Johnson should spoil Wallace’s day

Published 12:00 am Monday, April 11, 2005

This week’s race at Martinsville has been circled on Rusty Wallace’s calendar ever since he announced that 2005 would be his farewell season as a full-time cup driver.

Along with Bristol, the thought of back-to-back victories also was top of mind with Wallace and his team. Wallace was the class of the field last weekend at Bristol until tire problems caused him to lose track position and resulted in a 13th place finish.

Martinsville is also the site of Wallace’s last victory. He is the defending champion, breaking a three-year winless streak in the process. Wallace also claims seven career victories at the &uot;paper clip&uot; track. He will be a contender this week, but I think Jimmie Johnson will spoil his fun. This week, Johnson extends his championship points lead.

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Kevin Harvick had an unbelievable weekend last week at Bristol. He won the cup race on Sunday and then won the rain-delayed Busch race on Monday. Harvick seems to have his temper and emotional outbursts under control at the moment and when that happens he will be a contender every week. With the victory, Harvick moved up five spots and sits in sixth place in the championship standings.

The surprise driver through the first five races this year has to be Greg Biffle. He has been strong every week, posting four top-ten finishes in those five races. A questionable pit-stop strategy cost him a chance to win at Bristol, but he was running in the lead for much of the race. I always wondered why Biffle’s name was connected to every vacant driver position over the last few years. I guess now he is proving why he has been somewhat of a hot commodity over the last several years. He sits second in the points and looks to be certainty to make the chase for the cup at the end of the year.

Currently, Johnson and Biffle sit in first and second in the points with Tony Stewart, Carl Edwards, and Elliot Sadler round out the top five. Harvick, Kurt Busch, Dale Jarrett, Rusty Wallace, and Mark Martin sit in sixth through tenth respectively.

Dale Earnhardt, Jr. historically runs pretty well at Martinsville, earning five top-five finishes in 10 career races. Junior’s pitiful performance so far this season leaves little room for error in the remaining races if he hopes to break into the top-ten. Junior ran well at Bristol and jumped nine spots in the standings. I think he runs well again this week and in the end, will be in the chase for the championship. There are plenty of people out there who would love to see Junior fall flat on his face and struggle all year. I don’t see that happening. Look for Junior to finish in the top ten this week.

The pre-race activities begin at 12:30 p.m. and the green flag will drop a little after 1 p.m., all on the FOX network. Have fun, be careful, and I’ll talk with you next week.

Jeff Findley is publisher of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald in Ahoskie, N.C. His racing column appears in several newspapers in the Southeast. He can be reached at