finished ninth or better in the first three NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Playoffs races.
“Racing for championships in the [Camping World] Truck Series, and even back in the Southwest Tour, and late models, you go out there and take care of yourself,” Crafton said. “Race your own race, and see how the cards fall at that point. I know I say it all the time, but I truly believe it, if it’s meant to be, it will happen.”
Race Weekend Guide
Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series
Race: First Data 500
Place: Martinsville Speedway
Date and Time: Sunday, Oct. 29 at 3 p.m. ET
Tune-in: NBCSN, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
Distance: 263 miles (500 laps); Stage 1 (Ends on lap 130), Stage 2 (Ends on lap 260), Final Stage (Ends on lap 500)
What To Watch For: The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs kicks off its Round of 8 at Martinsville Speedway. Martin Truex Jr. heads the Playoff Grid (52 points ahead of Jimmie Johnson on the cutoff line). He is followed by Kyle Busch (+25), Brad Keselowski (+9), Kevin Harvick (even), Jimmie Johnson (even), Denny Hamlin (-3), Ryan Blaney (-8) and Chase Elliott (-11). … Brad Keselowski goes for a sweep of Martinsville. … Denny Hamlin tries for his sixth career win at “The Paperclip. … Kyle Busch attempts to win his second career Martinsville race. … Chase Elliott eyes his first career win after placing third at Martinsville in April. … With the 3 p.m. ET start time, there’s a strong possibility the race will end under Martinsville’s newly installed lights – a first for a NASCAR event.
NASCAR Camping World Truck Series
Race: Texas Roadhouse 200 Presented By Alpha Energy Solutions
Place: Martinsville Speedway
Date and Time: Saturday, Oct. 28 at 1 p.m. ET
Tune-in: FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
Distance: 105.2 miles (200 laps); Stage 1 (Ends on lap 50), Stage 2 (Ends on lap 100), Final Stage (Ends on lap 200)
What To Watch For: The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series starts its Round of 6 at Martinsville Speedway. Christopher Bell leads the Playoff Grid (34 points above Ben Rhodes on the cutoff line). He is trailed by Johnny Sauter (+14), Matt Crafton (+1), John Hunter Nemechek (+1), Ben Rhodes (-1) and Austin Cindric (-7). … Johnny Sauter won last year’s Texas Roadhouse 200 and placed second at Martinsville this spring. … NASCAR K&N Pro Series East champion Harrison Burton will compete for Kyle Busch Motorsports this weekend.