|Johnson knows how to win at Martinsville|
“I’m definitely looking forward to competing for number eight,” said Johnson today. “We had a great race here in the fall and I’m expecting good things to happen once again. Regardless of car, rules package, aero implications, there is something about this track.
“(The new rules) might change a small percentage of what goes on in the car, but the majority of why you are successful here sticks with you. That is a nice thing to have in your back pocket each time you come here, once you figure out the track.”
With Martinsville’s long history of close-quarters, high-impact racing – not to mention some simmering feuds among his fellow drivers in recent weeks – Johnson said he expects no shortage of action in Sunday’s 500-lap race.
“It’s an element of our sport that we deal with often,” he said. “I can’t recall all the beefs that are out there, (but) there are obviously one or two that have been in the spotlight. One of those situations can’t take place because Denny (Hamlin) is not in the car.
“Tony(Stewart) and Joey (Logano)? Something could happen. I think we (drivers) will be aware, just as somebody watching on television. If you see those two near one another, just watch for a lap or two, see what is going on and make evasive moves if you need to.
|"Give and take...goes out the window."|
“Short tracks are where things kind of settle out and find a home,” he said. “There might be some other issues lingering that aren’t so notable that might flare up. It’s just something you deal with. Inside the car, we have the best seat in the house. You can see when someone is impatient. You can see when someone isn’t willing to work with another guy and start understanding early in the race where there might be an issue (later).”
Johnson said there is an art to racing at Martinsville, where drivers can easily make life difficult for the competition.
“The give-and-take thing… goes out the window,” he said. “You can hold somebody tight and prevent them from passing you, lap after lap after lap, and create a lot of anxiety. (You can) send a message through something like that, or even how you pass someone.
“(You can) drive in there, get position… and get a guy loose. Or you could attack and sit off their bumper by an inch or so, and really give them a fun ride through the corner. There are other things besides just dumping someone that you can do.”
The five-time champion also commented on the best way to deal with issues after the race, saying, “pick up the phone and call a guy. Go find them. You don’t have to do it in front of the cameras, go find a guy and tell him how you feel. That is the route that I have chosen. I think you can be far more effective by engaging with someone.
“A phone call is barely personal enough,” he said, “(and) texting is not personal enough. Tweeting is definitely not personal enough. If you are that mad at someone, go do something about it. Instead of having a microphone and just saying you are mad. Go engage.”
Johnson credited veteran Jeff Burton with showing him the proper way to solve a dispute, saying, “It’s a hard face-to-face conversation when you have taken somebody out of the race. But Jeff handled things that way with me here in 2004 (or) 2005. He walked through my transporter, past my guys and didn’t lie to me. He said, ‘Man, I just used you up. I did.’
“I was like, “Man, I don’t know how to react at this point, but I appreciate you coming in here and telling me this.’ (Burton) showed me how I would like to handle things, and I have kind of taken that route.
“There certainly has been engagement in the limelight -- in front of the cameras -- which the fans love,” said Johnson. “But there are other ways. Right now, the (Hamlin and Logano) transporters are parked next to one another. It would be real easy to slide next door and be like, ‘Hey look, we’ve got to bury the hatchet on this deal.’ Or drive to somebody’s house. We all live within 30 miles of one another. Or go sit at the bar and wait for him and punch him in the face!
“There are a lot of options.”
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