Auto racing: Johnson will start first at Martinsville
MARTINSVILLE, Va. – Jimmie Johnson has won the pole position for Sunday’s NASCAR race at Martinsville Speedway with a track record.
Johnson made his fastest lap around the 0.526-mile oval at 98.400 mph Friday. He broke the track record of 98.083 mph held by Tony Stewart. It is the 30th pole position of Johnson’s career, and his third in 23 starts at Martinsville.
Five other drivers also eclipsed Stewart’s mark on a cooling, later afternoon surface, led by Marcos Ambrose at 98.364.
He was followed by Brian Vickers, Joey Logano, Kasey Kahne and Jeff Gordon.
Stewart, whose team has struggled through the first five races of the season, qualified 26th.
Stewart, Logano says they have moved on from fracas: Tony Stewart and Joey Logano say their dustup is over. They just haven’t said it to each other.
The drivers tangled two weeks ago at the end of the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at California, where Stewart thought Logano had blocked him in the closing laps. Stewart parked his car near Logano’s and approached him. There was some shoving, but crew members broke it up before any punches were landed.
Stewart said Friday he spent the week off after the race at Fontana on vacation in Georgia, away from cellphone service and television, and Logano said while he never made any effort to contact the three-time champion, he thinks the break provided everyone with time to “relax a little bit and cool off.”
That doesn’t mean, of course, that their feud can’t fire up again. And if there’s a track where close racing can lead to torn-up cars and injured feelings in a hurry, it’s tiny Martinsville Speedway with its tricky, 0.526-mile oval.
Stewart, concerned after practice that his three cars were not performing as well as he would like, said he wasn’t sure if the message he tried to teach Logano after the last race had even registered.
“We won’t know that until we see how he reacts in the same situation the next time,” he said.
Logano, though, isn’t sure he would do anything differently, especially while going for a victory.
“For the last 10 laps I thought it was a great race and an awesome race,” he said. “We were racing really hard and we go in the corner and I shoved up into him. I guess you can take some blame for that, but it’s just hard racing. We’re going out there to win this thing and that’s what we’re trying to do.”
Stewart and Jeff Burton agreed that Logano is likely feeling pressure after moving from Joe Gibbs Racing to Roger Penske Racing this season. Burton said Logano would do well to do more listening.
When confronted with an issue from something on the track, Burton said, “I don’t think he handles it very well. He doesn’t just step back and say, `You know what, OK, let me listen to what you’re saying. I may disagree with you but let me listen.’ He tends to resist, as if, `I’m right, I’m right, I’m right.’
“I know I had an issue with him a few years ago and I encouraged him to go look at the tape. I had already looked at it, so I knew what it showed. I didn’t tell him that. The next week I asked him if he had looked at it and he said, `No, I don’t need to.’ That kind of attitude is not welcomed,” Burton said.
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