(SportsNetwork.com) - The Eliminator Round in the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship begins on Sunday at Martinsville Speedway. The Camping World Truck Series is also at Martinsville this weekend.
Sprint Cup Series
Goody's Headache Relief Shot 500 - Martinsville Speedway - Martinsville, Va.
Jimmie Johnson's hopes of winning this year's Chase for the Sprint Cup championship are over, but his season is not.
With finishes of 40th (Kansas), 17th (Charlotte) and 24th (Talladega) in the Contender Round, Johnson, the six-time and defending Sprint Cup Series champion, failed to make it into the third round of the Chase, the Eliminator Round, which begins this weekend at Martinsville Speedway.
Joey Logano (Kansas), Kevin Harvick (Charlotte) and Brad Keselowski (Talladega) automatically advanced into the Eliminator Round by winning a race in the Contender Round. Ryan Newman, Denny Hamlin Matt Kenseth, Carl Edwards and Jeff Gordon accumulated enough points to move on in the playoffs.
Johnson and his Hendrick Motorsports teammates, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Kasey Kahne, as well as Kyle Busch were knocked out of title contention following Talladega.
Gordon is the only one of the four drivers from Hendrick that remains in the Chase.
Currently 10th in the point standings, Johnson is determined to end his season on a high note and finish as high as he can in the standings. Johnson's worst finish in points since becoming a full-time Cup competitor in 2002 is sixth, which occurred in 2011. There are four races to go -- Martinsville (Sunday), Texas (Nov. 2), Phoenix (Nov. 9) and Homestead (Nov. 16).
"The mindset is simple," Johnson said. "We want to close out the year well and finish as high as we can in points. We want to win races. That's what we're here for. We did not have a good last three races for a variety of reasons. The results weren't there. Frankly, two of those results would have eliminated us from championship hope (in past years)."
Johnson, with three victories this season, was attempting to win his seventh championship, which would place him in a tie with Richard Petty and the late Dale Earnhardt for most titles in the series.
Now Johnson, his crew chief, Chad Knaus, and his No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet team are preparing themselves for next year.
"These last four weeks are going to be about as busy as any, as we're getting geared up for 2015," Johnson added.
Johnson is the only driver who has made the Chase each year since NASCAR instituted a playoff format for its premier series in 2004, but he has never been eliminated from championship contention this early in the Chase.
"I don't want to be in this position, but it's great medicine to sit and watch this championship unfold," he said. "It's going to motivate me, Chad and the team - all of us on the 48 team. We'll come back next year and be ready to roll."
After competing at Talladega, a restrictor-plate track measuring 2.66 miles long, this past Sunday, the series will race at its shortest track on the schedule, Martinsville, which is 0.526 miles in length, this weekend.
Martinsville is where a lot of beating and banging happens on the track and tempers often flare at the end of the race. This track can be just as wild and unpredictable as Talladega.
But Johnson and his teammate, Gordon, have both figured out this short track well enough over the years. Johnson and Gordon have eight wins each at Martinsville, which is the most among active drivers.
Gordon won last year's Chase race at Martinsville, while Johnson's most recent victory here happened in the spring of 2013. In the March 30 race at this track, Johnson led the most laps with 296 but finished second to Kurt Busch after Busch passed him for the top spot with 11 laps to go.
"This has been a track that can certainly shuffle the deck," Johnson said. "It's been kind to a handful of guys. With Jeff (Gordon) and the situation he's in with in the points, I'm hopeful he can take advantage of things this weekend and have a good run."
Rick Hendrick has the most car owner wins at Martinsville with 21. Either Johnson, Gordon, Earnhardt or Kahne would love nothing more than to give their team owner another victory here on this 10th anniversary of the Hendrick plane crash that killed 10 people.
On board that plane, which was en route to Martinsville from Concord, North Carolina, on Oct. 24, 2004 were four members of Rick Hendrick's family -- his son, Ricky, brother, John, and two nieces, Jennifer and Kimberly.
Hendrick chief engine builder Randy Dorton, team vice president and general manager Jeff Turner and DuPont executive Joe Jackson as well as Scott Lathram, a pilot for driver Tony Stewart, and pilots Richard Tracy and Elizabeth Morrison were also killed.
Johnson won at Martinsville for the first time on the date of the crash.
"For the four Hendrick drivers, we want to make those families smile," Johnson said. "I've been able to win here in the fall and know that a lot of people take a lot of pride in that win. It means more to a few families more than it typically would. All four of us are here, ready and willing. Jeff Gordon showed what this race meant to him in the fall a few years ago, with the spin with Clint (Bowyer) and myself, and what took place after that.
"This race means a lot to us Hendrick drivers. With or without the Chase, I want to be in the one carrying the trophy out of here to honor those families"
Forty-three teams are on the entry list for the Goody's Headache Relief Shot 500.
Camping World Truck Series
Kroger 200 - - Martinsville Speedway - Martinsville, Va.
With four races to go, Darrell Wallace Jr. is trying to catch Matt Crafton for the lead in the Camping World Truck Series point standings and prevent Crafton from winning a second straight championship.
The Truck Series is at Martinsville Speedway where Wallace made history one year ago by becoming just the second African-American driver to win a NASCAR national touring series race. NASCAR Hall of Fame inductee Wendell Scott was the first African-American driver to win a NASCAR national event, doing so on Dec. 1, 1963 at Jacksonville (Fla.) Speedway Park.
In Saturday's race at Martinsville, Wallace will pay tribute to Scott by driving the No. 34 Toyota Tundra in honor of him. The 20-year-old Mobile, Alabama native normally drives the No. 54 truck for Kyle Busch Motorsports.
"I'm really excited to run the No. 34 Toyota Tundra this weekend at Martinsville to honor Wendell Scott's Hall of Fame induction, as well as honor the entire Scott family," Wallace said. "Martinsville is a track I have run well on and will always be special to me since I got my first win there last year.
"Anytime you mention Martinsville, I get excited. (Crew chief) Jerry (Baxter) and the guys have worked really hard to give me the best Toyota Tundra, and I know if we unload with the same speed we have the last few races, we will be just fine. It's time to get us another win and another grandfather clock (race winner's trophy)."
Wallace, a former NASCAR Drive for Diversity competitor, racing in the K&N Pro Series East from 2010-11, is in his second year as driver of the No. 54 for KBM. He is currently third in the Truck Series standings, 28 points behind Crafton. Wallace has two wins this season (Gateway and Eldora) and has finished ninth or better in the last four races.
When the series most recently competed at Martinsville in March, Wallace finished second to race winner Crafton.
Ryan Blaney placed fifth in last Saturday's race at Talladega and moved to within 16 points of Crafton.
After Martinsville, the series heads to Texas (Oct. 31) and then Phoenix (Nov. 7) before the season wraps up on Nov. 14 at Homestead.
Thirty-eight teams are on the entry list for the Kroger 200.