MARTINSVILLE, Va. -- The mind games started way before
With Tony Stewart and Jimmie Johnson tied for the lead in the
Nextel Cup standings and just five races remaining, Johnson's crew
chief decided to have some fun, talking over his radio in practice about how Johnson's car was better and how he could beat Stewart.
Stewart's crew heard what Chad Knaus said, and was less than amused.
"I wouldn't do it to Jimmie," Stewart said, despite
characterizing the remarks as similar to ones he made as a sprint
car racer, hoping to get in competitors' heads.
"It's like being inside a kindergarten room listening to it,"
Johnson said he wasn't aware of what Knaus had said, but
surmised that the comments were made more to pump up his team than
to try and get Stewart off his game.
"Being positive and trying to pump the team, stuff gets said on
the radio like we've got a better car or we've got those guys
frustrated," he said.
"It's stuff that takes place all the time," he continued.
" it's your guys' job to twist it and turn it and find
something to write about and have fun with it."
Later, Johnson asked -- and was told -- what Knaus was overheard saying.
"If we can run with them [in practice] and get them thinking
about us or talking about us, I guess we're doing our job," he
Glad to be going
Mark Martin came to Martinsville this
weekend claiming to hate the place with a passion, in spite of his
two victories here. He crashed in practice on Saturday, forcing him
to a backup car, and left liking it even less Sunday.
And that was after he predicted he would win the Subway 500.
Early in the race, Martin uncharacteristically nudged Mike
Wallace out of his way in the first turn, bringing out a caution
that prevented him from being lapped by Tony Stewart. Later, with
his right front brakes on fire, he pitted under caution even before
pit road was open, which normally would draw a penalty putting him
at the back end of the lead lap. Instead, he took his Roush Racing
Ford to the garage.
When he finally emerged, he was 31 laps down and on his way to
"We'll just keep fighting," said Martin, who fell to seventh
in the Chase standings. "I'm charged up. I'm excited. After a
weekend of my race team fighting like they fought, we've got four
more races so we're going to see if we can win some."
Oh, and about that prediction?
"See if Mr. Pessimist ever predicts another win," he said.
Rusty Wallace, a seven-time winner at
Martinsville who is retiring, was given a special grandfather clock
by the track before the race.
The clock is the unique trophy given to all winners in NASCAR's
top series at the speedway, and track president Clay Campbell
presented Wallace with a "Martinsville Edition," which listed all
seven of Wallace's victories on the clock pendulum.
Campbell also told Wallace the gift would be altered if Wallace
were to win, and Wallace was running fifth heading into a restart
with 19 laps left when he crashed.
He wound up 19th.
"Lapped cars were horrible all day long," he said. "They were
just racing their brains out, man, just all trying to get that
lucky dog. That's all it was and it just caused a lot of problems
for a lot of people and I ended up getting the short end of the
stick on this deal. It's a tough day. It's hard to take that
The lucky dog is the lapped driver closest to the lead lap when
each caution comes out. He is allowed to drive around and go to the
tail end of the lead lap.
Ricky Rudd, of Chesapeake, Va., started second
and seemed to have a car equal to Stewart's until he was in the
wrong place at the wrong time on lap 174.
Having closed a big deficit on the leader and approaching his
rear bumper, Rudd's day took a dramatic turn for the worse when
Scott Riggs hit Mike Bliss, who slammed into the wall off in the
fourth turn. On the rebound, Bliss' car hit Sterling Marlin's, and
he was pushed into the line of Rudd, who had moved inside hoping to
avoid getting collected.
He failed, Marlin's car hitting him hard, and Rudd headed for
pit road. He drew a penalty for exiting the track too fast, then
made numerous pit stops for repairs.
By the time he got back to racing, he was 27th on the grid.
Later, running 21st when the race restarted on lap No. 348, Rudd
brought out the 14th caution of the race when he spun in the first
and second turns, then headed for the pits.
He still rallied to finish 11th.
"I can't believe this car, as torn up and as bad as it was, it
kept going," Rudd said of his Ford, owned by Wood Brothers Racing.
"[The accident] knocked the steering wheel out of my hand and
knocked the front end out of alignment, but it kept going."
Jamie McMurray, who finished seventh, moved from
14th to 11th in the point standings. The No. 11 finisher at the end
of the season gets a $1 million bonus. Kurt Busch started 14th,
but got stuck in the outside lane by himself at the start and faded
to 32nd when no cars would let him back in line. The same thing
happened to Elliott Sadler, who went from ninth to 28th. Busch
finished sixth, Sadler 29th. Jimmy Spencer became the first
driver lapped in the race. It happened on the 17th lap.