NASCAR: Five Lessons Learned From Martinsville
The first race of the Round of 8 is over and Jimmie Johnson is moving on to Homestead. Here are five lessons learned from the Goody’s Relief 500 this past Sunday.
NASCAR started off the Round of 8 with short track racing at Martinsville. Drivers were bumping into each other as they rounded the small track and everyone was watching to see if one of the eight Chase drivers would win and lock in their chances to compete for the championship at Homestead.
When the race ended it was Jimmie Johnson winning his ninth race at Martinsville and will now compete for his seventh championship. Johnson is on the verge of becoming a legend in NASCAR and after his run at Martinsville, he looks like a strong favorite heading into Homestead.
One of the most interesting situation at Martinsville came because of NASCAR. When a caution came out during green flag pit stops, NASCAR couldn’t get the race order right and it took almost 30 laps of caution to get everything straightened how. What will NASCAR do now if something like this were to happen during one of the remaining races in the season?
We also started to see the separation of Joe Gibbs Racing drivers as Carl Edwards ran into issues during Martinsville while his teammates ran well. With Jimmie Johnson taking one Chase spot at Homestead, there is not enough room four all four JGR drivers to compete for the championship.
What will the JGR teammates do now as they get ready to compete at Homestead?
NASCAR finished the last short track race of the season and as we get ready to head to Texas, here were five lessons learned from Martinsville on Sunday.
Thanks For The Memories (Again) Jeff Gordon
Jeff Gordon raced his last race of his career NASCAR Sprint Cup career at Martinsville this Sunday.
It was the second time Gordon was supposed to finish with the Sprint Cup Series, as an injury to Dale Earnhardt Jr. brought the once retired driver out of retirement for several races in the 88 car this season.
Gordon has won at Martinsville nine times over his career and on Sunday he finished in sixth; a solid finish for his final race.
As for Martinsville being his true, final race, Gordon hasn’t completely closed the door on making another return to the Sprint Cup Series if he’s needed.
Gordon told NASCAR.com that:
“I can promise you I had no intentions of this happening, but here I am. So never say never. I don’t know what to say. I really don’t think that I’ll be getting back in the Cup car again, but go ask Rick Hendrick. That really has more to do with him than anything else.” Via NASCAR.com
Jeff Gordon coming back and filling in for Dale Jr. didn’t have a major impact on the Sprint Cup Series. Instead it was a great for fans to see this legendary driver back in a Sprint Cup car one last time.
Was his race at Martinsville the last time fans will see Gordon in a cup car? Well, like Gordon said, that’s got to do more with Rick Hendrick than anything else. But if it is, Jeff Gordon will forever be one of the best drivers to ever enter the sport and fans everywhere are thankful they got to see this legendary driver one last time.
NASCAR Screwed Up At Martinsville
With everything going on in the Chase and how important each one of the Chase races is, a lot of the time the focus will be on drivers instead of NASCAR.
At Martinsville though, NASCAR fumbled how they handled a caution and the spotlight quickly shifted.
It all started around Lap 356 when Carl Edwards blew a tire. While this was going on drivers where coming in for green flag pit stops.
Normally this wouldn’t be an issue for NASCAR, but for some reason at Martinsville NASCAR just couldn’t get a handle on the running order. It took them about 30 laps to finally figure out where drivers belonged.
While they were trying to get the order straightened out NASCAR was calling for drivers to stop moving out of their lines or trying to improve their positions while under caution.
NASCAR was confused and instead of admitting their mistakes and calling for a red flag until they could figure it out, NASCAR decided to keep the race under caution and took away valuable laps that could have had an impact on the finish of the race.
NASCAR’s confusion impacted the race dramatically. Not only were drivers trying to gain laps back during the caution, but they potentially changed the race outcome by taking away laps just so they could straighten out their own mistakes. Drivers are under enough pressure in the Chase and NASCAR screwing up the race order makes it even worse.
Non-Chase Drivers Have Become a Major Factor
With only eight drivers left in the Chase, Non-Chase drivers are becoming much more of a factor in each race leading up to Homestead.
It started at Martinsville with Martin Truex Jr. winning the pole. The driver of the 78 car was ready to prove that even though they were eliminated from the Chase, they were still going to push for a win as if they were still competing for the championship.
He went on to finish the race in 7th, but Truex Jr. was a major factor in this race and was competing as if he was still in the Chase.
Another driver pushing his car to the limits even though he is no longer in the Chase was Brad Keselowski.
Keselowski finished the race in 2nd, and if a late race caution had come out the driver of the two car might have passed Johnson for the race lead and denied a Chase driver a win.
He finished the race in second place and shook up the top five which was made up of drivers in the Chase, besides for Keselowski.
As we continue to get closer to Homestead non-chase drivers will be more of a factor. Texas and Phoenix are coming up and these races will be vital for Chase drivers. Don’t be surprised though if someone not racing for the championship denies a winning spot to someone trying to make it to Homestead.
JGR Drivers Are Not On The Same Page
Joe Gibbs Racing drivers entered the race at Martinsville as one of the most dominant teams in NASCAR.
With the race now over, this group of drivers looks like they are not on the same page. From Matt Kenseth, Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch running this race in first, second and third to end the race losing to Jimmie Johnson proves that they are not working together.
These three drivers could have worked together to try and prevent Johnson from winning, but instead one of them will be eliminated from the Chase since there are now just three spots left for Homestead.
These four drivers had the biggest advantage heading into Martinsville. Simply put, they outnumbered their competition.
Now heading into Texas next week though, these drivers need to have an every man for themselves mentality. There is no more working together and if they have an opportunity to pass a teammate in the coming weeks, they need to do it as if their teammate is just another competitor.
Working together is now over for this team and there is only room for the best moving forward. Texas and Phoenix will test these teammates as they all try to compete for a spot at Homestead, but Martinsville turned out to be the race that broke these four drivers up.
Jimmie Johnson is On His Was To Becoming a Legend
Some fans will love it, others will hate it, but regardless there is no denying that Jimmie Johnson is one of the best drivers in NASCAR history.
Johnson ran into some issues at Martinsville this past Sunday as he was bumped by Denny Hamlin during the race and took some damage, and he thought he was about to run out of fuel at one point in the race, yet despite those two things Johnson was able to come back and win the Goody’s Relief 500 and will now compete for a championship at Homestead.
With 9 wins at Martinsville, Jimmie Johnson continues to improve on his legacy in NASCAR. He is know to run well at Texas and Phoenix and could completely shutout other Chase drivers from winning a race.
More importantly than winning at Texas and Phoenix though is how Johnson is on the verge of joining some of the best drivers in NASCAR with seven championship wins. What’s even more impressive is how Johnson has done it when NASCAR is arguably at it’s best when it comes to competition.
When Richard Petty won seven championships, there was no one better than the 43 team in NASCAR.
When Jimmie Johnson does it though, he’s got to beat drivers who are running in equipment on the same level as him. Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch and Brad Keselowski have all competed strongly against Johnson but haven’t slowed him down. The field is much more even and Johnson continues to prove that he is the best in the sport.
Jimmie Johnson and the 48 team are on their way to the final round, and Johnson is on the verge of becoming a legend if he can win his seventh championship at Homestead.
Can Jimmie Johnson win his seventh title? Should he be considered one of NASCAR’s greatest drivers? Let us know in the comments below.
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