It is no surprise that six-time NASCAR Sprint Cup champion, Jimmie Johnson, dominated most of the STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway, but in a heated battle in the closing laps he fell short of a win, finishing second to Stewart-Haas Racing driver, Kurt Busch.
With eight previous wins at Martinsville Speedway, Johnson was not only looking for his ninth Martinsville clock and his first win of the 2014 season, he was also looking to get Hendrick Motorsports a win on the thirtieth anniversary of their first Sprint Cup Series win at Martinsville in 1984.
Johnson spoke with members of the media on Friday on working toward his first win this season and the emotion and motivation Hendrick Motorsports has had at this track. He said, “Always exciting to come back to Martinsville and with this being the site of Rick Hendrick’s first win, 30 years of Hendrick Motorsports and obviously 2004 with the plane crash there is a lot of motivation when we come to this track.”
At the conclusion of the race, Johnson commented on his Lowe’s Chevrolet and his last laps battle with Kurt Busch. He said, “Just a very strong race car. We unloaded off the truck fast and qualified well and had an awesome car here in the race today. Of course disappointed not to get to victory lane, but there wasn’t anything else I could do. Man, I got back by him and I thought that we had control of the race then. I felt like since I hadn’t seen him through really any part of the day that he might have me on short-run speed but he would fall off. He stayed in my mirror and found a way back by me and then got a car length or so on me and did an awesome job. I wish I could have gotten the win here for the 30th anniversary, but I came up a little short, but it wasn’t for a lack of effort.”
With Stewart-Haas Racing having a technical alliance with Hendrick Motorsports and winning two of the first six races of the season, Johnson was asked if he ever looks at Rick and asks him what he was thinking about bringing them on board as partners. Johnson replied, “They’re an important part of Hendrick Motorsports in general. We wouldn’t be as strong as we are as a company if we didn’t have the relationship, either.”
His response was in agreement with teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s response to the same question. Earnhardt Jr. said, “I don’t. You know, I look at is as an opportunity to learn more. I look at it as an opportunity to understand new ideas. It’s a good partnership that works both ways.”
At the conclusion of the STP 500 Johnson is fifth in NASCAR Sprint Cup points standings. Today’s second place run marks 22 top-10 finishes in twenty five races at Martinsville Speedway. He now has two top-five and four top-ten finishes in the first six races of the season.
Johnson will continue the quest for his first win of the 2014 season next Sunday in the Duck Commander 500 at Texas Motor Speedway.