Johnson’s Mastery at Martinsville

Jimmie Johnson is set to make his final Martinsville Speedway start as a full-time driver in Sunday’s Xfinity 500.

The race will mark his 38th NASCAR Cup Series start at the .526-mile track where he’s amassed 19 top fives, including nine wins. His top-five mark is the most of all the tracks he’s competed at in his 20 year career.

“Hands down one of my favorite tracks of all time,” Johnson said. “I love racing there and will miss it so much. It is a hard track to figure out, but once you do it’s so fun to race on. I love the history there and it just reminds me of the early days in the sport.”

Behind Dover International Speedway, Martinsville is Johnson’s second-best track on the Cup Series schedule in a number of statistical categories including wins, top 10s (25) and laps led (2,932).

“Outside of the first two trips I came here I have been able to hit on things and make work,” Johnson said. “I’ve told this story many times but it literally took me being lapped by Tony Stewart to figure out how to drive this place. Once that happened things took off and went far better for me.”

Audio: 48 Stories with Jimmie Johnson

Six of Johnson’s Martinsville wins came in a streak of 17 consecutive top 10s that started in the fall race of his rookie season in 2002.

Among his nine Grandfather clocks, the trophy given to Martinsville winners, Johnson has one in his office and seven in a warehouse on display. The ninth one for winning the 2016 fall race, Johnson gave to NASCAR Hall of Famer and Speedway Motorsports, Inc. founder and Executive Chairman Bruton Smith.

“I asked him if he ever had a clock or had a driver give him one and he said no,” Johnson said. “I said let me be the first. It would be an honor to give you that trophy. Once the trophy was built and put together we were able to take it to his house and put in his foyer in his home and just have a cool moment.”

Johnson will start 27th in the Xfinity 500. The furthest Johnson has won at Martinsville is from the 20th position in the 2006 spring race when he battled Jeff Gordon for the victory. This past June under the lights at Martinsville, Johnson started 21st and led 70 laps en route to a 10th-place finish.

“We had a great run last time there in the No. 48 Ally Chevy, and with just two more races this season I really want to win,” Johnson said. “It’s a big weekend for the sport as this sets the final four for Phoenix. It will be tough starting so deep in the field but I’m confident Cliff (Daniels) will have a good car and we can make our way to the front.”

Motor Racing Network will have live coverage of Sunday’s Xfinity 500 starting at 1 p.m. ET.