With a tense NASCAR Sprint Cup points battle coming to a head, how did points leader Jimmie Johnson and second-place Matt Kenseth spend Friday morning at Martinsville Speedway? Texting each other.
That’s right, texting.
Just like they were BFFs instead of a pair of past series champions who are among the fiercest competitors in the sport.
And the best part of it?
They were ROTFLMAO funny. At least if you know the two of them and get their respective brands of humor.
Johnson, of course, is the master of Martinsville, having won here eight times. Kenseth, on the other hand, historically has struggled here. But that didn’t keep him from ribbing Johnson.
Kenseth texted Johnson Friday morning. Notorious for his dry sense of humor, Kenseth asked Johnson not to bug him for help on how to get around at Martinsville.
"I just texted Jimmie a little while ago though and told him that we’re friends and everything, but I would appreciate it if he wouldn’t ask me for any advice this weekend," Kenseth said. "He’s going to leave me alone. He’s not going to ask me for any tips on Martinsville until the weekend is over."
Johnson said Kenseth texted him, "’He hopes that I would understand and I’m not offended.’ I told him ‘I completely understand and wish I could offer him some help one of these days.’ Then it just went back and forth."
Advised that Johnson went for a 20-mile run on Thursday, Kenseth deadpanned, "It would take me a week to run 20 miles even if somebody was chasing me."
Kenseth still figured Johnson will be the man to beat this weekend. Of course, that’s nothing new. Johnson frequently is.
"I can’t ever recall them running bad," Kenseth said of Johnson and his Hendrick Motorsports team. "Really, I don’t. People always say, ‘Man, it’s a great track for Jimmie.’ Is there a bad one?"
As for Johnson, while he was preparing to head to the Martinsville Media Center for his mandatory media availability, Kenseth shot him one last text.
"He just texted me again and said ‘be ready for the media center,’" Johnson said of Kenseth.
Then, laughing, Johnson added, "He gave me the heads up what was going to happen in here."
And that was it.
Kenseth’s teammate, Denny Hamlin, had his own thoughts on the matter.
“I don’t know the extent of their texting relationship, how intimate they really get or anything like that,” said Hamlin. “But I’m sure through the texts that I’ve shared with both of them I’m guessing it’s light-hearted and Matt was probably joking around saying, ‘Don’t beat up on me too bad.’ And, Jimmie (Johnson) is probably like, ‘Oh yeah, you led laps here in the spring so you’ll be fine.’ I’m guessing it’s more just joking around. Light-hearted head games more than it is anything.”
On the track for the first time, the two were virtual equals, as Friday’s lone 90-minute practice round ended with Kenseth ninth and Johnson tied for 10th. And in qualifying, Johnson was only 0.031 seconds faster than Kenseth. Johnson will start second on Sunday, Kenseth fourth.